FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The governor-elect of North Dakota remained tight-lipped Wednesday about any ideas he may have for dealing with the Dakota Access oil pipeline protest.
Republican Doug Burgum said in his first news conference after his record-setting victory that he doesn't want to second-guess current Gov. Jack Dalrymple's handling of the months-long dispute over construction of the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Burgum said Dalrymple is facing decisions that "are maybe as important as any."
"It wouldn't be fruitful for me to speculate on what decision to make on Dec. 16 because we could have a completely different situation on our hands," Burgum said.
The Fargo businessman and philanthropist also said he would not "make a political statement" on whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should grant an easement that would allow Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners to finish the pipeline in North Dakota. The federal agency's decision has been put on hold while the corps reviews the way it permits infrastructure projects.
"Meeting the criteria for the easements should be a black and white decision," Burgum said.
Burgum's running mate, Brent Sanford, began the news conference by pointing out that Burgum received more votes than any other governor in North Dakota — nearly 338,000. His big victory over Democrat Marvin Nelson and Libertarian Marty Riske was not surprising after he defeated Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem in the primary.
Burgum, 60, said he planned to honor his pledge to give back his governor's salary, but current rules may force him to take the money, donate it and pay the taxes.
"I mean, that will just be more crazy bureaucracy, but we'll figure out a way to get it done," he said.
Burgum announced that his one-time Great Plains Software and Microsoft Corp. cohort, Jodi Uecker, would lead his transition team. Burgum wouldn't speculate on how many current cabinet members would be offered jobs, but said Uecker would be meeting with all agency heads.
Uecker encouraged interested public workers to apply at www.joindougburgum.com .
"As we look at the transition, it's a tight time frame," Uecker said. "What we really want to do in the time frame is build a high-performing team."