Skip to main content

Report on Business South Dakota defends Keystone XL pipeline protest legislation

The American Civil Liberties Union and American Indian tribes say the new law will stifle free speech, but the state disputes that argument.

MIKE MCCLEARY/The Associated Press

South Dakota’s governor and attorney-general are asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit challenging a new law that aims to prevent disruptive demonstrations against the Keystone XL pipeline if it’s built.

The law allows officials to pursue criminal or civil penalties from demonstrators who engage in “riot boosting,” which is defined in part as encouraging violence during a riot. The American Civil Liberties Union and American Indian tribes say the law will stifle free speech, but the state disputes that argument.

“Defendants deny that any objectively reasonable fear of prosecution for protected speech would arise under [the law],” Deputy attorney-general Richard Williams said in a Tuesday filing.

Story continues below advertisement

He also said the state is immune from such lawsuits.

The legislation was muscled through the Legislation by Republican Governor Kristi Noem and the GOP leaders in a matter of days earlier this year. The new law came in the wake of massive and prolonged protests in North Dakota against the Dakota Access oil pipeline in 2016 and 2017. There were 761 arrests in six months, and the policing effort cost the state US$38-million.

Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners also is seeking to recover millions of dollars in protest-related damages from Greenpeace, an effort the environmental group calls a “sham.”

American Indian tribes and environmental groups have promised similar protests against Keystone XL, which TransCanada Corp. wants to build to move Canadian crude through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with lines carrying oil to Gulf Coast refineries. The US$8-billion project is tied up in the courts, as U.S. President Donald Trump tries to push it through but environmental groups resist.

The ACLU sued over the South Dakota law late last month on behalf of groups and people planning to protest the pipeline or encourage others to do so. The lawsuit argues the law is an overreach, vague and targets protected speech.

The law states that people who solicit or pay someone to break the law or be arrested would be subject to paying three times the amount that would compensate for the detriment caused. Money collected would be used to pay for riot damage claims or could be transferred into a fund administered by the state Department of Public Safety.

Ms. Noem has said the law is meant to address problems caused by “out-of-state rioters funded by out-of-state interests,” and that it arose from discussions with lawmakers, authorities, stakeholders and TransCanada.

Story continues below advertisement

Tribes have said they were not consulted. Mr. Williams said in his filing that “all citizens of the state, including tribes, tribal members, and environmental groups, were equally allowed to participate in the legislative process.”

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter