Noem says pipeline bills are transparent

PIERRE, S.D. — Gov. Kristi Noem has released a statement defending the two pipeline bills she introduced this week as transparent.

That’s despite complaints that the Noem administration pushed the bills out late Monday afternoon, days before the deadline for the House and Senate to process legislation.

This has led to criticism that neither the public nor lawmakers have enough time to fully consider the consequences of Senate Bills 189 and 190.

“It’s interesting that they came up when they did,” said Jonathan Ellis of the Madison Daily Leader in an interview with South Dakota Public Broadcasting. “They just kind of emerged at the end of the session so they have not had the public vetting other bills do. So that will probably be held against them by a lot of people.”

Law enforcement and protesters in North Dakota clash near the site of the Dakota Access pipeline. (Morton County Sheriff’s Department via AP, File)

The bills are designed to prevent local and state governments from being devastated by protest-related expenses.

They would seek money from individuals and organizations deemed to be “riot boosting,” or encouraging and financing destructive protests. They would also tag pipeline developers to help cover expenses.

The move is a direct response to consequences seen in the North Dakota pipeline protests. The state spent tens of millions of dollars on policing protest demonstrations.

According to Deputy General Counsel Katie Hruska, “Senate Bill 189 and 190, together, represent the governor’s plan to be proactive and make sure that everyone is financially accountable for their actions. Whether that’s the developer of a project, whether that’s the beneficiaries of economic development, or for the violent objectors.”

Proponents argue that the legislation will help distribute the costs fairly, while not infringing on the rights of peaceful protesters.

However, critics have been quick to point out that the bills do not create clear definitions of what riot boosting is.

According to Lester Thompson Jr., chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, “The broad language of this bill has the capacity to make a criminal out of any citizen, not just big donors and big supporters. How do you determine who is a riot booster and who is just a concerned citizen?”

“I feel voices should not be squashed regarding environmental concerns that impact resources that we depend on to live. People who are scared have the right to express that fear, without the fear of prosecution,” Thompson Jr. continued.

Gov. Noem has also been criticized for consulting with the company that’s building the pipeline, TransCanada, during the drafting of the bills, but not asking for input from the state’s tribes.

According to Remi Bald Eagle, intergovernmental affairs coordinator for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, “If the Governor truly wants to save money, she should consider not allowing a pipeline through the state … She is putting the economic needs of the foreign company TransCanada ahead of the future of South Dakota.”

Both SB 189 and SB 190 passed the Joint Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday and will next go to the Senate for a vote.

Thursday, March 7, marks the last day that the Senate and House can pass or approve the bill, and March 13 marks the last day of the 2019 legislative session.

You can listen to the committee hearing on the bills at this link.

Categories: Local News, Politics & Elections, South Dakota News