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State Sen. Connie Triplett: Burgum can and should resolve DAPL stand-off

GRAND FORKS--In Wednesday's Herald, Lloyd Omdahl provided a valuable lesson in federalism to outgoing Gov. Jack Dalrymple. Too late, Lloyd. The current administration has already militarized the pipeline protest beyond reason and set state-tribal...

Connie Triplett
Connie Triplett

GRAND FORKS-In Wednesday's Herald, Lloyd Omdahl provided a valuable lesson in federalism to outgoing Gov. Jack Dalrymple . Too late, Lloyd. The current administration has already militarized the pipeline protest beyond reason and set state-tribal relations back a generation.

That was before House Majority Leader Al Carlson destroyed a proud state tradition by "un-inviting" the tribal government address to the Legislature.

Our only hope for sensible resolution lies with the next administration.

Gov.-elect Doug Burgum: You are undoubtedly being briefed daily by the current administration. I believe you are sufficiently open-minded to listen to other voices as well.

As your first act as governor, please indicate that you understand the concept of federally recognized tribal governments as "dependent sovereign nations," beholden to the power of Congress, but with a legal right to expect special treatment from federal agencies and state governments-not based on race, but on treaties approved by Congress and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Second, armed with that understanding, please refrain from pressuring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to grant the river crossing easement immediately. The Corps has acknowledged, under pressure from its sister agencies (Interior and Justice), that it failed in its obligations to the tribe and it has committed to make matters right, at least by engaging in real, meaningful consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux tribal government. Let that happen.

Being publicly bullied by Dalrymple and our congressional delegation is not helping the Corps resolve the issue. It is only increasing ill-will toward the federal government and the tribal government among a large portion of our state's citizenry.

Third, show that you understand something about the significance of cultural resources. You should know that there's a serious lack of trust by the tribal governments toward the state's historic preservation office, just as some state government officials lack trust in the tribal historic preservation offices.

Fourth, one should not make promises one cannot keep. It appears likely that the governor, congressional delegation or someone on their behalf assured the owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline that officials would clear away any obstacles in the pipeline's path, including federal obstacles.

Otherwise, why would the pipeline company have started construction before having all its permits in place?

The North Dakota Public Service Commission cannot speak for the Corps, and the Corps cannot speak for the PSC. But on the strength of the PSC permit dated Jan. 20, the pipeline company began building terminals and tanks as early as February and actual pipeline construction in May. Meanwhile, the federal environmental assessment was not completed and signed until July 25. By then, the pipeline already was 44 percent complete.

In September, Dalrymple and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., lamented that corporate America will not be able to make decisions on investing in large infrastructure projects "if the rules change after the permits have been granted." That's what was happening in the DAPL situation, they said.

But surely they knew when they said this that in fact, the opposite already had happened: Dakota Access LLC had started construction months before the company had permission to cross the Missouri River from the Corps of Engineers-never mind the still-withheld easement, which is a separate issue.

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Here's some advice for corporate America: Respect the laws of this nation sufficiently that you choose not to risk shareholders' money until all required permits are in place.

Finally, as you end your first statement on the topic of the pipeline and the protests surrounding it, you must begin immediately to de-militarize the law enforcement response. Calm the situation.

Invite tribal leaders into the Capitol to engage in civil discourse. Better yet: meet with the Standing Rock Tribal Council on its own turf.

Hear the perspective of all North Dakota tribal government leaders-whether House Majority Leader Carlson chooses to listen or not.

Visit the protesters at the encampment, as I have done and will do again.

The world is watching. Let us work together, Republicans and Democrats, state, federal, and tribal leaders, as well as concerned citizens. Civility and integrity will yield openness and trust.

Gov.-elect Burgum, we are counting on you to change the dynamic before lives are lost to corporate greed.

Triplett, a Democrat, represents District 18 in the North Dakota Senate.

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