DAPL Update: Pipeline Company Donates ‘Influence Money’ to North Dakota First Responders; a Disappointing Court Decision; and Charges Against Journalist Dismissed

It’s been a while since we have written on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL); here are a few updates.

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First, Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind DAPL, is donating $140,000 to North Dakota first responders. I am not quite sure what to call this. At a minimum, it’s influence money. It almost feels like legal bribery for future aid. Whatever you call it, it stinks. If first responders are supposed to treat everyone impartially, these kinds of donations mess up the equation and create favorites.

KFRY TV in Bismarck, ND, reported that Energy Transfer Partners representatives hand delivered $20,000 each to the seven counties DAPL crosses, money meant for their first responders.

“And now we want to go into each county and let them know how grateful we are. We know everyone has worked hard and has been patient through this whole process and we are so grateful,” said Dakota Access Pipeline spokesperson Lisa Dillinger.

KSFY, an ABC affiliate in Sioux Falls, SD, reports that Energy Transfer Partners donated $65,000 for agricultural education, spread among the 13 South Dakota counties crossed by DAPL.

To make matters worse, on top of the influence it buys, Energy Transfer Partners probably also gets a charitable donation tax write-off.

Court Ruling Disappointing

U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg issued an opinion Oct. 11 ruling that DAPL can keep pumping oil in spite of the fact that the court earlier ruled that the project’s environmental review was flawed.

Boasberg previous ruled that “the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had failed to fully follow the National Environmental Protection Act when it determined that the pipeline would not have a significant environmental impact.” So the question was: Did Energy Transfer Partners have to stop operating DAPL until those environmental issues were resolved? The answer, according to Boasberg, was “No.”

According to the ruling: “The dispute over the Dakota Access Pipeline has now taken nearly as many twists and turns as the 1,200–mile pipeline itself.” It went on conclude that the errors in the original environmental analysis “are not fundamental or incurable flaws … the agency has a significant possibility of justifying its prior determinations on remand.”

An article in The Hill called the decision: “a victory for Dakota Access and the Trump administration,” and a “defeat for the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes.” Here is another article on the decision from Inside Climate News.

An article in Wednesday’s U.S. News and World Reports, said the judge will now hear arguments about whether Energy Transfer Partners has to stage emergency response equipment near Standing Rock in case of a spill into the Missouri River. According to the article:

The idea is part of a fallback plan proposed by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in August in case … Boasberg eventually decided to allow the four-state pipeline to continue operating while federal officials do more study on the $3.8 billion project’s impact on the tribe.

Charges Dismissed Against Journalist Covering DAPL Dispute

The Bismarck Tribune reports that misdemeanor charges were dropped against Sara Lafleur-Vetter, a reporter for the Guardian, who was filming events at the DAPL protests in 2016. She faced charges of obstruction, “disobedience of safety orders during a riot, and disorderly conduct,” according to the story, reposted on WDAZ.

“There’s no evidence against her,” Southeast District Court Judge Thomas Merrick is quoted as saying. “All it shows is she was working.”

“At least 10 journalists were arrested in connection to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests,” the article said. Others still face charges.

The arrests seem like a thinly veiled attempt to intimidate the media.

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