BISMARCK, ND (AP) – A state judge has ruled that thousands of documents related to construction safety in the hotly contested North Dakota Access Pipeline are public and subject to the Records Act open from the state.
The Bismarck Tribune reports that Friday’s decision by South-Central District Judge Cynthia Feland is a victory for news organization The Intercept, which sued in 2020 to gain access to documents for investigative journalism.
North Dakota Newspaper Association attorney Jack McDonald said the move was also “a good move for government transparency
The documents held by the North Dakota Private Investigation and Safety Board relate to Energy Transfer, the Texas-based company that built the pipeline, and TigerSwan, the North Carolina company Energy Transfer hired to oversee the pipeline. safety during construction.
TigerSwan handed over 16,000 documents to the board of directors in a two-year battle over whether the company was operating illegally in the state in 2016 and 2017, when thousands of protesters gathered in South Dakota of the North and that the police have carried out hundreds of arrests.
The files became involved in three lawsuits. Energy Transfer and its subsidiary Dakota Access LLC sued the board in 2020, demanding the return of what they consider “confidential, proprietary and privileged documents.”
Feland ruled that Energy Transfer was not deprived of his property because he had copies of the disputed records. She also said the company had not identified any specific provision under state law exempting documents from public disclosure.
Energy Transfer attorney Jennifer Recine deferred a request for comment from the company, which did not immediately respond. On Monday evening, lawyers for the company asked Feland to stay the part of her decision allowing public disclosure of the documents while she appealed to the state Supreme Court.
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