Members of Congress ask feds to protect energy infrastructure

By Patrick C. Miller | October 24, 2017

A bipartisan group of 84 members of Congress has signed a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to protect oil and gas pipelines from sabotage conducted by environmental extremist organizations.

“While we are strong advocates for the First Amendment, violence toward individuals and destruction of property are both illegal and potentially fatal,” the letter said.

Led by Congressman Ken Buck, R-Colo., the members of Congress cite instances within the past year in which pipelines have been shut down or vandalized and threats of violence have been made against oil and gas industry workers.

For example, a letter to the editor published in a Colorado newspaper said, “If the oil and gas industry puts fracking wells in our neighborhoods, threatening our lives and our children’s lives, then don’t we have a moral responsibility to blow up the wells and eliminate the fracking and workers?”

The letter from members of Congress to Sessions says that maintaining a safe and reliable energy infrastructure is a matter of national security and requests that Sessions respond to questions regarding the following legal issues:

- Do existing federal statutes give DOJ enough authority to prosecute criminal activity directed at energy infrastructure?

- Is DOJ taking prosecutorial or investigative actions against those who attempted to shut down interstate and international pipelines in October 2016?

- Will DOJ pursue federal prosecutorial or investigative action against those who damage or destroy pipeline infrastructure?

- Do attacks on American energy infrastructure intended to intimidate and coerce policy changes fall under U.S. codes dealing with domestic terrorism?

The letter said recent incidents in which individuals attempted to shut down oil pipelines by turning off valves at pumping stations “could result in a rupture—the consequences of which would be devastating.” While attempting to raise awareness about climate change, the letter noted that environmental extremists “only create the serious risk of harm to the environment they claim to care about.” 

The American Petroleum Institute (API) issued a statement saying that it welcomed the letter, noting that it reinforces the organization’s efforts to engage with the Trump administration and federal agencies “for effective deterrence against the willful disruption of and damage to pipeline infrastructure.”

“Safety is our industry’s core value, and any illegal or dangerous effort to undermine safety and bring harm to the environment and communities should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Robin Rorick, API midstream and industry operations group director. “We take these attacks very seriously, and we welcome the bipartisan efforts in Congress to strengthen our nation’s infrastructure that delivers the energy Americans demand every day.”

Rorick added that a key component of securing U.S. energy infrastructure is ensuring that law enforcement has the tools needed to prosecute those who attack it.

“We appreciate this bipartisan effort and look forward to working with lawmakers and law enforcement in protecting our industry’s personnel, the environment and communities across the country,” he said.