North Dakota Seeks to Tax Pipeline Protesters Paid to Be There

by Paul Crookston

According to the Washington Times, many of those who have traveled to demonstrate against the Dakota Access Pipeline have been paid for their time. And so North Dakota is gearing up to tax them. After the camp’s sudden growth last summer, a group of often unruly protesters has prompted both a police presence and a cleanup crew. Thus far, the state’s bill has hit $22 million.

Having received no help from the federal government, North Dakota needs to recoup some of those losses. Taxing these “water protectors” and the organizations (Sierra Club and Greenpeace, among others) that compensated them is part of how they hope to do it.

“It’s something we’re looking at. I can tell you I’ve had a number of conversations with legislators regarding this very issue,” said North Dakota tax commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger to the Washington Times. “[We’re] looking at the entities that have potential paid contractors here on their behalf doing work.”

Not only has the protest been a burden to law enforcement, but it also requires a massive cleanup operation. Reuters reports:

Dump trucks and heavy machinery rolled into the protest camp near the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Monday, and crews began filling large dumpsters with garbage that has accumulated, much of it now buried under snow.

 . . . 

Those involved said it was not an effort to destroy the camp, which sits on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land, but a move to prevent waste contaminating water sources.

“I’m not going to run people’s camps over. I’m not going to take anyone’s property or do anything like that,” Hans Youngbird Bradley, a construction contractor from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe said during the meeting.

There are dozens of abandoned cars and structures as well as waste at the camp.

“It is paramount for public safety, and to prevent an environmental disaster, that the camps be cleared prior to a potential spring flood,” said North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, a Republican who supports the completion of the pipeline, in a statement.

The irony is inescapable: A protest to ensure water purity has forced others to perform an actual environmental cleanup. After all that work, the least the professional protesters could do is properly file North Dakota tax forms.

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