Pipeline exec compares Dakota protesters to terrorists
Washington — A top executive at the company building the controversial Dakota Access pipeline is comparing pipeline opponents to terrorists.
Joey Mahmoud, executive vice president of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, says protesters have “assaulted numerous pipeline personnel,” destroyed millions of dollars’ worth of construction equipment and even fired a pistol at law enforcement during months of demonstrations against the 1,200-mile pipeline, which will carry North Dakota oil to an Illinois terminal.
Mahmoud tells Congress that the protest movement “induced individuals to break into and shut down pump stations on four operational pipelines. Had these actions been undertaken by foreign nationals, they could only be described as acts of terrorism.”
In prepared testimony Wednesday for a hearing before a House energy subcommittee, Mahmoud also blasted the Obama administration, which twice delayed the project last year. The Associated Press obtained the testimony in advance.
Mahmoud called the delays “politically motivated actions” that were “accompanied by a host of half-truths and misrepresentations in both social and mainstream media.”
Mahmoud also targeted the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation lies near the pipeline’s route and who say the pipeline threatens their water supply and tribal artifacts.
The pipeline developer reached out to the tribe more than two years ago but has been continually rebuffed, Mahmoud said.
“It was clear from their response they had no interest in discussing the project with us,” he said.
Mahmoud challenged the tribe’s objections and said the pipeline poses little threat to drinking water. The Dakota pipeline will be at least the 15th pipeline to cross the Missouri River, will employ state-of-the-art technology and will be buried more than 90 feet below the lowest part of the river, Mahmoud said.
“To cast this as a dispute about protection of water resources is, quite simply, at variance with the facts, and it ignores universally accepted scientific and engineering practices,” he said.
Chad Harrison, a councilman at-large for the Standing Rock Sioux, said the federal government and the pipeline company “ignored the concerns of the tribe” for almost three years before the Obama administration paused the project last October. On Dec. 4, then-assistant Army secretary for civil works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, declined to issue an easement, saying a broader environmental study was warranted.
“To be clear, the tribe does not oppose economic development, energy independence or protecting our national security,” Harrison said. “What we oppose is development that is undertaken without our consent and in such a way that it is our community, our people, our cultural sites and our natural resources that are put at the most risk, and when we are the ones who will pay the cost when something goes wrong.”
A federal judge on Monday refused to stop construction on the last stretch of the pipeline, which is progressing much faster than expected and could be operational as soon as next month.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled that as long as oil isn’t flowing through the pipeline, there is no imminent harm to the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River tribes, which are suing to stop the project. Another hearing is scheduled on Feb. 27.