Noem and Ravnsborg respond to lawsuit against them for “Riot Boosting” pipeline bill
PIERRE, S.D. — Gov. Noem and Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed against them by the ACLU that challenges Gov. Noem’s “Riot Boosting” pipeline bill.
Noem and Ravnsborg filed a response to the lawsuit on April 16.
The response argues that the new law doesn’t threaten protected speech and that the state has immunity from the lawsuit, which should therefore be thrown out.
The ACLU filed the suit on March 28, the day after Gov. Noem signed Senate Bill 189 into law. The bill is designed to spread the costs associated with policing potential Keystone XL pipeline protests.
North Dakota spent $38 million to control similar protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016 and 2017.
Senate Bill 189 would seek money from those deemed to be”riot boosting,” or participating in, encouraging or funding destructive protests, in order to help offset the costs.
The ACLU is arguing that the law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendment by chilling free speech and the right to protest, and failing to adequately specify what conduct would lead to being penalized.
The lawsuit also takes aim at two other South Dakota laws which already existed before Noem’s pipeline bill. They make participating in or directing and soliciting others to use force or violence during a riot a felony.
The ACLU says that the laws are too vague, invite arbitrary enforcement and “will result in indiscriminate targeting of peaceful organizers.”
The lawsuit also points out that Gov. Noem didn’t consult with any Native American tribes or environmental groups on the bill.
Noem and Ravnsborg deny this in the response filed Tuesday, which argues “All citizens of the state, including tribes, tribal members, and environmental groups, were equally allowed to participate in the legislative process.”
The bill was introduced just days before the deadline to approve or kill it, leaving little time for the public and lawmakers to process it and provide feedback.
Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit because of his official role in enforcing the challenged laws. Thom has yet to respond.
The $8 billion pipeline project would carry about 800,000 barrels of crude oil per day through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with lines going to refineries along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.
It’s currently tied up in court because a Montana judge blocked its construction, citing concerns that its cumulative environmental impacts have not been fully studied.