The U.S. Justice Department will begin prosecuting climate activists and protesters that perpetrate violence and destruction toward pipelines or other oil infrastructure to make their political points, Reuters said.
“While we are strong advocates for the First Amendment, violence toward individuals and destruction of property are both illegal and potentially fatal,” a letter from the DOJ states. The document is a response to an official letter cosigned by 84 congressmen asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions about his department’s planned response to oil infrastructure attacks led by protestors, specifically those that shut pipelines in October 2016.
The Dakota Access pipeline has seen several incidents block construction since the White House gave Energy Transfer Partners and its consortium the authorization to complete the project. A pair of activists delayed the line’s completion for several weeks by destroying expensive construction equipment earlier this year.
The DOJ did not say specifically whether it would prosecute the DAPL protestors who shut oil pipeline valves that import oil from Canada—an action that could cause a dangerous rupture and subsequent spill.
The months-long protests against the construction of a section of the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline will cost the state of North Dakota around $39 million, after the state’s Emergency Commission voted to borrow an additional $5 million to pay for policing services provided by as many as 11 other states—and taxpayers may likely be paying the tab.
Now, pipeline saboteurs are increasingly likely to face Federal charges.
The Commission accepted a $10-million grant offered by the Justice Department to cover some of the law enforcement costs associated with the protests, which failed to stop the construction of the $3.8-billion infrastructure built by Energy Transfer Partners to carry Bakken crude to Illinois.
The renewed vigor of the DOJ as pertains to acts of sabotage against oil infrastructure comes as another pipeline project, this time TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL presents itself as a new target for climate activists.