As of March 6 the cost of the #NoDAPL protests to North Dakota’s state and local governments was over $38 million.
According to the Associated Press, state officials “appear poised to go after the U.S. government” to recoup that costs. The the AP notes that, at one point, Energy Transfer Partners (the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline project) had offered to pay for at least some of the expenses.
In fact, ETP CEO Kelcy Warren said just that to me in an interview back in November (at the time the cost to the local/state governments was estimated at a little over $10 million).
I’ve made this point before, but it is worth repeating: The people at Energy Transfer Partners shouldn’t have to pay those expenses.
They shouldn’t have offered to pay those expenses.
Nobody should even expect them to pay those expenses.
If ETP pays up to the State of North Dakota for the violent and often unlawful activities of the #NoDAPL activists it will set a terrible precedent whereby companies trying to construct controversial projects are expected to pony up for the misdeeds of the extremist who oppose them.
A couple of weeks ago Governor Doug Burgum told me in an interview that North Dakota taxpayers “should be paying zero dollars” of the response to the #NoDAPL protests.
He’s right. If we were talking about a peaceful, lawful protest then a police presence should be something the taxpayers foot the bill for. That’s just part of the job for the cops.
But that’s not what the #NoDAPL movement was. The activists – or, at last, a significant faction of them – broke the law on purpose. They instigated violent conflict with law enforcement as a tactic, and they raised millions of dollars through various online accounts to help pay for the resulting legal expenses.
Not only should the taxpayers of North Dakota not have to pay for the protest response, the U.S. taxpayers (which includes all of us here in North Dakota too, I should point out) shouldn’t have to pay for it either.
In a perfect world the people who would pay are the protesters themselves. Specifically the deep-pocketed activist groups which organized the protests. But that would probably take years of litigation with a lot of uncertainty as to whether or not the state could even be successful.
So ultimately, the taxpayers will pick up the tab, and that’s a shame. But it’s less of a travesty than forcing a pipeline company which did nothing other than attempt to build a pipeline in a law-abiding matter to pay for it out of their pockets.