The state of North Dakota's costs in providing law enforcement support to handle the perpetual protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline are, at latest estimate, at least $29 million. That's a lot of money for a state that is staring at deep budget cuts to the services it provides its citizens. Not much public attention has been given to the fact that the company behind the controversial pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, has offered to reimburse the state for its costs.
North Dakota should accept the money with a smile and a polite thank you. But two governors, former Gov. Jack Dalrymple and current Gov. Doug Burgum, have been curiously quiet about the offer, recently reiterated by the company's CEO. Burgum has said the state will seek reimbursement for the costs and his spokesman has added, "All options will be on the table."
That's good to hear. State officials have complained bitterly about the lack of federal help in dealing with the protests, a challenge that has consumed 333,393 hours of law enforcement response time, as of the latest tally. Counties also have incurred significant costs, bringing the tab for state and local governments to $32.9 million.
The Obama administration, which opposed the pipeline, turned a deaf ear to the state's pleas for help. There is hope that the Trump administration, which approved the federal permits that resurrected construction on the last stretch of the pipeline, beneath the Missouri River above the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, will be more receptive to helping foot the bill.
Still, it's appropriate that the company building the pipeline should help pay, and it's reassuring to hear Kelcy Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, once again pledge to help North Dakota.
"I know that it has stressed your state and I apologize for that," Warren said in a recent radio interview. "I feel that we somehow have caused that and I have publicly stated that we would like to assist in any stress that we could assist on, whether we help financially or whatever."
Burgum should contact Warren and make it easy for him to follow through on his offer of assistance. Then the state should continue pressing the federal government-the protests involve a pipeline crossing on federal land-for any public safety costs not paid by the company. If there is concern that accepting money from a corporation could be construed as a bribe, maybe the state could consider it akin to an agreed-upon fine.
One more thing: It would have been helpful if the self-proclaimed "water protectors" wouldn't have left such a huge mess at their camp, located in a flood plain where meltwaters are rising rapidly. Cleanup crews are racing against the clock to move an estimated 200 abandoned cars and other filth that will pollute the river if not removed. Where are all those "water protectors" when we need them?
Editorials represent the views of Forum management and the Editorial Board.