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South Dakota poised to pass laws to discourage Keystone XL pipeline protests

FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2017 file photo, demonstrators against the Keystone XL pipeline listen to speakers in Lincoln, Neb. Justice Department attorneys and the Canadian company behind the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline say the U.S. government shutdown shouldn't delay a court hearing on a judge's decision to halt construction. Justice Department attorney Bridget McNeil said in a court filing Monday, Jan. 7, 20189, that federal attorneys' participation in the hearing next Monday in U.S. District Court in Great Falls isn't necessary. AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File

South Dakota is poised to approve laws aimed at potential protests against the planned Keystone XL oil pipeline, seeking to prevent disruptive demonstrations like those against the Dakota Access pipeline that cost neighbouring North Dakota nearly $40 million and led to hundreds of arrests beginning in late 2016.

South Dakota’s Republican-dominated legislature rushed two bills to approval in three days, but it wasn’t immediately clear when Gov. Kristi Noem will sign them.

The Republican governor’s bills would 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.

But the measures have sparked opposition from Indigenous groups who say they weren’t consulted. The legislation comes after opponents of the Dakota Access oil pipeline staged large protests that resulted in 761 arrests in North Dakota over a six-month span beginning in late 2016. The state spent $38 million policing the protests.

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READ MORE: South Dakota panel endorses bills aimed at possible Keystone XL pipeline protests

Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ ongoing coverage of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Officials are working to make sure disruptive and violent protests don’t happen in South Dakota with Keystone XL, Noem said earlier in the week. She has said the package was developed to address problems caused by “out-of-state rioters funded by out-of-state interests.”

“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,” Noem said.

The Keystone XL pipeline has sparked fierce opposition from environmental groups, Indigenous groups and some landowners since it was first proposed over a decade ago. U.S. President Donald Trump approved a federal permit for the project in 2017, reversing former president Barack Obama’s decision to reject it amid concerns over greenhouse gas emissions.

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The 1,900-kilometre pipeline is intended to ship up to 830,000 barrels a day of Canadian crude through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with lines to carry oil to Gulf Coast refineries.

A federal judge in Montana in February largely kept in place an injunction that blocks TransCanada from performing preliminary work.

The pre-emptive South Dakota measure on “riot boosting” is about upholding the rule of law, said Republican Rep. Jon Hansen. It helps ensure that if someone incites a riot ”they can’t add insult to injury and stick South Dakota with the bill,” he said.

But Senate Democratic leader Troy Heinert, an opponent, predicted it will be challenged in court.

“I don’t believe that there is some vast conspiracy from out-of-state groups,” Heinert said. “For the most part these are people who just want to protect, you know, the way of life in South Dakota, and a lot of them are South Dakotans.”

The bills include emergency provisions that would make them take effect immediately and block opponents from referring them to a public vote.

Noem’s office said her bills arose from discussions with lawmakers, authorities, stakeholders and pipeline developer TransCanada.

Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Rodney Bordeaux said in a statement Tuesday that his tribe wasn’t consulted and called it an “underhanded tactic.”

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“Making the bills public after consulting in closed sessions with TransCanada with one week left in the current legislative session 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,” Bordeaux said.

One bill would tap a pipeline developer, among other sources, to fund extraordinary expenses that arise from pipeline protests. Approved claims from the state, cities or counties would be billed to the pipeline developer, which could contest the claims.

The second measure says 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.

The South Dakota legislation comes as the developer of the Dakota Access pipeline is seeking to recover millions of dollars in protest-related damages from Greenpeace. Energy Transfer Partners accused the group and activists of inciting opposition and directly training and funding protesters, including giving half a million dollars to a protest faction that advocated more militant tactics.

READ MORE: Arrests made as Standing Rock activists defy deadlines for Dakota Access pipeline protest

Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ coverage of protests against the Dakota Access pipeline.

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Greenpeace has called the lawsuit a “sham” and said ETP is trying to silence peaceful advocacy. A judge tossed ETP’s claim out of federal court, but the company is pursuing similar claims in state court.

South Dakota officials have already changed state law in anticipation of Keystone XL protests. In 2017, they made it a Class 1 misdemeanour for someone to stand in the highway to stop traffic or to trespass in a posted emergency area.

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