Burgum says feds 'changed the game' on pipeline decision

GRAND FORKS, N.D., -- Doug Burgum, the Republican candidate for North Dakota governor, criticized last week's decision from three federal agencies to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Soon a...
Doug Burgum discusses his views regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline project after a meeting with business leaders at the Grand Forks Herald Wednesday. Photo by Eric Hylden/Forum News Service
Doug Burgum discusses his views regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline project after a meeting with business leaders at the Grand Forks Herald Wednesday. Photo by Eric Hylden/Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS, N.D., -- Doug Burgum, the Republican candidate for North Dakota governor, criticized last week’s decision from three federal agencies to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Soon after a federal judge ruled against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for an injunction against the oil pipeline Friday, the agencies released a statement indicating construction would not be allowed on U.S. Army Corps of Engineering land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider its previous decisions about that site.

“It’s like you win the game, and then you find out five minutes after the game is over that you didn’t win the game because we’re actually thinking about changing the rules of the game that you decided to play,” Burgum said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “That’s a much broader problem for our entire economy.”

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the Army Corps in late July, arguing the Corps failed to properly consult the tribe and consider the project’s effect on sacred sites. The $3.8 billion pipeline will carry 450,000 barrels of crude oil each day from North Dakota to Illinois.

“We can and should continue to try to advance our abilities to listen to each other,” Burgum said. “The judge did rule that the pipeline company did everything that they were required.”

Asked what he would do as governor to respond to the protest, Burgum said it “isn’t a time for hypotheticals,” but he said Gov. Jack Dalrymple has rightly focused on public safety. Dalrymple, a Republican, isn’t seeking another term in office.

Meanwhile, Marvin Nelson, a Democratic state representative running for governor against Burgum, said “it’s pretty clear from the record in the court case that (the tribe was) given many chances” to participate in the consultation process.

“For whatever reason, they really didn’t engage in time,” he said.

Asked whether he felt that diminishes the legitimacy of the large protest taking place, which he visited earlier this month, Nelson said “yes.”

“It’s clear that there was an effort to try and get the tribe to participate to a much greater degree than the tribe was willing to or able to,” he said, adding the pipeline company has made “quite an effort” to not disturb historic sites. “It’s really not fair to the company at this point to expect them to put the sands back in the bottle, so to speak. They can’t go back and not spend that money.”

Nelson argued, however, that the regulatory process for approving oil pipelines should be revamped.

A voicemail left for Steve Sitting Bear, a Standing Rock spokesman, was not returned Wednesday evening. Tribal leadership welcomed the decision from the Department of Justice, Department of the Army and Department of the Interior last week.

“Our hearts are full, on this historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and for tribes across the nation," David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said in a statement released Friday. “Native peoples have suffered generations of broken promises and today the federal government said that national reform is needed to better ensure that tribes have a voice on infrastructure projects like this pipeline.”