Noem’s pipeline protest bills close to being signed into law

PIERRE, S.D. — Gov. Kristi Noem’s pipeline bill package, aimed at spreading the costs associated with potential Keystone XL oil pipeline protests, has passed both the House and Senate. The two bills now head to Noem’s desk to be approved and signed into law.

That’s despite concerns that they came out too late in the legislative session for the public and lawmakers to fully consider their potential effects.

Additionally, complaints arose that Gov. Noem’s administration consulted with TransCanada while drafting the bills, but didn’t speak with the state’s tribes.

Senate Bills 189 and 190 would seek money from both pipeline developers and riot boosters — those deemed to be funding and participating in destructive protests.

Proponents say the bills will help prevent local and state governments from being devastated by the costs associated with policing protests.

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.”

A security line moves with a march of military veterans and tribal elders outside the Oceti Sakowin camp where people gathered to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline in Cannon Ball, N.D., Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Critics say the bills, specifically 189, may infringe on the First Amendment rights of those opposed to the pipeline.

“I think that’s the whole intent of Senate Bill 189, is to really get people to not support people’s First Amendment right to free speech,” said Sen. Troy Heinert during a press conference on Thursday morning.

“I am pleased that they’re asking TransCanada to put some money up,” Heinert added. “I wish that tribes could be included, that they could access those funds.”

Both Democratic leaders and the ACLU of South Dakota have brought up the possibility that the bills may lead to lawsuits after being signed into law.

“The Supreme Court has ruled that money is speech,” said Heinert. “And when you donate or give to a cause, you’re exercising your First Amendment rights. And what 189 is saying is if you donate, you could be held civilly liable.”

The bills come after Dakota Access pipeline protests in North Dakota cost the state $38 million in law enforcement expenses.

In a statement released on Thursday, Noem defended the bills as taking “a proactive approach to spreading the risk and costs associated with building a pipeline. I applaud the legislature for their thoughtful review and decisive leadership. I believe this approach will be part of the next generation of major energy infrastructure development.”

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