South Dakota’s Republican-dominated legislature has adopted two bills aimed at recovering costs from demonstrators who oppose construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline through the state.
Native American tribes say they were not consulted on the legislation, which has yet to be signed by Republican Governor Kristi Noem. Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Rodney Bordeaux called the maneuver an “underhanded tactic,” contending that legislators released the drafts “after consulting in closed sessions with [pipeline developer] TransCanada with one week left in the current legislative session.”
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That approach, Bordeaux said, “deprives the people of South Dakota a chance to react and comment on the proposed legislation and is a circumvention of the legislative process and freedom of speech.”
The intent of the bills is to “require pipeline companies to help pay extraordinary expenses such as the cost of policing during protests and aim to pursue money from demonstrators who engage in so-called ‘riot boosting,’ which is defined in part as encouraging violence during a riot,” The Associated Press reports. In North Dakota, six months of resistance to the controversial Dakota Access pipeline  led to 761 arrests and cost the state US$38 million for policing.
Noem claimed the legislation was a response to “out-of-state rioters funded by out-of-state interests,” adding that “we are working very hard and planning, and have been planning for many months, to ensure that that does not happen in South Dakota as the Keystone XL pipeline gets built across our state.”
State Rep. Jon Hansen (R) said the bills would ensure that if a protester supposedly incited a riot, “they can’t add insult to injury and stick South Dakota with the bill”. Senate Democratic leader Troy Heinert predicted the legislation would face a court challenge.
“I don’t believe that there is some vast conspiracy from out-of-state groups,” he said. “For the most part, these are people who just want to protect the way of life in South Dakota, and a lot of them are South Dakotans.”