Tribal leader seeks stronger accountability for oil spill cleanup

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Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Chairman Lester Thompson Jr. spoke to the committee during a meeting in Pierre on Tuesday, Nov. 12. The biggest concerns would be pollutants, leaks and spills, Thompson said. Thompson asked for a resolution supporting the call to action by the federal government to provide for a way to hold private industries who operate crude oil pipelines within the state to be held accountable. Thompson asked the committee to look at creating a fund that would require bonds funded by the private companies to ensure that if a leak happens, the state is covered by immediately available funds.

Sen. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City, noted that resolution does not include the issue of the clean up costs left over for North Dakota to shoulder following the Dakota Access Pipeline protests several years ago. The resolution being presented would require bonds that pertain only to environmental clean up, not protest clean up, Thompson said. Sen. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs, noted that a similar issue was brought to the legislators’ attention by Dakota Rural Action, which he supported. Russell said he thinks “we should have bonds,” adding that he needs to be convinced the resolution is something the state can legally enforce. Russell said his concern was whether or not the resolution was preempted by federal legislation. Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, said that pipelines are required to pay into an oil pipeline fund, but tar sand pipelines do not.

“There should be a fund to deal with these pipelines because right now, we don’t have anything,” Heinert said, noting that resolutions are used for asking the federal government do take action or do something. Thompson said there is nothing guaranteeing future protection, and the purpose of the resolution is to get the conversation started so down the line action will be taken to address this. “If nobody brings this up for conversation, we’ll be left holding the bag just as it’s been in other states,” Thompson said. The committee will meet one more time in December before the 2020 session begins. The date for the final meeting has not yet been set.

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