Over the weekend, I visited with former U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon about the state’s process to pipeline siting in North Dakota. Specifically, we focused on the Dakota Access Pipeline siting and protest. Purdon is now a partner at Robins Kaplan LLP and Co-Chair of American Indian Law and Policy Group. Earlier in April, he delivered a speech about this subject that caught my attention. So I picked up the phone and called him. You can listen to the audio above.
I wanted us to focus on the process of consultation. To be clear, this wasn’t about whether or not a person supported this specific pipeline project or the protest. However, in my opinion, this project revealed areas in which the state can make improvements in its process. Specifically, improvements when it comes to working with our sovereign tribal neighbors.
So why are we talking about this now? After all, the local protest has been resolved thanks to the actions of Governor Burgum. In all honesty, I think the way Burgum handled the situation has been the highlight of his young tenure. With that said, I haven’t seen anything productive accomplished in the Legislature to prevent a situation like this from happening again. Instead, they’ve focused their time and energy on reacting at the back end after a protest has started. There is still time. Why not take the time to review the process, attempt to heal the strained relationship with the tribes, keep our law enforcement out of harms way in the first place, and find a common sense approach to move our natural resources while avoiding this in the future?