Even the Democratic Candidate for Governor of North Dakota Says #NoDAPL Protesters Have Lost Credibility

Marvin Nelson looks on as Doug Burgum makes a point during the gubernatorial debate in Bismarck on Thursday. Nelson is the Democratic-NPL Party candidate for governor, and Burgum is the Republican Party candidate. Photo by Will Kincaid / Bismarck Tribune

The Obama administration may have bailed out the #NoDAPL protesters after federal Judge James Boasberg (himself an Obama appointee) issued an opinion largely undermining their claims, allowing the professional activists organizing the protests to claim a victory, but that doesn’t mean the cause hasn’t been hurt by the facts.

Marvin Nelson, the Democratic candidate for Governor of North Dakota and someone who has sympathized with the protesters in the past, acknowledges that the facts aren’t convenient for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its allies:

Meanwhile, Marvin Nelson, a Democratic state representative running for governor against Burgum, said “it’s pretty clear from the record in the court case that (the tribe was) given many chances” to participate in the consultation process.

“For whatever reason, they really didn’t engage in time,” he said.

Asked whether he felt that diminishes the legitimacy of the large protest taking place, which he visited earlier this month, Nelson said “yes.”

“It’s clear that there was an effort to try and get the tribe to participate to a much greater degree than the tribe was willing to or able to,” he said, adding the pipeline company has made “quite an effort” to not disturb historic sites. “It’s really not fair to the company at this point to expect them to put the sands back in the bottle, so to speak. They can’t go back and not spend that money.”

Say what you want about Nelson, but he’s typically someone you can count on to speak his mind. Unlike, say, Senators Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven who have largely resorted to ignoring this issue or issuing meaningless, milquetoast statements about it.

To add to his point, it’s worth remembering that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe didn’t show up to any of the North Dakota Public Service Commission’s hearings on the pipeline. Also, in an editorial, the Wall Street Journal points out that the tribe kind of jerked Corps of Engineers officials around when the latter was trying to set up meetings:

The Army Corps of Engineers bent over backward to consult the Standing Rock Sioux, only to be ignored or rejected. The tribe ignored agency letters requesting comment and belatedly cancelled meetings. “When the Corps timely arrived for the meeting,” the judge noted, “Tribal Chairman David Archambault told them that the conclave had started earlier than planned and had already ended.”

It’s hard to read something like that and then continue to think that the tribe has credibility when they say they weren’t sufficiently consulted about the pipeline.

In the same article Nelson’s Republican opponent – Fargo businessman Doug Burgum – makes some insightful comments about the absurdity of President Obama’s actions:

“It’s like you win the game, and then you find out five minutes after the game is over that you didn’t win the game because we’re actually thinking about changing the rules of the game that you decided to play,” Burgum said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “That’s a much broader problem for our entire economy.”

If people like President Obama want to block pipelines, and block oil development, then they should work to change policies so that those things are illegal. That’s how democracy is supposed to work.

But as it stands now, under current law, oil is legal. Pipelines are legal. The Dakota Access folks played by the rules – in fact, if you read Judge Boasberg’s opinion, it’s clear that the pipeline company went beyond the bare minimum requirements of the law – and invested billions of dollars in their pipeline only to have President Obama change the rules after the fact.

I don’t care what side of the environmental debate you’re on, that’s wrong.

The ends do not justify the means.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com and a columnist for the Forum News Service.

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