Dakota Access Pipeline Company Fights North Dakota Fine

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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The company building the Dakota Access oil pipeline is fighting North Dakota regulators’ efforts to impose a fine of at least $15,000 after working on land where Native American artifacts were found without running it by the commission that oversees pipelines.

The Public Service Commission maintains that Dakota Access LLC, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, failed to get its approval before proceeding with construction on private land in October in southern North Dakota.

Crews diverted construction so the artifacts weren’t disturbed — a plan with which the State Historic Preservation Office concurred. North Dakota chief archaeologist Paul Picha has told The Associated Press that the site was properly handled.

The company disputes it did anything wrong, and asked the PSC on Nov. 30 to dismiss the complaint.

“There is nothing to suggest Dakota Access has not been acting in good faith,” company attorney Lawrence Bender said in the motion.

The PSC contends the company also should have asked it for clearance because it regulates pipelines. The commission filed a complaint Nov. 7 calling for a fine. Chairwoman Julie Fedorchak declined comment Wednesday, citing the active case.

The 1,200-mile pipeline is to carry North Dakota oil to a shipping point in Illinois. It is mostly finished, though construction under a Missouri River reservoir is on hold. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters have protested the project for months, maintaining it threatens drinking water and also cultural sites. ETP disputes that.

ETP asserts that under state law there needs to be a willful violation of PSC orders — something it was not accused of doing and did not do.

Fedorchak was critical of the company during a Nov. 2 PSC meeting, saying she was “extremely disappointed” that the company didn’t follow the proper procedure after the artifacts were found. The company’s motion quotes some of Fedorchak’s public comments, and counters that “the commission does not have carte blanche to impose penalties or fines for actions the commission merely finds ‘disappointing.’”

The PSC will decide whether to grant the company’s motion to dismiss the case or schedule a hearing before an administrative law judge.