Army recommends Justice Department settle with North Dakota over DAPL protest costs


U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) announced today the Department of the Army recommends the Department of Justice (DOJ) enter into settlement negotiations over the Federal Tort Claims Act litigation between North Dakota and the United States relating to the costs incurred from the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests. The Army called on Friday to inform Senator Cramer of this decision as part of the senator’s ongoing work on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC).

“To avoid protracted and costly litigation, particularly in light of the harm that occurred in this case,” wrote Army Under Secretary James McPherson to Acting Assistant Attorney General Ethan Davis. “I request that you consider engaging in settlement discussions with North Dakota to determine whether a reasonable resolution is within reach.”

Senator Cramer applauded the Army’s recommendation and urged DOJ to follow it.

“Under Secretary McPherson’s argument is the right one,” said Senator Cramer. “Justice Department officials should listen to their client and take this opportunity to work with Attorney General Stenehjem and reach a settlement.”

This follows District Court Judge Dan Traynor’s recent ruling which allowed North Dakota’s lawsuit to proceed. Senator Cramer at the time said he hoped this would inspire some humility from DOJ, given their apparent desire to hide behind legal motions rather than accept responsibility for their actions.

It also comes after a SASC nominations hearing earlier this month where Senator Cramer expressed his frustration to Michele Pearce, nominee to be the Army’s General Counsel, about the lawsuit’s lack of progress and the federal government’s unwillingness to engage. Ms. Pearce agreed there were missed opportunities to reach a settlement and committed to speaking with North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem to find a solution. Learn more here.