In a recent news story, Energy & Environment Reporter Ellen Gilmer spoke to members of the North Dakota Public Service Commission on the Dakota Access Pipeline – and the ongoing protest being driven by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Gilmer notes that regulators from the North Dakota’s Public Service Commission were frankly surprised see such passionate opposition given their relative absence during the permitting and review process, reporting:
“I don’t think anyone thought it would turn into what we have now,” he said, referring to the thousands of tribal members and environmentalists who have cycled through the anti-pipeline camp south of here, plus the hundreds who have engaged in work site protests, sometimes with violent results.
Kalk is one-third of the state’s Public Service Commission, the agency tasked with reviewing applications for pipelines, transmission lines and similar projects. For the commission, review of Dakota Access was nothing out of the ordinary.
Pipeline backer Energy Transfer Partners, based in Dallas, submitted an application in 2014. Kalk and his colleagues began reviewing the project’s proposed route, and three public hearings were placed on the calendar for 2015.
As is routine, the commission notified area tribes of the hearings, as well as the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission.
“We followed the process, held our hearings, made our decision,” he said. “The most important thing I’ve always said is that you follow the law.”
But the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which sparked the massive movement against the pipeline earlier this year, did not attend the hearings. The tribe’s grievances came later, after the project was outside the commission’s hands.
Now, Kalk and commission Chairwoman Julie Fedorchak, both Republicans, say they’re taken aback by the protests and feel unfairly caught in the middle.
“It’s really unfortunate that they didn’t come to the table when they were invited,” Fedorchak said.”
Gilmer also noted that many are becoming increasingly frustrated with the out of state protestors and their illegal tactics.
“The reality is the people who remain here simply want to shut down pipelines,” she said. “They’re here to create havoc for the pipeline industry. It is a powder keg.”
For now, all eyes are on the Obama administration, which holds the key to the final approval necessary to finish the North Dakota section of oil pipeline. If and when that happens, Kalk said he’s nervous about how protesters will respond but is hoping “everybody follows the rule of law” and that “no one is seriously injured.”
Fedorchak said she hoped tribes are more willing to engage in the state approval process for future projects.”
As the commissioners stated and Gilmer reported, the review and permitting process has come and gone. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe had ample opportunity to discuss project and now must follow the courts’ decision and the role of law.