By Amy Dalrymple
The Dickinson Press
BISMARCK — Staff from the North Dakota Public Service Commission have proposed a $15,000 fine for Dakota Access LLC for potential permit violations after the company failed to notify the commission about cultural artifacts discovered in the pipeline route.
Pipeline construction is complete on both sides of the Lake Oahe crossing, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not yet authorized, Dakota Access said Tuesday, Nov. 8.
The Public Service Commission voted Tuesday to issue a formal complaint to Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, that alleges the company violated conditions of the permit, including rerouting the pipeline without clearance from the commission.
Dakota Access discovered four stone cairns and other artifacts in the pipeline route in Morton County on Oct. 17 and notified the State Historic Preservation Office, which evaluated the site and concurred with the reroute to protect the sites.
The Public Service Commission learned about the unanticipated discovery and the reroute on Oct. 25 from the agency’s third-party inspector, then requested information from Dakota Access, which was received on Oct. 27.
Commission chairwoman Julie Fedorchak said the information the company is required to submit is clearly spelled out in law.
The company will have 20 days after receiving the complaint to respond. The company could contest the complaint and request a hearing or could negotiate a settlement and pay the fine, Fedorchak said.
The $15,000 minimum fine amount is proposed by PSC staff and the commissioners could ultimately issue a higher or lower fine, said Commissioner Brian Kalk.
Commissioner Randy Christmann abstained from voting because the pipeline crosses land that was recently deeded to his wife by his mother-in-law.
Dakota Access said Tuesday the company is working with the PSC to resolve the issue, “but we feel we conducted our business correctly,” according to a statement from spokeswoman Vicki Anderson Granado.
Dakota Access also said in a statement Tuesday the company has completed construction of the pipeline on each side of Lake Oahe and is mobilizing horizontal drilling equipment to the site in preparation for drilling under Lake Oahe, a dammed section of the Missouri River north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
“Dakota Access expects that its mobilization of equipment will be completed over the next two weeks and that it will commence drilling activities upon completion of mobilization,” Anderson Granado said in a statement.
She added that the company “remains confident” that it will receive the easement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Lake Oahe crossing in a timeframe that “will not result in any significant delay.”
President Barack Obama said last week the Army Corps was examining whether there are ways to reroute the pipeline.