Notice To Anti-Energy Extremists: Yes, Damaging Infrastructure And Energy Equipment Is Illegal

REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Brydon Ross Vice President of State Affairs, Consumer Energy Alliance
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Threatening and stalking others. Polluting, vandalizing, trespassing and damaging public and private property. Attacking law enforcement. Infringing on neighbors’ homes. Disrupting or shutting down essential utilities. Jumpstarting riots. Blocking highways and railroads.

All of these, most would agree, are wrong. Should someone do any of the above to us, our family or neighbors, our property or community, we’d see them get arrested, prosecuted and called a lot of things: trespasser, wrongdoer, intruder, prowler, criminal, maybe even terrorist. And all would accurately apply.

Yet, this is precisely what’s unfolding in various pockets of the nation, unbeknownst to most Americans, by extreme anti-energy opponents, under the alleged justification that it’s their “right” to speak out and dissent.

Does putting people and the environment at risk to prove a point really justify one’s actions?

Just look at the months-long protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, in North Dakota, in 2016 and 2017. How a group of eco-terrorists cut gates and other controlled locks to break into facilities and manually shut down pipeline valves in four states, in late 2016. How protesters tried to derail construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline by sitting up in trees along the project’s permitted and approved routes.

Each instance put something — lives, property or both — in jeopardy. In some instances, they ate up taxpayer dollars via emergency responders. These actions lacked civility and were designed to bully anyone who supports sensible energy production and environmental responsibility.

Imagine if every cause deployed these actions. What state of lawlessness would ensue?

In response, lawmakers in numerous states — including North and South Dakota, Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Minnesota and Iowa — have introduced legislation to ensure what’s already illegal remains illegal, not masqueraded as acceptable behavior to express “freedom of speech.” These illegal actions include, but are not limited to, damaging or tampering with critical infrastructure including pipelines and transmission lines and other energy and utility equipment.

This is not a trend toward the criminalization of dissent, as some have suggested. It’s improving and following the well-crafted regulations and safety measures established by state and federal agencies to protect our environment and communities while allowing for acceptable first-amendment expression.

Comparing the calm, responsible reactions of law enforcement personnel and employees working for the targeted companies with the recklessness displayed by these extremists provides a window into the current and increasingly vitriolic debate over pipelines.

Pipelines are the most environmentally safe and efficient way to transport the large quantities of oil and natural gas Americans depend on. Countless industry and governmental studies, for years, have shown that pipelines are 4.5 times safer at transporting energy than other common means. They also help lower emissions and help protect the land, air and water environmentalists say they want to protect.

Yet pipelines remain under increasingly shrill and dangerous attacks from extremists and even ill-informed, opportunistic Hollywood celebrities looking to promote themselves in some odd form of environmental morality. Unfortunately, these attacks offer no solution for how Americans will light and warm their homes, produce and power essential products, harvest food, manufacture clothes and meet their most basic daily needs in cost-effective and environmentally-friendly ways.

Yes, renewable energy is expanding, and efforts must continue to move these energy types forward. But we’re still years away from renewables powering a large portion of our increasing digitalized lives.

What’s more, the targeting of critical infrastructure for destruction or industrial sabotage oftentimes resembles a terrorist attack more than a peaceful demonstration. The FBI defines eco-terrorism as “the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against innocent victims or property by an environmentally-oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature.”

There is no doubt that’s what these acts are, and it would be in the best interest of local agencies, police departments and federal law enforcement to investigate these organizations to gain a greater understanding about who funds these efforts.

In the meantime, we need more conversations about how we can draw on conservation and efficiency to grow our economy, meet our essential energy needs, continue our strong environmental progress and ensure our nation’s security.

Pitting the environment against energy development does not further this conversation, especially at the expense of sensible production, environmental protection or the economy. It offers no solutions or compromises.

We also clearly need to create a path toward civil discussion, not violence and the destruction of property. No one benefits from the obnoxious tactics we’re seeing. If we don’t start now, when will the lawlessness end?

Brydon Ross is the Vice President of State Affairs at Consumer Energy Alliance.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.