Is pipeline sabotage domestic terrorism? Some in Congress ask Se - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Is pipeline sabotage domestic terrorism? Some in Congress ask Sessions to weigh in

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Four U.S. Representatives from Louisiana have signed on to a letter seeking information on federal prosecutions of crimes against energy infrastructure, including whether such acts would qualify as domestic terrorism under existing law.

Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican, penned the letter, dated Monday, to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Another 85 representatives signed on, including Republican Louisiana Reps. Clay Higgins, Mike Johnson, Ralph Abraham and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

The letter asks Sessions whether the Patriot Act and Pipeline Safety Act "adequately arm" the federal government to prosecute such crimes. It also asks Sessions to identify whether the crimes fall under the federal statute defining "domestic terrorism."

"We realize the Department of Justice (DOJ) faces unique challenges when confronting these crimes, including identifying suspects amidst the rural and remote infrastructure across the country. But maintaining safe and reliable energy infrastructure is a matter of national security," the letter states.

Consequences of infrastructure sabotage 'would be devastating'

The representatives also seek information on whether the DOJ has taken any action on a coordinated effort last year to damage and disrupt the oil flowing through pipelines in four states.

In that October 2016 incident, activists in four states cut through padlocks and chains to access remote flow stations in an attempt to stop oil moving through the lines, according to Reuters' account of the events:

Protest group Climate Direct Action said the move was in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has protested the construction of a separate $3.7 billion pipeline carrying oil from North Dakota to the U.S. Gulf Coast over fears of potential damage to sacred land and water supplies.

Buck's letter comments on that attempt.

"Operation of pipeline facilities by unqualified personnel could result in a rupture — the consequences of which would be devastating. Even though some activists commit these acts of sabotage to raise awareness about climate change, they only create the serious risk of harm to the environment they claim to care about," the letter reads.

Federal law already penalizes the willful damaging or destruction of an interstate or intrastate gas or hazardous liquid pipeline facility with up to 20 years in prison or, if the act results in death, life in prison.

Security contractor affiliated with pipeline co. still seeking Louisiana license

Energy Transfer Partners, which built the Dakota Access Pipeline that sparked the months-long, sometimes violent protests that ended earlier this year, is currently seeking permits to build a second phase of the Bayou Bridge pipeline across south Louisiana and through the Atchafalaya Basin to St. James. And it appears the company is already laying out its security plans as the process inches forward.

A private security company affiliated with ETP has already applied for a license to operate in Louisiana. But the state board that oversees those operations denied the company, called TigerSwan, a license to operate as a security contractor, citing issues with its work securing the Dakota pipeline — including operating without an approved license, even after it had been denied in that state.

An appeal hearing for TigerSwan's pending Louisiana license has not been set.

Read the full letter to Sessions.

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