U.S. taxpayers may have to pay for pipeline protest costs

North Dakota officials are expected to tap the U.S. government to recoup more than $38 million in state expenses related to months of protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

This even though a longstanding offer from project developer Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) to pay is still in force, Kallanish Energy finds.

One taxpayer watchdog group questions why the state isn’t jumping at the ETP offer. “You take the money when you can get it,” Dustin Gawrylow, managing director of the North Dakota Watchdog Network, told the Associated Press.

However, Common Cause, a nonpartisan group that promotes government accountability, said accepting money from a private-sector business in an industry it regulates would present the state with an ethical dilemma.

Pipeline opponents have long accused the state of being too cozy with ETP, and if the state takes the company’s money “it certainly would lend credence to those arguments,” Joye Braun, a protest leader, told AP.

“For Energy Transfer to offer a donation, basically that’s paying off the state for using state resources as personal security,” she said.

Work is soon finished on the $3.8 billion pipeline to move North Dakota crude 1,200 miles to a Patoka, Ill., and oil could be flowing as early as today despite an ongoing legal challenge by Sioux tribes who fear the project could affect their water supply — a claim ETP rejects.

State Budget Director Pam Sharp told AP nothing in state law would prevent North Dakota from accepting ETP’s donation, and that it’s happened before, though not in such a sizable amount.