The company behind for the Dakota Access Pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), is now being accused of lobbying for laws that would criminalize protesting and restrict freedom of speech and assembly.
According to a new report from Greenpeace, ETP worked with the corporate lobby group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to push for measures to increase the length of sentences for protests related to “critical infrastructure,” which would, of course, imply pipelines.
“Energy Transfer Partners’ practices are destructive for the planet, for communities and for the health of democracy in the US. Whether it’s hiring private security firms that surveil and infiltrate activist groups, advocating for laws that restrict the right to protest, or plowing forward with pipeline projects against the will of Indigenous people and landowners, Energy Transfer Partners shows what happens when corporate power goes unchecked. Their projects will continue to be lightning rods for protest and controversy,” said Annie Leonard, Executive Director at Greenpeace USA.
Another disturbing detail mentioned in the report was the fact that ETP is using legal threats and lawsuits to silence critics of pipelines. The company actually attempted to sue Greenpeace and other environmental groups last year for $900 million, claiming that they were a part of a “criminal enterprise.” The company attempted to justify the lawsuits citing RICO laws, the legal loophole that allows the prosecution of mob bosses and kingpins who give orders but don’t get their hands dirty.
“Despite efforts made by international agencies and financial backers to understand and remedy some of the major ethical and reputational fallouts that occurred during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, ETP continues its bad behavior—attempting to intimidate anyone who stands up against its pipeline projects. ETP’s unwillingness or inability to learn the necessary lessons from DAPL should raise concerns among the company’s financial backers who continue to be exposed to the reputational and financial impacts of ETP’s unacceptable practices,” said Diana Best, Global Finance Pipeline Lead at Greenpeace USA.
In addition to these shady deals and intimidation tactics, the report also highlighted numerous problems caused by the company. Testimony from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe described how workers with ETP destroyed at least 380 sacred and cultural sites along the DAPL route. The company also hired private security firms like TigerSwan, who used excessive force and military tactics against protestors, all while operating without a license to operate in the state of North Dakota.
The report also showed evidence of numerous oil spills that went unnoticed by most mainstream media, including 527 incidents from 2002-2017 across ETP, Sunoco, and their subsidiaries’ pipelines—at least 67 of which contaminated water resources.
Pipeline companies, like Energy Transfer Partners, do not want you to know the enormous amounts of oil and other toxic materials that spill from supposedly “safe” pipelines on a daily basis. The fact is, since 2009 when domestic oil production began ramping up, “the annual number of significant accidents on oil and petroleum pipelines has shot up by almost 60 percent, roughly matching the rise in U.S. crude oil production.”
The numbers are staggering. A 2015 analysis by the Center for Effective Government found:
Since 2010, over 3,300 incidents of crude oil and liquefied natural gas leaks or ruptures have occurred on U.S. pipelines. These incidents have killed 80 people, injured 389 more, and cost $2.8 billion in damages. They also released toxic, polluting chemicals in local soil, waterways, and air.
According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, these spills and ruptures released over 7 million gallons of crude.
The website displays a map of oil pipeline spills from 2010 to present, and it is discouraging, to say the least.
Most of the spilled crude oil originates in Texas and—you guessed it—North Dakota, where DAPL will be carrying a half million barrels a day of crude oil from the Bakken and Three Forks fracking fields.
Clearly, the main selling point put forward by Energy Transfer Partners, and those who stand to reap billions from its construction is a lie. Put in terms of the amount of crude oil spilled, pipelines are more dangerous than rail cars or trucks.
But this is not an appeal to continue relying on railroads and highways for transporting oil. The shocking data on oil spills, the threat to human health and the environment, and the assaults on the rights of landowners and Native Americans brought about by the DAPL construction point to one conclusion.
Now, more than ever, we need to speed our transition away from fossil fuels and fully embrace renewable energy. The technology is there, and the free market is making great strides to make this happen. But the corporatocracy still has an enormous grip in perpetuating the oil era, as we can plainly see in the construction of DAPL and the increased oil production through fracking.
The corrupt partnership of corporate behemoths and government players is keeping us mired in the era of oil, putting human and environmental health in ever greater risk with more and more pipeline construction.