North Dakota officials back away from blockade plans for pipeline protesters
North Dakota state officials on Tuesday backed away from plans to block supplies from reaching protesters at a camp near the construction site of an oil pipeline project after the governor’s office said no such action was planned.
Activists have spent months protesting plans to route the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, saying the project poses a threat to water resources and sacred Native American sites.
Earlier on Tuesday, Maxine Herr, a spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, said food, building materials and other supplies would be blocked from entering the main camp following Governor Jack Dalrymple’s “emergency evacuation” order on Monday.
However, a spokesman for the governor told Reuters on Tuesday afternoon that no such action was planned. “There is not going to be any blockade of supplies,” said spokesman Jeff Zent.
Following Zent’s comment, Herr said law enforcement would take a more “passive role” than a enforcing a blockade. Officers would instead stop vehicles they believed to be heading to the camp and inform drivers that they were committing an infraction and could be fined $1,000.
“That is the understanding that we had initially but we had to get that clarified. The governor is more interested in public safety than setting up a road block and turning people away,” Herr said by telephone.
(Writing by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Additional reporting by David Gaffen and Mica Rosenberg in New York and Ernest Scheyder in Houston; Editing by Matthew Lewis)