BISMARCK, N.D. - The Public Service Commission today defended its approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline, despite the growing controversy.
Commissioners responded to protesters by saying they did their job and held 13 months of hearings but that the groups protesting the pipeline never showed up.
Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline has been controversial. People from around the country have gathered in North Dakota to protest the pipelines construction. But members of the North Dakota Public Service Commission say those groups didn't show up when the commission held hearings for the pipeline's permits.
"The Dakota Access, I would just put one point out there: we had these hearings, these groups didn't come to our hearings so that in itself is disappointing with what they're doing now," says Brian Kalk, Public Service Commissioner.
The protests have been going on for a week, but the public hearings went on for 13 months.
"This was carefully reviewed by us and carefully reviewed by the Corps of Engineers in providing the permits that were necessary to construct this line," Julie Fedorchak Public Service Commissioner.
Fedorchak says the protesters' concerns over the pipeline's route, which crosses the Missouri River, were the concerns of the commission as well.
"Nobody wants to jeopardize our water resources in this country. I mean, who would want to do that? We all depend on water," says Fedorchak.
While the protesters have a right to assemble, Fedorchak says they have no right to interfere.
"The protesters have a right to protest. They have every right to disagree with this project, they have every right to oppose this project. But, they don't have a right to threaten, they don't have right to obstruct," Fedorchak
Construction of the pipeline has been shut down since Tuesday because of safety concerns for the workers and law enforcement.
Continued obstruction of pipeline construction could interfere with completion of an additional pipeline the commission approved Wednesday.