U.S. Justice Department to Prosecute for Pipeline Damage

Energy infrastructure projects in Pennsylvania and across the country have been confronted by anti-infrastructure protestors opposing development through any means necessary. These efforts have ranged from incidents of eco-terrorism, sabotage and vandalism, collectively putting ideological causes over public safety concerns.

In Pennsylvania alone, nearly thirty protesters have been arrested protesting the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline under the charge of “defiant protesting” after hindering construction to ensure along the pipeline route. Similarly, the Gerhart family and professional protestors have been living in trees along the route of the Mariner East Pipeline for several months now in an effort to block construction on their property, against direct court orders.

Last month, a bipartisan group of lawmakers asked the Department of Justice to extend the domestic terrorism law to connect to protests aimed at shutting down pipelines, in broad recognition of the risks posed to the surrounding communities and environment. The letter details that “When an individual burns a hole through a pipeline currently in operation, there is a high probability this could ignite the contents, killing not only the perpetrator but other innocent victims. It also has the potential to cause property and environmental damage, as well as disrupt services to communities and consumers.”

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice pledged to prosecute such protesters who damage energy infrastructure projects. According to Reuters, “The DOJ said it was committed to vigorously prosecuting those who damage “critical energy infrastructure in violation of federal law”, maintaining that “Attempts to “damage or shut down” pipelines deprive communities of services and can put lives at risk, cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and threaten the environment”.

Efforts to damage energy infrastructure galvanize efforts to go against the rule of law to hinder pipeline projects and constitute real threats to community safety. The Department of Justice has recognized the gravity of this trend and the hypocrisy of those who damage pipelines in the name of environmental conservation.