'Years after first oil pipeline protests broke out, North Dakota lawmakers are set to vote on a bill that would permanently seal public records involving the police response. The records are critical to ongoing lawsuits.
The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was met with resistance from the moment it was announced in 2014. Transporting shale oil through four states, the $3.78 billion project drew the fury of environmental activists and Native Americans, whose reservation it ran through. Nearly 800 protesters were arrested and 300 injured between April 2016 and the project’s completion a year later.
Documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, as well as several leaks, aided in the legal defense of protesters and in class-action lawsuits against North Dakota police and TigerSwan, a private security company brought in to crack down on the protests. All in all, more than 800 criminal cases have resulted from the demonstrations.
Those publicly available documents might not be available much longer. State representatives in North Dakota are preparing to vote on a bill that would restrict the release of records pertaining to security operations around “critical infrastructure” – such as the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The bill would bar the release of records – including photos, videos, “information” and “communications” – regarding “security planning, mitigation, or threats” to the infrastructure. The term “infrastructure” is defined broadly, and includes “telecommunications centers and computers, power generation plants, dams, bridges, and similar key resources, and systems related to utility services, fuel supply, energy, hazardous liquid, natural gas, or coal.”
The North Dakota Senate has already voted in favor of the bill. If approved by the state House and signed by Republican Governor Doug Burgum, it will become law.'
Read more: North Dakota bill could permanently seal police, government records on pipeline protests
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