Obama asked to al­low pipe­line com­ple­tion

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Blake Ni­chol­son

BIS­MARCK, N.D. — North Dakota’s gov­er­nor and con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion are pres­sur­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to pave the way for com­ple­tion of the dis­puted Dakota Ac­cess oil pipe­line, protests over which they say are tax­ing law en­force­ment and are cost­ing mil­lions of dol­lars.

Repub­li­cans Gov. Jack Dal­rym­ple, U.S. Sen. John Ho­even and U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer im­plored the Demo­crat in a let­ter Wed­nes­day to au­tho­rize the Army Corps of En­gi­neers to ap­prove the pipe­line’s cross­ing un­der a Mis­souri River reser­voir in south­ern North Dakota.

It is the fi­nal large seg­ment of the $3.8 bil­lion, 1,200-mile pipe­line to carry North Dakota oil to a ship­ping point in Illi­nois that’s been held up while the Corps con­sults with the Stand­ing Rock Sioux, who be­lieve the project could harm the tribe’s drink­ing wa­ter and Na­tive Amer­i­can cul­tural sites. Months of protests have taken place near Lake Oahe.

Obama raised the pos­si­bil­ity of rerout­ing the pipe­line ear­lier this month, which Kelcy War­ren, CEO of pipe­line de­vel­oper En­ergy Trans­fer Part­ners, told The As­so­ci­ated Press is not an op­tion from the com­pany’s stand­point. Obama said his administration is mon­i­tor­ing the “chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tion” but would “let it play out for sev­eral more weeks.”

“Your in­ac­tion on the pend­ing ease­ment has cre­ated un­due hard­ship and un­cer­tainty for area res­i­dents, pri­vate landown­ers, tribal mem­bers, con­struc­tion work­ers and law en­force­ment per­son­nel,” Dal­rym­ple, Ho­even and Cramer told Obama.

Demo­cratic U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said Wed­nes­day she also pressed the White House to make a de­ci­sion, say­ing in­ac­tion “has put lives at risk.”

Protests have in­ten­si­fied in re­cent weeks, with to­tal ar­rests since Au­gust ris­ing to 528, and a clash ear­lier in the week near the main protest camp left a po­lice of­fi­cer and sev­eral pro­test­ers in­jured. One of them, Sophia Wi­lan­sky, 21, of New York, suf­fered an arm in­jury in an ex­plo­sion dur­ing the skir­mish and is hos­pi­tal­ized. Pro­test­ers say she was in­jured by a grenade thrown by po­lice, while po­lice say she was hurt by a small propane tank that pro­test­ers rigged to ex­plode.

North Dakota Repub­li­cans also asked for fed­eral law en­force­ment help to po­lice the protests. Morton County Sher­iff Kyle Kirch­meier said Mon­day that U.S. Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion will be pro­vid­ing some Border Pa­trol agents to help his de­part­ment, the state High­way Pa­trol and of­fi­cers from other states, though he didn’t say how many.

An­other is­sue for the state is the cost of polic­ing the protests, which is up to more than $11.8 mil­lion, state Emer­gency Ser­vices spokes­woman Cecily Fong said Wed­nes­day. The de­part­ment will seek $7 mil­lion more in emer­gency bor­row­ing Nov. 30, Fong said. North Dakota of­fi­cials wrote Pres­i­dent Barack Obama ask­ing that work on a pipe­line be al­lowed to con­tinue, in part be­cause protests have cost the state $11.8 mil­lion.

JAMES MACPHER­SON/AP

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