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Lloyd Omdahl: Open letter to governor about pipeline crisis

Dear Gov. Jack Dalrymple: The cauldron on Highway 1806 has continued to boil over construction of the $3.8 billion pipeline near the Standing Rock Reservation. Sporadic outbursts of violence have tainted the demonstration, daily jeopardizing live...

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Lloyd Omdahl

Dear Gov. Jack Dalrymple:

The cauldron on Highway 1806 has continued to boil over construction of the $3.8 billion pipeline near the Standing Rock Reservation. Sporadic outbursts of violence have tainted the demonstration, daily jeopardizing lives and property.

We are fortunate that no one has been killed.

In the waning hours of your administration, you have the opportunity to demonstrate impressive statesmanship by taking the initiative to resolve the conflict. Because this is a high-level crisis, negotiation cannot be delegated. It requires the personal attention of the governor.

It isn't enough for us to shirk our responsibilities by blaming the federal government for not pulling our chestnuts out of the fire. This is happening in North Dakota, and North Dakota has a responsibility for the outcome.
During my public career, I have attended gatherings of the nation's governors and noticed a distinct tendency for governors to rave over the loss of state's rights but seldom talk about state responsibilities. This is the time for a state to assert its responsibilities as well as its rights.

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The authority to regulate public affairs for the health, welfare and safety of the people, commonly lumped under the term "police powers," are inherent in state government.

The federal government is restricted to the exercise of powers delegated by the Constitution, while states have a blank check to assert police powers. So we have no shortage of authority to act formally or informally.

At the outset, the Standing Rock Tribal Council needs to be reminded of the unpleasant facts of the situation.
Under our government of law, the pipeline is going to be finished with or without the Council's consent. The project is too far along to abandon.

It is unfortunate that consultations during the permitting process overlooked the issues that have now appeared on the table. Reality tells us, however, that the opportunity to revisit the process is past. We are now in a remedial stage.

Another fact is political. We just elected a president who is committed to energy development, meaning that pipe builders soon will find friendly faces in Washington. In the new administration, the agencies of the federal government will no longer be allowed to delay activities for the benefit of Standing Rock.

We now have a two-month opportunity to resolve this crisis before the new administration takes office and invokes the law, even using military force if necessary. This would be disastrous for everyone involved, but we seem to be headed in that direction.
When that happens, our fellow citizens on Standing Rock will once again be reminded of the broken treaties and oppression of decades past. We will be launching a new era of resentment and hate.

Another fact. It is very likely that Dakota Access will be interested in settling the issue immediately. According to company figures, the delay has already cost $450 million. That figure will only get larger if the demonstrations continue, so the company would be very interested in talking now rather than waiting for two months.

The time is short for all parties involved in the dispute. The situation will deteriorate with each passing day.
But nothing will happen until someone asserts leadership, and the only official with the necessary prestige is the governor.

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Omdahl is a retired professor of political science at UND and former lieutenant governor of North Dakota.

Related Topics: DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE
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