Pipeline protests

Looking north on N.D. Highway 1806 on Monday afternoon, the reinforced barricade of razor wire, left, and concrete barriers on Backwater Bridge can be seen as law enforcement vehicles line highway shoulders. In the foreground right, is a semi-truck used by the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters to pull one of the two fire-gutted trucks from the bridge during Sunday night's violence.

MIKE MCCLEARY, TRIBUNE

The builder of the Dakota Access Pipeline sent North Dakota $15 million on Thursday to help pay law enforcement bills related to months of sometimes violent protests over the project's construction.

Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners has wired the money, said Mike Nowatzki, a spokesman for Gov. Doug Burgum. Company investors also contributed, he said.

The $3.8 billion pipeline began moving oil from North Dakota to a distribution point in Illinois in June. The project is still being contested in federal court by American Indian tribes who fear a leak could endanger their water supply, and protests from August to February resulted in a large-scale police response and more than 700 arrests.

The state has arranged for a bank credit line of up to $43 million to cover policing costs, including $5 million just added this week. Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann, who heads the North Dakota National Guard, has said costs shouldn't go past that figure.

Burgum said in a statement he was grateful for the contribution.

"We remain committed to pursuing all available avenues to ensure that North Dakota taxpayers alone don't bear the enormous costs of law enforcement, life safety and other resources expended on the protests," he said.

North Dakota officials, including the state's congressional delegation, have long pushed for federal reimbursement to cover all costs related to the protests. Burgum asked President Donald Trump for a disaster declaration earlier this year to cover the costs of the protest, but the request was denied.

The state on Monday did get a $10 million grant from the U.S. Justice Department to help pay some of the policing bills.

State officials have argued the federal government should pick up the entire tab because the protesters based themselves on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land without a permit, and federal officials wouldn't evict them due to free speech reasons.

ETP had a longstanding offer to help reimburse the state for law enforcement costs. Former Gov. Jack Dalrymple declined the offer, saying it was unclear whether the state could legally accept it.

Burgum had long said he was open to the offer.

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