WASHINGTON-The U.S. Department of Justice again denied a request for additional funding in Morton County to assist law enforcement with the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., expressed his disapproval with the department's decision in a written statement Wednesday, Dec. 14, in which he also indicated that he's reached out to the Trump administration for assistance.
"We have repeatedly requested federal law enforcement assistance to help state and local law enforcement, who have shown dedication and professionalism in working to keep the peace and protect people who live and work in the area of the protests," Hoeven said in the statement. "Further, they have denied assistance despite the fact that the Obama administration has prolonged the problem by refusing to approve the easement, which would allow the pipeline project to be completed."
Earlier Wednesday, a letter from Denise O'Donnell, director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, addressed to Dallas Carlson of the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said the bureau does not have the "legal authority to assist law enforcement in the general maintenance of public safety and order."
O'Donnell said that even if the legal authority did exist, "the protest activities do not appear to have involved crimes of mass violence (including death) and would not qualify for funding given current resource constraints."
North Dakota currently has an unexpended grant that could be repurposed for the Morton County effort, O'Donnell said, and her department could assist with that but would not provide additional funding, despite her acknowledging that protests and demonstrations can result in "unanticipated costs."
The most recent request for DAPL assistance was received by the Department of Justice on Nov. 14, according to O'Donnell's letter. The request stated that agencies are "overwhelmed with the number of protesters" and, as a result, had to recruit from other states to assist.
In addition to the DOJ denying additional funding, Hoeven said North Dakota was notified on Wednesday that the DOJ would not approve an application for funding under the Byrne Grant program.
Hoeven said that he's already reached out to the Trump administration to provide assistance to state and local law enforcement "to help them keep the peace, as well as to issue the easement."
"We have spoken with Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, Attorney General Nominee Jeff Sessions and the Trump transition team to secure this assistance, and we will work in Congress to secure funding as well," Hoeven said. "We are committed to doing all we can to resolve this problem, which has been very difficult for North Dakotans."