La Feria News

Report: Dakota Access Pipeline Demonstrations Inspired Legislative Crackdown

In a 2017 lawsuit, Energy Transfer Partners cited RICO laws, used to prosecute the Mafia in the 1970s, to argue a coalition of environmental and Indigenous groups constituted a criminal enterprise. Photo: Fibonacci Blue

by Eric Galatas

AUSTIN, Texas – A new Greenpeace USA report documents how the corporate sponsor behind the Dakota Access Pipeline continues to use a variety of surveillance, lobbying, and legal tactics to silence protesters.

Project leader Molly Dorozenski with Greenpeace says in the wake of events at Standing Rock, Energy Transfer Partners worked with the pro-corporate American Legislative Exchange Council to introduce 60 new bills across the U.S., many of which classify pipelines as critical infrastructure.

“So critical infrastructure was previously things that were necessary for everyone in the state,” she says. “They’re not really critical for anyone except for the companies that are trying to move the oil. So what they’ve done is they’ve tried to really increase penalties specifically for people who are protesting this pipeline.”

Dorozenski says after hiring private firms that deployed military-style tactics against demonstrators at Standing Rock, Energy Transfer Partners has continued to contract firms to infiltrate and surveil activist groups.

Energy Transfer Partners has not yet responded to a request for comment on the report, but the company has argued that legislation restricting demonstrations near pipelines is necessary to complete its projects and prevent property damage.

Dorozenski says the report shows what can happen when corporate power goes unchecked and worries the company’s efforts could have a chilling effect on free speech by labeling peaceful protesters as eco-terrorists. She argues there’s a strong tradition of Americans putting their bodies in the way to disrupt practices that they believe are harmful to communities.

“And it’s actually part of America that we protest that way, it’s the same as Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus,” she explains. “I think what Kelsey Warren and Energy Transfer Partners are really trying to do is make people afraid to speak out against their pipelines.”

Dorozenski adds last year the company filed a $900 million lawsuit against Greenpeace and other groups citing RICO laws, used to prosecute the Mafia in the 1970s, to argue a coalition of environmental and indigenous groups constituted a criminal enterprise.

The report’s recommendations include asking banks to cut financial ties with the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

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