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Minot City Council debates signing onto Dakota Access court appeal

Council debates signing onto court appeal brief

AP Photo Heavy equipment is seen at a site where sections of the Dakota Access pipeline were being buried near the town of St. Anthony in Morton County.

The Minot City Council could decide Monday whether to step into the Dakota Access Pipeline dispute.

The council was divided on the issue at a special meeting Friday. The hastily called meeting was to decide whether to sign onto an amicus brief being developed by the Western Dakota Energy Association. The brief must be filed Monday afternoon to be included in an appeal of a federal judge’s decision in the Standing Rock Sioux lawsuit against Energy Transfer and its Dakota Access pipeline. A federal judge in the lawsuit struck down permits granted for the pipeline and has called for a halt to operations while the pipeline undergoes an environmental study. Energy Transfer is appealing and has received an administrative stay in the pipeline closure to file briefs.

WDEA has asked local governments in western North Dakota to sign onto the amicus brief to support arguments that shutdown of the pipeline will have significant economic effects, including Hub City funding coming from the state, sales tax collections and local jobs.

Tawny Trottier Cale, who resides at Minot Air Force Base, secretary for the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, asked the council not to sign on.

“I would question whether or not the city feels that this is something we should be spending our time on,” she said, noting the issue is the recognition of the indigenous sovereignty of the involved tribes. “If the city is going to show their support and vote on something, I hope that they vote to show their support to our relatives down on Standing Rock.”

Council members noted they had received a number of calls and emails regarding the issue prior to the meeting.

Council member Carrie Evans had moved that Minot remain neutral but later withdrew the motion to postpone action until Monday, which passed 4-3. Voting for the delay were Mark Jantzer, Lisa Olson, Stephan Podrygula and Evans. Pitner, who indicated he cannot attend on Monday, voted against, as did Tom Ross and Mayor Shaun Sipma.

“I do believe this has impact day to day to the city of Minot,” Sipma said. “I do feel strongly that this government body make its position known.”

“It does seem to me that making known to the court that our municipality and our taxpayers will be impacted is not out of line,” Jantzer added. Pitner also indicated it would be appropriate for the city to provide the court with information related to the impact of a pipeline shutdown.

Evans opposed signing on without actually seeing the brief. The delay until Monday would allow time to review the brief.

WDEA Executive Director Geoff Simon said others already signed on are Williston, Dickinson, Watford City and Dunn, Billings, Williams, McKenzie and Emmons counties. Mountrail and Morton county commissions are meeting Monday to decide.

“We want to make sure that the court understands that, obviously, this potential shutdown goes far beyond the pipeline and the companies that use it to ship crude oil. It affects the state, obviously, but we want to make sure the court understands that the oil extraction and production tax distribution formulas go out to support the communities,” Simon said. The amicus brief is being filed in support of the Department of Justice on behalf of the Corps of Engineers.

Simon said the city would have no legal obligation. However, he said WDEA has committed $15,000 to the cost of the amicus and plans to ask local governments for another $15,000. He said Minot’s share would be about $2,500, but the city is under no obligation to contribute.

“I support pipelines. I think they’re very safe. I think I’ve been very clear that this would have a tremendous economic impact on the city and the state,” Podrygula told Simon. “I guess I’m not quite sure what more you want. I think we’re starting to get dragged into something and now we’re being asked to spend money on something that I’m not sure is a legitimate thing for the city of Minot to be involved in.

“I’m just getting the feeling that I’m being pressured to move into something that isn’t just a can of worms but a barrel of worms,” he added.

“Minot is already in this. We’re all in this. This will affect everyone in the state,” Simon responded. “We’re just trying to get our voice in front of that court to let them know the local impact of the consequences of this decision.”

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