The company which built the Dakota Access Pipeline says there have been “recent coordinated physical attacks” on the completed pipeline which is ready to begin delivering oil this week. At least two attacks taken place within the past month. Last week, someone took a blowtorch to an above-ground section of the pipeline in South Dakota. From the Duluth News Tribune:
In South Dakota, authorities received a report on March 17 that someone burned a hole through an above-ground section of an oil pipeline at a valve site just south of Sioux Falls, according to Chief Deputy Chad Brown of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.
A torch may have been used to create the hole, causing about $30,000 to $60,000 in damage, Brown said. No suspects had been identified, Brown said. The incident occurred between March 15 and March 17, Brown said.
Because most of the pipeline is buried, the above-ground shut-off valves are the most easily accessible portions of the pipeline. A very similar attack took place earlier this month in Iowa. From the Des Moines Register:
Mahaska County Sheriff Russ VanRenterghem said someone took a blowtorch to the pipeline and burned a hole in it. He said the portion that was damaged was above ground and surrounded by a security fence with wire. The burned portion was a safety valve used to shut off that portion of the pipeline if a leak occurred, he said…
Though he isn’t sure of the cost estimate, VanRenterghem said a charge in the case would likely be first-degree criminal mischief, which occurs when someone causes more than $10,000 in damage.
No suspects have been identified in the two known cases of sabotage, but it’s not much of a stretch to suggest the apparently coordinated attacks were carried out by people opposed to its construction. This isn’t the first act of sabotage against this pipeline. Last October, fires were set that destroyed construction equipment in Iowa.
The worst case scenario for the protesters is an oil spill. That’s the short-term danger they most want to avoid by blocking the pipeline. It was the first concern of the “water protectors” who worried a spill could contaminate their water supply.
And yet, when a spill happens it’s also the moment proponents of the ‘keep it in the ground’ movement get the most support and media attention for their cause. So you have to wonder what the goal was with these acts of sabotage. Did the people who burned holes in the Dakota Access Pipeline in two states know the damage would be discovered? Did they warn the company it had happened? Or did they leave it to chance knowing a spill, even a minor one, would give them grounds to say ‘told you so?’ Either way, the protesters have once again gone too far.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is expected to begin delivering oil this week after months of delays caused by protesters in North Dakota. Last month a protest camp, which was home to a few hundred people, was shut down.