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North Dakota' email filters blocked a majority of Lakota Law's email campaign pressing for hearing in Dakota Access expansion

An email filter is being blamed for blocking a majority of 19,000 emails that were sent to the Public Service Commission to press for a public hearing on the expansion of the Dakota Access to from 570,000 to 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day.

Members of the Lakota People’s Law Project had touted the number in media releases while pushing for a public hearing on the expansion.

Stacy Eberl, with the Public Service Commission, said the emails, which had been sent through the online platform called EveryAction, turned out to have been blocked by an email filter. They were never seen by commissioners before they decided to set a public hearing for the pipeline’s expansion at 9 a.m. Nov. 13 at the Emmons County Courthouse Auditorium, 100 Fourth St. NW in Linton.

Eberl said the Commission did see 391 comments filed through its public input system, of which 294 came from Standing Rock Sioux Tribe members, and 55 from the Sierra Club. The rest weren’t identified as coming from any specific group.

There was also a formal request for a hearing that was filed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has asked for status as an intervenor. By filing as an intervenor, Standing Rock will be able to participate fully in pre-hearing filings and other actions.

Standing Rock has said previously that it is opposed to the operation of the pipeline in general, and that they are against its expansion. The tribe is still fighting a legal battle against the pipeline.

Jesse Phelps, with the Lakota Law Project, said the EveryAction platform keeps a record of each comment that’s submitted through it. By Aug. 9, it had logged 18,348 comments, with the rest coming between the deadline the state had set for public comments on the matter, and the announcement that there would indeed be a public hearing for the pipeline.

Eberl said the Public Service Commission is working on a way to get to all the files that were blocked, so that all the emails can be recorded in their system. They are also talking to the Information Technology Department to see what can be done in the future to be ready in case large groups of emails are being sent in to the Public Service Commission’s email address.

“The Commission takes transparency very seriously,” Eberl said. “We were not aware of the emails until being contacted by the Lakota People’s Law Project. We appreciate them reaching out to us and working with us to ensure the files are recorded into our public input for this case.”

Williston Freedom Monument begins installation of final pieces ahead of dedication ceremony

The final pieces are coming together for Williston’s Freedom Monument, which is set to be officially dedicated in the next few weeks.

Large pieces of polished granite were delivered to the site of the monument on Monday, Aug. 26, with workers from FCI Constructors and Dakotah West Crane Service on-hand to install the pieces around the monument. The Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee has been raising funds for the project since 2012, but work picked up at a fevered pace earlier this year thanks to a large donation from the Williston Community Builders, which allowed construction on the monument to finally begin.

Ground was broken at the site in Riverview Cemetery in early May, and with the granite pieces being installed, the monument is nearly ready to be unveiled to the public. The black granite pieces frame the monument, a 10-foot-high and 30-foot-wide wall featuring a large American flag and bronze seals representing each branch of the military. The monument is designed to honor those who have served in post-Vietnam conflicts across the world. The monument will feature an electronic kiosk, which will illuminate the various sites of conflict on a large brushed stainless steel map, which will be installed over the red and blue brick of the flag.

Grant Carns and Steve Slocum, the chair and vice-chair of the Military Affairs Committee, were both at the site Monday morning, watching alongside the monument’s designer, Dave Njos. Njos also designed and built the Korean and Vietnam Monument in the cemetery’s Veterans Plaza. Njos’ sons, Andy and Ben, operate Dakotah West Crane Service and installed the granite pieces, which weighed upwards of 700 pounds each. The pieces add another depth to the already eye-catching monument, with the word Freedom etched into the stone.

With the granite installed, Slocum said there are only a few more necessary pieces required before the monument is ready for the public dedication, which has been planned for September 11. The ceremony will include live music, followed by a program featuring speakers Howard Klug, Command Master Chief Tim Preabt and others. The monument has been on the Committee’s mind since 2006, and Slocum and Carns said it’s a thrill to see it finally coming to fruition.

“It’s a good feeling. It’s a really good feeling.” Slocum told the Williston Herald. “Considering where we started and where we ended up, it’s a tremendous feeling.”

“It’ll be nice once it’s done,” Carns added. “It’s exciting, but now we just want to see it finished.”

Slocum said the electronic kiosk should be installed by the end of the week, with the remaining pieces to be added before the dedication in September.

Trial starts for man accused of dealing heroin, meth, pills

Testimony is set to begin Tuesday, Aug. 27, in the trial of a 55-year-old man accused of having and selling tens of thousands of dollars worth of drugs.

Archie Mooney was arrested in December and charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, possession of heroin with intent to deliver, both class A felonies, three class B felony counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, two class C felony and four misdemeanor counts of possession of drug paraphernalia and six misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance. Police said they found tens of thousands of dollars in cash, as well as firearms, drug paraphernalia and large amounts of heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine and opiate pills.

In his opening statement Monday, Nathan Madden, assistant state’s attorney for Williams County, told jurors that they would hear that large amounts of one or more drugs, cash, packaging material and scales, firearms and ledgers were all hallmarks of drug-selling operations and that police found all of that in Mooney’s home.

In one container, police found a bag with more than 100 grams of black tar heroin, Madden said. That was in addition to several other bags of the drug.

“That one 100-and-some-gram blob of black tar heroin would have a street value of between $50,000 and $60,000,” Madden told jurors.

Mooney also had large amounts of meth, marijuana and cocaine, Madden said. Officers also found a pill bottle with about 183 oxycodone pills.

“You’ll learn that’s way more than what the end user amount would be,” he said.

Kalli Hoffman, Mooney’s public defender, told jurors that they had a major burden — deciding whether the prosecution proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. She asked them to consider the evidence being presented carefully when making that decision.

“There’s always going to be two sides to any story,” Hoffman said. “Like I said, sometimes there will be three or more sides to a story.”

Mooney’s trial is scheduled to last four days, including Monday, which was taken up with jury selection and opening statements. Michelle Moore, who was arrested with Mooney and is facing the same charges, is scheduled to go to trial in September.

Mississippi man dies when ATV flips in McKenzie County

Police have identified the 27-year-old man killed when his ATV filled Sunday, Aug. 25, in McKenzie County.

Joel Sistrunk, 27, of Philadelphia, Mississippi, was driving a Polaris side-by-side on Sunday afternoon on a private road, the North Dakota Highway Patrol said in a Monday news release.

The crash happened when the Polaris was travelling south bound on a private roadway about 2 miles west and 15 miles south of Arnegard when it drove over the crest of hill. Sistrunk overcorrected, then hit a barbed wire fence, which caused the vehicle to overturn, police wrote in a news release.

The vehicle rolled several times, partially throwing Sistrunk through the driver’s side window. He was trapped when the ATV came to rest, and he was pronounced dead on the scene. A passenger, 44-year-old Illy Allen from Houston, Texas, was wearing a seatbelt and was not injured.

Police said the driver was not wearing a seatbelt. The crash remains under investigation.

Public hearing set for what could be state's first TENORM facility, located in Williams County

There will be a public hearing for what could be the state’s first TENORM facility at the Williston ARC at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 27.

Secure Energy Services is requesting permits for its 13-Mile Landfill to become TENORM-approved. The facility is in Williams County.

The meeting, which will start at 5:30 p.m. with an open house for questions from the public, will include representatives from the Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Waste Management, including the division’s director Chuck Hyatt, and Diana Trussell, manager for the Solid Waste Program.

After the open house, there will be a public hearing for the draft radioactive materials license at 6:30 p.m., with a subsequent hearing scheduled for 7:45 p.m. for the second required permit for solid waste management. The facility will require both permits in order to handle TENORM, a low-level radioactive waste that is produced oil and gas production.

North Dakota’s shale layers that include oil and gas also include naturally occurring radioactive materials, or NORM, which comes up as solid wastes in varying amounts whenever crude oil and natural gas are extracted. These materials settles out into tank bottoms as a kind of sludge that must be removed before Bakken light sweet crude can be sent to market.

Processing these wastes concentrates them a little more than they were, causing them to become “technologically enhanced.” Hence the waste is referred to as TENORM.

North Dakota has not had any landfills for the material, most of which has been going across state lines to facilities in northeastern Montana.

In 2016, North Dakota raised the threshold it would allow in landfills to 50 picocuries per gram after studying what it said would be the maximum level that is still protective of human health and environment.

Trussell said the state wants to hear from the public about the two permits Secure Energy is seeking for its facility, but added that decisions to reject the permit would have to be based on science and the law.

“We are looking for technical reasons,” she said.

All the public’s concerns will be taken back and reviewed, Trussell added, before there is any action on the permits. The state has three options, Trussell said.

“We can issue the permit or license as it stands the way we published it,” she said. “Or we can amend it based on the comments we received. If there is something we really missed with it, we would have the option to deny the permit or license, but it has to be based on the science and the law.”

Trussell said the hearing is being held in Williston to give the people living near it a chance to comment in person.

“We want to have the public’s comments,” she said. “This is in their area and they have a stake in this and that is why we are coming there.”

Trussell said the rule allowing up to 50 picocuries per gram of radiation in landfills permitted for TENORM was based on a study by Argonne National labs that was intended to be protective of human health and the environment.

Changing the allowed level at this point would require a rule change.

“Unless they get the license and permit, however, they are not allowed to accept it,” she added. “No one was grandfathered.”

As far as concerns about what the department will do to protect human health and the environment, Trussell said she encourages the public to attend the hearing to learn more and get their questions answered.

“We can walk them through the details on how we set these up and how we make sure they do remain compliant,” she said. “We are at these sites every month doing inspections. We require random samples from the facilities, and they have to survey all the incoming loads. We check those records, and they also report them.”