Media Contact: Liz Brocker (701) 328-2213
BISMARCK, ND - Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem today filed a claim seeking $38 million from the federal government to reimburse the State of North Dakota for costs related to the protests over the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The State claims the law enforcement and other costs were incurred as a result of the US Army Corps’ failure to enforce the law, including its own regulations, and maintain public order during massive protests over the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
For nearly eight months beginning in August 2016, protesters engaged in prolonged, often combative and violent, protests on federal, state, and private lands in Morton County, North Dakota. Stenehjem said, “those organized protests, launched from large makeshift encampments illegally located on federal lands, involved frequent outbreaks of dangerous, unsanitary, and sometimes life-threatening activity.”
In its claim, the State alleges that these protests were aggravated by the negligent and unlawful conduct by the Corps, including the Corps’ complete failure to enforce mandatory legal requirement governing private conduct on federal lands under its jurisdiction, which, if enforced, would have prevented or minimized the civil unrest and resulting damages to North Dakota.
As a result of the Corps’ failure to enforce the law and maintain public order on land under its control, North Dakota was forced to provide a sustained, large-scale public safety response to prevent deaths and protect public safety, health, and property, including that of the protesters. The State response involved thousands of days of law enforcement and first responder time, and the use of considerable amounts of equipment. Stenehjem said “this cost North Dakota $38 million, which the State maintains the federal government should reimburse because the Corps’ failures directly caused the state to incur these costs.”
North Dakota’s claim was filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which makes the federal government liable for negligent and other wrongful conduct to the same extent a private person would be liable under state law. Stenehjem noted “that under North Dakota law, a private person or company that engaged in the same conduct would be liable for all damages caused by the trespass, gross negligence, and nuisance resulting from the conduct.” He added “the whole purpose of the federal Tort Claims Act is to make the federal government liable just like any private person would be.”
The federal government has six months to respond to North Dakota’s claim. If the claim is not paid or settled by then, the State can file suit to recover its damages in federal court.
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