Back in November I interviewed Kelcy Warren.
Warren is the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the company which has been trying to build the Dakota Access Pipeline.
During that interview Warren told me that his company would consider reimbursing North Dakota for the costs incurred by the state responding to the often unlawful and often violent #NoDAPL protests against the project, an offer he media in other discussions with the media as well.
It’s a nice gesture by the company, and today the Fargo Forum editorial board calls on the company to make good on it. They’re also calling on Governor Doug Burgum to contact the company to help make it happen.
But it shouldn’t happen, for a couple of excellent reasons.
For one thing, the pipeline company reimbursing the State of North Dakota for the law enforcement response to the protesters smacks of the state serving the company. Already the political extremists attacking the pipeline project have tried to claim that law enforcement was acting as private security for the oil industry. The last thing we need to do is put some meat on a bone they’re already gnawing.
There is an appearance of impropriety to any payment from the pipeline company to the state which should be avoided.
But there’s an even better reason why Energy Transfer Partners shouldn’t pay.
It wasn’t the pipeline company trespassing on private property. It wasn’t the pipeline company blocking public roads. It wasn’t pipeline workers attacking law enforcement and harassing citizens. It wasn’t the pipeline company which left an estimated 4.5 million pounds of garbage, as well as hundreds of abandoned vehicles, down at the protest camp.
If we ask the pipeline company to pay the state’s expenses for responding to the protests – which total an estimated $33 million through Feb. 10 – it’s as though they somehow created those expenses by engaging the lawful construction of a permitted project. What’s more, it would set a sort of precedent whereby there is an expectation that energy industry companies pay for the mayhem created by their political opponents.
That’s not justice.
Any reimbursement for the taxpayers of North Dakota should come from the deep pockets of the left wing extremist groups which organized the unlawful, violent protests. The feds should kick in too, because President Barack Obama turned his back on our state when federal cooperation and assistance was desperately needed, something which exacerbated an already awful situation.
The latter of those two things is more likely than the former, but the one group of people who absolutely should not pay is the pipeline company which was only trying to build a pipeline in accordance with the law.