Gov. Kristi Noem announced Monday a surprise bill package to curb protests of TransCanada's controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
According to a news release, one of two bills would create a legal avenue and funding source to pursue out-of-state sources that Noem said can fund protests that aim to shut down pipeline construction.
"We should celebrate differences of opinion, but here in South Dakota, we will have the rule of law, because rioters do not control economic development in our state," Noem said in her release. "This package creates a legal avenue, if necessary, to go after out-of-state money funding riots that go beyond expressing a viewpoint but instead aim to slow down the pipeline build.
"It allows us to follow the money for riots and cut it off at the source,” she added.
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota said the legislation infringes on free speech rights.
"The right to join with fellow citizens in protest or peaceful assembly is critical to a functioning democracy and at the core of the First Amendment," Libby Skarin, the group's policy director, said in a statement.
The second bill would establish what Noem titled the Pipeline Engagement Activity Coordination Expenses (PEACE) Fund to fund law enforcement efforts on pipeline protests.
With the PEACE Fund, Noem said law enforcement costs would be dispersed between county, state and federal governments, as well as pipeline companies and protesters.
“This first-of-its-kind plan is a transparent way to spread costs and risk without raising taxes," Noem said.
Noem said her two-part package is the result of discussions between her administration and TransCanada, lawmakers, law enforcement officials and other stakeholders.
The Keystone XL pipeline would run from Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines.
Keystone XL would enter South Dakota at a spot 32 miles northwest of Buffalo and run in a southeasterly direction through the counties of Harding, Butte, Perkins, Pennington, Haakon, Jones, Lyman, Meade and Tripp. The pipeline would exit South Dakota about 20 miles southeast of Colome.
Monday's news release did not mention any discussions between the administration and South Dakota's tribes.
Noem said the package will "help ensure the Keystone XL pipeline and other future pipeline projects are built in a safe and efficient manner while protecting our state and counties from extraordinary law enforcement costs in the event of riots."
Officials have already changed state law in anticipation of Keystone XL protests. In 2017, they made it a Class 1 misdemeanor for someone to stand in the highway to stop traffic or to trespass in a posted emergency area. That was a scaled-back version of a bill championed by then-Gov. Dennis Daugaard amid concerns about large demonstrations similar to the Dakota Access protests.
The developer of the Dakota Access pipeline last month sued the environmental group Greenpeace in North Dakota. Energy Transfer Partners accused the group and activists of conspiring to use illegal and violent means to disrupt construction and benefited from the ensuing publicity to increase donations.
Greenpeace has said the company is trying to silence peaceful advocacy. A judge tossed the ETP claim out of federal court, but the company is pursuing similar claims in state court.
TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said in an email that the company appreciates Noem's efforts to help advance the construction of Keystone XL and other pipelines in a way that ensures the safety of workers and state residents.
"Any legislation that deters unlawful activities and encourages the advancement of critical infrastructure projects is a positive step in the right direction," Cunha said.