Hearings scheduled on potential Dakota Access pipeline fines

By BLAKE NICHOLSON Markets Associated Press

North Dakota regulators have scheduled late-summer hearings on potentially finable offenses alleged against the Texas-based developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

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The North Dakota Public Service Commission is investigating whether Energy Transfer Partners removed too many trees and shrubs while laying pipe in the state and improperly reported the discovery of Native American artifacts along the route. No artifacts were disturbed.

The three-member commission has set a half-day hearing Aug. 16 on the artifacts dispute and a full-day hearing Aug. 17 on the tree issue. Both are open to the public. The hearings were scheduled after the commission decided during a May 31 meeting that they were the best means of resolving the disputes, after what Commissioner Julie Fedorchak described as "a fair amount of back and forth the last few months" between company officials and commission staff.

Energy Transfer Partners maintains that it didn't intentionally do anything wrong and that it plans to plant two trees for every one removed, which would need the approval of regulators. The company could face fines of up to $400,000 if found to have violated state rules, though it could fight any fines imposed by regulators in state district court.

The $3.8 billion pipeline is moving North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution point in Illinois. President Donald Trump's administration and the courts allowed construction to wrap up earlier this year after months of protests by American Indian tribes and environmental groups that fear pollution. The pipeline went into service last Thursday.

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