Securing Pipelines Against Disrupters

Native American protestors were confronted by security and armed law enforcement during demonstrations in 2016 against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Keystone XL pipeline is expected to draw protests from indigenous and environmental activists when construction begins, and many activists are worried law enforcement agencies may be planning surveillance and a militarized response. Now, the American Civil Liberties Union is accusing federal agencies of trying to hide the extent of these preparations, which the group says are clearly underway.

The story comes comes from Inside Climate News, who support leaving fossil fuels in the ground. ACLU Fears Protest Crackdowns, Surveillance Already Being Planned for Keystone XL Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

As more states consider harsh anti-protest laws, law enforcement trainings are raising red flags. The group accuses U.S. agencies of trying to hide the extent of it.

The ACLU and its Montana affiliate sued several federal agencies this week, including the Departments of Justice, Defense and Homeland Security, saying the agencies are withholding documents that discuss planning for the expected protests and any coordination among state and local authorities and private security contractors.

Fears about the law enforcement response follow the 2016 armed crackdown on people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, where authorities used tear gas and turned water cannons on protesters in freezing temperatures. Since then, dozens of bills and executive orders have been introduced in at least 31 states to clamp down on protests. Activists say the bills are part of a concerted campaign by energy companies and their allies in government to suppress these protests by increasing criminal penalties for minor violations and in some cases trying to use anti-terrorism laws against activists.

The ACLU says documents it obtained from state agencies in Montana suggest law enforcement agencies have begun extensive trainings in preparation for the Keystone XL project, and that federal agencies are involved.

Documents that have been released suggest federal and state agencies have created an interagency team and have been conducting trainings for local law enforcement on how to handle the protests. One email from an intelligence specialist in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montana to a state official said the office would be hosting an anti-terrorism training event in August.

A January email from David Loewen, head of the law enforcement division of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the state’s Division of Criminal Investigations had been in touch with officials in North Dakota “to learn what worked and what didn’t” at Standing Rock during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. The email noted that while “man-camps” to house workers would come along with pipeline construction and bring law enforcement challenges, “the primary enforcement focus is protest activity.”

In an interview, Loewen said the ACLU’s concerns about law enforcement agencies suppressing protests were “a bit silly.

Our job is to prepare and train, that’s what law enforcement does all the time,” he said. “If we have a protest coming, chances are things are going to be peaceful and fine and dandy. But on the outside chance that they’re not, we want to be prepared.”

The Department of Justice did not respond to questions about the records or the anti-terrorism training.

Environmental and indigenous activists have describe harsh treatment by law enforcement and security officers in Louisiana, where at least 13 people have been arrested under a new law since it went into effect on Aug. 1, including four activists who were detained on Tuesday.  The law created a felony charge with up to five years in prison for anyone who trespasses on a pipeline easement.

The records obtained by the ACLU in Montana echo others in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Virginia and other states that have shown law enforcement agencies focusing anti-terrorism resources on environmental activists and, in some cases, cooperating with private security companies employed by pipeline companies to surveil and arrest protesters.

In a blog post announcing the organization’s lawsuit, Jacob Hutt of the ACLU said the organization hopes to determine from the documents its requested how and whether federal agencies are “thwarting, surveilling, and otherwise engaging with indigenous and environmental activists” opposed to Keystone XL.

“The First Amendment protects political speech from the threat of undue government scrutiny, and the extent of such scrutiny is currently unknown,” he wrote. “If the government is planning to prevent or monitor indigenous and environmental protests, the activists involved have a right to know about it.”


OMG! Law enforcers are actually preparing for an orderly construction of a vital energy infrastructure project and are not giving their plans to disrupters. Even more alarming, the states affected are passing laws with felony penalties for trespassing and vandalism.  Moreover, public and private agencies responsible for pipeline security are collaborating and coordinating their efforts in advance.

It all seems like an organized effort to build and operate a pipeline to provide reliable affordable energy to people who want and need it.  Taking note that some crackpots have declared war against fossil fuels, they are putting defenses in place.  I call that “Good Governance”


  1. Francis · September 7, 2018

    Common sense, logic, and good governance coming to the forefront. About time. Thanks for this, Ron.


    • Ron Clutz · September 7, 2018

      You’re welcome, Francis. Let’s see if they go away quietly or if they escalate.

      Why oh why can’t the congress pass a simple resolution that CO2 does not classify as a “pollutant” under the Clean Air Act?


      • Bob Greene · September 7, 2018

        Congress is terrified of environmentalists and the press.


  2. Bob Greene · September 7, 2018

    ACLU fears that law enforcement agencies are preparing to do their jobs. Now that’s news.
    I like the water cannon at freezing temperature tactic.


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