Database To Track Anti-Pipeline, Energy Infrastructure Attacks Launches
A new database for tracking attacks and other incidents involving the nation’s energy infrastructure launched in late October, according to Energy Builders, a coalition of energy infrastructure providers.
The Energy Builders’ Energy Infrastructure Incident Reporting Center (EIIRC), intended to be a warehouse for gathering publicly sourced information, independent reporting, and firsthand accounts, will be “dedicated to tracking and exposing attacks on critical energy infrastructure.”
“Incidents of eco-terrorism, sabotage, arson, vandalism and violence are on the rise as severe actions have become a regular feature of pipeline protests, endangering public safety, the environment, jobs, and leaving taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars,” EIIRC writes on its report submission page.
Energy Builders calls itself a “grassroots coalition of workers, local businesses, civic leaders, unions and American families” that works in the energy infrastructure space, including oil and gas pipelines.
The group hopes to catalog incidents of all kinds to document all types of attacks on infrastructure by “[b]uilding and exposing a growing record of opposition misconduct” that “helps the public and elected officials understand the extent of opposition threats to public safety, the environment and workers’ jobs.”
“If you observe or hear about an incident of violence, sabotage, illegal trespass, or other opposition misconduct, please describe it briefly here and we’ll consider it for inclusion in the database,” the group encourages readers.
“Incidents of eco-terrorism, sabotage, arson, vandalism and violence are on the rise as criminal tactics have become a regular feature of pipeline protests, leaving taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars and potentially endangering lives, the environment and our national security,” said Toby Mack, President and CEO of Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance. “We are pleased to see Congress working on this important issue to end unlawful attacks and criminal violence on energy infrastructure and the men and women involved in the energy infrastructure supply chain.”
In late October, Western Wire reported that more than 80 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling on the Justice Department to review legislation and any action undertaken to “prosecute criminal activity against energy infrastructure at the federal level.”
Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) told Western Wire via email last month that “[o]ur country is home to an intricate web of interstate and cross-border pipelines that transport the oil and gas that power our communities, offices, and vehicles.”
Gonzalez expressed concerns over the attacks on the infrastructure being targeted, and encouraged constructive behavior from protesters.
“Operating this vital infrastructure requires extensive training and attentive personnel. Disrupting or tampering with an active pipeline could have damaging effects on our communities, endanger workers, and inhibit our access to energy. And while I encourage all Americans to assert their First Amendment rights, I encourage them to do so in a safe and peaceful way.”
Fellow Texas Democrats Rep. Filemon Vela and Rep. Henry Cuellar joined Gonzalez on the letter, along with representatives from the West including Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Bob Bishop (R-Utah), and Ken Buck (R-Colo.).
The House letter cited specific physical and verbal attacks as a source of deep concern.
“Multiple media sources have reported recent attempts to disrupt the transmission of oil and natural gas through interstate and international pipeline infrastructure,” the House members wrote in the letter to Sessions. “In some instances individuals have used blow torches to burn holes in pipelines or promoted violence against oil and gas company employees.”
“In April, a newspaper in Colorado went as far as publishing a letter to the editor that stated, ‘If the oil and gas industry puts fracking wells in our neighborhoods, threatening our lives and our children’s lives, then don’t we have a moral responsibility to blow up wells and eliminate fracking and workers?’” the letter continued.
Examples similar to what the House letter describes have resulted in at least one lawsuit and a conviction for a 2016 pipeline attack.
The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) builder, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), filed a lawsuit in August in the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota, alleging anti-fossil fuel organizations and individuals “incited, funded, and facilitated crimes and acts of terrorism.”
Two members of Mississippi Stand, Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya, were specifically named in the lawsuit. ETP alleged the individuals “issued a call to action for others to follow in their violent and terrorist actions, and have provided a blue print for arson and property destruction.”
Reznicek and Montoya defended their “non-violent direct action,” and promoted their use of “arsonry as a tactic” against DAPL.
“On election night 2016, we began our peaceful direct action campaign to a Dakota Access construction site and burned at least 5 pieces of heavy machinery in Buena Vista County, IA,” said Reznicek and Montoya. “We recognize that our action wasn’t much, but we at least stopped construction for a day at that particular site.”
The Mississippi Stand members claimed to use torches to destroy pipeline equipment in their public declaration.
Among the incidents reported on the EIIRC website via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is the conviction of a Seattle-based protester, Michael Foster, for conspiracy to commit criminal mischief, criminal mischief, and trespass in North Dakota, for an incident in October 2016 that was part of a multi-state, coordinated disruption intended to draw attention to climate change.
Claiming the action was “in the public’s interest,” Foster used a bolt cutter to open a chain link fence and sabotage an oil pipeline’s shut-off valve.