The FBI launched an investigation Monday into a rash of fires along an oil pipeline owned by the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The fires damaged various bulldozers and earth-moving equipment. Jasper County Sheriff’s Office estimated the fire caused $2,000,000 in damages. The equipment was operated by one of the companies contracted by the Dakota Access Pipeline project.
Further investigations indicate the fires were intentionally set.
Dakota Access condemned the “intentional burning of construction equipment by unknown individuals” in a statement and offered a $100,000 reward. A similar fire occurred Aug. 1, according to the Jasper County sheriff.
Federal officials refused to evict members of the Standing Rock Sioux that are hunkered down at an anti-pipeline encampment near a highly controversial, $3.8 billion oil pipeline in North Dakota. Officials believe booting the protesters would harm free speech rights, despite the fact that the land is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Reasnor Assistant Fire Chief Don Steenhoek told reporters that pipeline protesters are likely to blame.
“(It’s) pretty senseless,” Steenhoek said. “They’re not getting back at the pipeline. They’re just hurting the guys trying to make a living and put it in.”
The nearly 1,200-mile long pipeline has come under withering scrutiny from protesters and members of the tribe, both of which argue the project’s construction would trample on tribal lands and destroy artifacts. They also argue it could potentially poison waterways, including rivers such as the Missouri River and Lake Oahe.
The fires are just the latest in a long string of incidents taking place along oil pipelines throughout the country.
Activists with the group Climate Direct Action were caught trespassing in Minnesota Oct. 12 after forcing the shutdown of several pipelines using bolt cutters. The group told reporters its actions were in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline in North Dakota, as well as the Spectra Energy’s Express pipeline in Coal Banks, Mo., were closed by similar efforts to sabotage pipelines.
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