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Pipeline developer buys ranch near North Dakota protest camp

Jacquelyn Martin/AP File Photo Nikki Bass, of Washington, center, holds up a sign that says "water is life" as she rally's in front of the White House with members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their supporters in opposition of the Dakota Access oil pipeline on Sept. 13 in Washington.


BISMARCK, N.D. — The company developing the four-state Dakota Access oil pipeline has purchased a portion of a historic North Dakota ranch where a violent protest occurred earlier this month due to what tribal officials said was construction crews destroying burial and cultural sites.

Morton County records show Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners purchased 20 parcels of land on the Cannonball Ranch totaling more than 6,000 acres from David and Brenda Meyer of Flasher. Financial terms of the deal, which was finalized Thursday, were not disclosed.

The Meyers did not return telephone calls Thursday or Friday seeking comment. Energy Transfer Partners confirmed the purchase Friday but declined to provide further details.

The ranch, which is more than a century old and was the first to be inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, is within a half-mile of an encampment on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' land where the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and hundreds of others are gathered to protest the pipeline. The tribe says the pipeline, which is slated to cross Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir, threatens its water supply and violates several federal laws.

Corps records show Meyer pays $4,865 annually for exclusive grazing rights at the encampment site, a five-year lease that ends in 2018.

The purchase of the ranchland will allow ETP to better access its construction sites and the pipeline, when it is finished.

On Sept. 3, protesters and private security guards clashed after construction crews removed topsoil across an area about 150 feet (46 meters) wide stretching for 2 miles (3 km) on the ranch. The incident came one day after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed court papers saying it found several sites of "significant cultural and historic value" along the pipeline's path.

Authorities said four security guards and two guard dogs were injured; the tribe says protesters reported that six people had been bitten by security dogs, and at least 30 people were pepper-sprayed. There were no law enforcement personnel at the site when the incident occurred.

The tribe, whose cause has drawn thousands across the globe to join their protest, has challenged the Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant permits for the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile (1886 km) pipeline that would ship North Dakota crude through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois.

A federal appeals court last week ordered a halt to construction within 20 miles on either side of Lake Oahe. The Departments of Justice, Army and Interior also has said it would "reconsider any of its previous decisions" on land that borders or is under the lake, one of six reservoirs on the Missouri River.

Records show the Meyers purchased about 2,400 acres of the ranch in 2013 for $3.2 million; that land makes up half of the sale Thursday. Financial terms between ETP and the Meyers do not have to be disclosed under state law because the land has been reclassified from agriculture to industrial, the state Tax Department said.

The sale also is exempt from North Dakota's Depression-era anti-corporate farming law that limits the number of nonprofit groups allowed to buy land, and requires the governor to approve land purchases.

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