Dakota Access Seeks To Keep GIS Data Private

BISMARCK – Attorneys for the Dakota Access Pipeline have asked state regulators to keep the exact location of the pipeline confidential due to safety concerns.

The company is requesting that the North Dakota Public Service Commission issue an order that restricts access to geographic information system (GIS) data “for the safety of Dakota Access representatives and the public.”

The request submitted Thursday does not specifically mention the ongoing protest of the pipeline, but it was filed a day after pipeline opponents bound themselves to equipment at a Dakota Access construction site south of Mandan.

Attorney Lawrence Bender states in the request that the GIS data should qualify for an exemption from North Dakota’s open records law.

PSC Chairwoman Julie Fedorchak said staff will review the request and prepare an order for commissioners to consider.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is pictured under construction in Williams County, N.D. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
The Dakota Access Pipeline is pictured under construction in Williams County, N.D. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

The commission has already denied two requests for the GIS data for the Dakota Access Pipeline, Fedorchak said.

State law provides an exemption from the open records law for “critical infrastructure,” which the PSC believes applies to the crude oil transmission line. The agency has provided detailed maps of the project but has not released the GIS information, which provides exact coordinates for the pipeline, Fedorchak said.

“It’s very, very specific technical data about the pipeline route and other construction-related information,” she said.

The approach is consistent with how federal pipeline regulators limit access to GIS data for pipelines, Fedorchak said.

One request for the data came from Kathryn Hilton of Mandan, a volunteer community organizer known as the “Bakken Resister.” The PSC provided Hilton copies of maps that were in the public case docket but not the GIS data.

Hilton said Friday she plans to follow up with another request to the PSC for the information about the pipeline.

“We should be able to know where it is and areas where we should use extra caution around,” she said.

The other request for the information came from the state’s Department of Emergency Services and the PSC suggested the agency get the information directly from the company, Fedorchak said.

“We don’t view ourselves as being the gatekeeper for this information for other state agencies,” Fedorchak said.

1 Response

  1. Matthew Quinlivan

    Dear Amy,
    I came across this request, also (the one dated September 1) in the psc.nd.gov documents. The other items catching my attention were the reroutes, the requests to waive requirements of certain documentation (i.e., a bunch of extra work), and the Historical Society letter of October 5, 2015 to Mr. Nitschke at PSC. None of the reroutes cited cultural remains as a reason; the waiver requests made it seem clear that “forging ahead, full speed” is the priority; and the Historical Society’s “desire that survey efforts, identification of archaeological and historic sites, and recommendations for avoidance of significant resources be given sufficient time to be completed” must certainly have gone unheeded. That request was last October, based on the two “multi-volume” cultural resources inventory reports from Merjent, as I’m sure you know. That’s winter up there already. Seems to me you’d need a horde of archeologists, and they’d still be in the field as we speak, if proper procedures were being followed.
    Yours, Matthew Quinlivan

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