It’s a good thing Governor Noem pushed that riot-boosting act into law so quickly: we already have a regular emergency out in Meade County, with a “fuming mad” rancher speaking of impulses to commit physical violence against a TransCanada sub-sub-contractor:
JT Vig got “fuming mad.”
“It’s a good thing they weren’t standing there,” Vig said of the letter’s senders, “because I might’ve clocked them.”
The letters arrived earlier this month. They said mechanic’s liens had been filed against each rancher’s land by Brandenburg Drainage, of Maquoketa, Iowa [Seth Tupper, “Landowners Hit with $1 Million in Liens During Keystone XL Road Dispute,” Rapid City Journal, 2019.03.31].
Tupper explains that TransCanada, a Canadian company, engaged Diamond Willow Energy, a North Dakota company, to build up some of the gravel roads in West River that TransCanada will wear down while building the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Diamond Willow Energy in turn engaged Brandenburg Drainage, an Iowa company, to do the work.
(Hang on a moment: I won’t clock anyone over it, but I do wonder why South Dakota contractors aren’t getting these jobs.)
Diamond Willow says Brandenburg underbid the job, and some locals say the Iowans did poor work:
To make matters worse, some of the landowners said the Maurine Road job was botched. Weiss said he suffered several blown semitruck tires because of inappropriate rock and gravel that was used on the road.
“It was like arrowheads in sand and river silt,” Weiss said.
JC Johnson, of Diamond Willow, said his company plans to fix the road, and he is working with an attorney on a plan to get the liens released. He said Brandenburg Drainage underbid, overspent and under-performed on the job, and is now trying to use the liens to cover its losses.
“It’s not by our doing that they’re trying this,” Johnson said. “They didn’t bid the job right and they’re losing money. It’s plain and simple” [Tupper, 2019.03.31].
If I believed in conspiracy theories, I’d say TransCanada’s plan is clear: sabotage the roads so only the heaviest equipment can get through and so protestors’ Subarus and Prii end up with blown tires, then slap liens on land close to the construction for leverage to prevent landowners from giving protestors any sanctuary during the build. But conspiracy theories aren’t my gig.
I will say that rancher J.T. Vig gives us an early test of Governor Noem’s riot-boosting law. By speaking of his righteous outrage at a lien imposed by a subcontractor participating in the pipeline project, Vig could be perceived as encouraging participants in subsequent pipeline protests to acts that the state will characterize as violence.
I understand and sympathize deeply with rancher Vig’s displeasure at some Iowa company trying to take the costs of its own errors out of Vig’s hide. Just imagine how mad Vig will be when Governor Noem tries to make him pay a share of the cost for cuffing and stuffing the people who come to protest the pipeline that put Vig in this bad spot in the first place.