North Dakota Wants to Restrict Access to Public Records After Standing Rock Reports Exposed Police Abuses

North Dakota lawmakers are considering a bill to restrict access to records like those that shed light on police abuses against water protectors involved in demonstrations against the North Dakota Access Pipeline.

The bill comes after Unicorn Riot and other media outlets exposed police surveillance and coordination with corporate private security forces during NoDAPL (demonstrations against the Dakota Access pipeline). A lot of the evidence was obtained under the North Dakota Open Records Act.

Senate Bill 2209 will change the law to prevent access of public records involving “security planning, mitigation, or threats” pertaining to critical infrastructure facilities. Specifically forbidding the release of any “records,” “information,” “photographs,” “videos,” and “communications” pertaining to the “security of any public facility” or any “privately owned or leased critical infrastructure.” Examples of critical infrastructure systems in the bill are “utility services, fuel supply, energy, hazardous liquid, natural gas, or coal.”

Several parts of the bill seem transparently crafted toward pipeline-related construction and keeping information on operations against pipeline opponents secret.

North Dakota’s Senate voted unanimously for the bill on January 22. If approved by the state’s House of Representatives, it will head to Gov. Burgum’s desk for signing.

More than a dozen states have introduced or passed bills criminalizing protests related to fossil fuel projects. All of these bills are similar to a model created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that brings together corporations and right-wing legislators to draft industry-friendly policies.

According to the Center for Media and Democracy, “More than 98% of ALEC’s revenues come from sources other than legislative dues, such as corporations, corporate trade groups, and corporate foundations. Each corporate member pays an annual fee of between $7,000 and $25,000 a year, and if a corporation participates in any of the nine task forces, additional fees apply, from $2,500 to $10,000 each year. ALEC also receives direct grants from corporations, such as $1.4 million from ExxonMobil from 1998-2009. It has also received grants from some of the biggest foundations funded by corporate CEOs in the country, such as: the Koch family Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Koch-managed Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Scaifefamily Allegheny Foundation, the Coors family Castle Rock Foundation, to name a few. Less than 2% of ALEC’s funding comes from “Membership Dues” of $50 per year paid by state legislators, a steeply discounted price that may run afoul of state gift bans.”



Photo: “20161116_NoDAPL_ND-1312” by Revolution Messaging is in the Public Domain