BISMARCK, ND (AP) – Federal and state attorneys will meet in North Dakota next week to negotiate a settlement for money the state claims it has spent monitoring protests against the Dakota Access pipeline.
North Dakota filed a lawsuit against the US Army Corps of Engineers in 2019, seeking to recover more than $ 38 million in damages following month-long protests against the pipeline nearly five years ago.
State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and other state attorneys will meet with attorneys from the Corps and the Department of Justice at the Bismarck Federal Courthouse on September 16. American magistrate Alice Senechal will chair the negotiations, which are closed to the public.
“We will know on the 16th if they are serious about the settlement,” Stenehjem said.
This is the first meeting with state and federal lawyers to find a settlement, Stenehjem said. Federal judges in charge of the case have “strongly suggested” negotiations, he said.
If no settlement can be found, a trial is set for May 1, 2023.
Thousands of pipeline opponents rallied in South North Dakota in 2016 and early 2017, camping on federal lands and often clashing with police. Hundreds of people have been arrested in six months.
Stenehjem has long argued that the Corps allowed and sometimes encouraged protesters to camp illegally without a federal permit. The Corps said the protesters had not been expelled for reasons of free speech.
The Army Corps of Engineers had argued that it had “limited authority to enforce its rules and regulations” over the land it manages.
The $ 3.8 billion pipeline has transported oil from the Dakotas via Iowa to Illinois since 2017, but remains mired in litigation.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe have opposed the pipeline built by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, fearing it could harm the tribe’s cultural sites and water supply to the tribe’s Missouri River – claims the government has dismissed. society and the state.
A year ago, a federal judge issued a ruling allowing North Dakota to continue its efforts to recoup money the state spent to control protests against the pipeline.
The Ministry of the Army then asked the Ministry of Justice to enter into negotiations with the state for the protest costs “in order to avoid protracted and costly litigation, especially in light of the damage that has arisen. produced in this case, ”according to a letter obtained by The Presse Associée.
Stenehjem said negotiations have stalled since then.
Then-President Donald Trump refused a state-requested declaration of disaster in 2018 to cover state costs. The Justice Department later gave the state a subsidy of $ 10 million for bills related to policing services. The pipeline developer gave the state $ 15 million to help cover costs funded by loans from the state-owned Bank of North Dakota.
Stenehjem said the money does not get the Corps off the hook for the total $ 38 million cost of state policing.
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