Pipeline operator sued by state of North Dakota

Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners now faces a lawsuit filed by the state of North Dakota over its Dakota Access Oil pipeline.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem filed suit this month claiming the Dallas company owns agricultural land in violation of a state law that bans large corporations from owning farmland.

The suit is against Dakota Access LLC, a company formed by Energy transfer Partners to build the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline that attracted thousands of protesters two years ago.

At the heart of the issue is the September 2016 purchase of nearly 6,000 acres by Dakota Access. The land was bought from a ranch family in the area of southern North Dakota where the protests occurred.

But North Dakota is specific and bans large corporations from owning and operating farms. The purpose of the law is to protect North Dakota’s family farming heritage.

Stenehjem knew it at the time but reached an agreement with the company and said he would not immediately file a lawsuit.  Reports indicate he felt the purchase of the ranchland was temporarily necessary to protect the pipeline workers. But he also gave Dakota Access until the end of last year to sell the land. The agreement was extended through June 2018.

Now Stenehjem contends the firm’s “continued ownership of the land constitutes a continuing violation of state law.” He’s asking a judge to fine the company $25,000 and order it to sell the land or face more fines.