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August 19, 2020

Media Contact: Liz Brocker (701) 328-2213

Army Corps of Engineers totally abdicated its legal responsibilities, says Stenehjem

BISMARCK, ND –   Today, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Traynor denied the U.S Department of Justice’s motion to dismiss North Dakota’s lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seeking recovery of damages relating to protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2017 and 2018, allowing four out of five of the State’s claims to move forward.

“I am very pleased to see the Court agree that the Army Corp. of Engineers can be held responsible for the multi-million dollar disaster they created or encouraged,” said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. “We plan to vigorously proceed with our litigation through to the end,” he continued.

Stenehjem sued under the Federal Tort Claims Act, looking to recover $38 million in damages to State property and law enforcement costs because of the Corps’ actions that enabled the massive protests over the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Stenehjem said the state presented the claims to the Corps in 2018 but that he “was very disappointed that no representative of our federal government ever contacted me to discuss our claims. As North Dakota's chief law enforcement officer, my office had no choice but to bring this action because it is so consequential for the State of North Dakota and its citizens.” 

Judge Traynor decided that North Dakota’s case should proceed because the Corps “circumvented mandatory permit process requirements” when it invited and enabled the protests that went beyond peaceful protests and included violent criminal activities that endangered the public (including protesters) and the environment.  Having negligently created the problem, the Corps then left it to North Dakota to spend tens of millions of dollars protecting public safety and cleaning up the dangerous mess left behind.

Judge Traynor concluded that the “you break it, you bought it” maxim applies to the Corps’ conduct.  Stenehjem said, “ the Corps’ illegally created a public nuisance by inviting and encouraging dangerous and illegal conduct and our citizens should not have to foot the bill.”

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