Dakota Access

As Trump Unfurls Infrastructure Plan, Iowa Bill Seeks to Criminalize Pipeline Protests

People rally at Standing Rock to protest the Dakota Access pipeline in December 2016

The Iowa Senate has advanced a bill which critics say could lead to the criminalization of pipeline protests, which are being cast as “terrorist activities.” Dakota Access pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners and other companies have lobbied for the bill, Senate Study Bill 3062, which opens up the possibility of prison time and a hefty fine for those who commit “sabotage” of critical infrastructure, such as oil and gas pipelines.

This bill, carrying a criminal punishment of up to 25 years in prison and $100,000 in fines, resembles the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, a “model” bill recently passed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). That ALEC bill, intended as a template for state and federal legislation, was based on Oklahoma's HB 1123, which calls for citizens to receive a felony sentencing, $100,000 fine, and/or 10 years in prison if their actions “willfully damage, destroy, vandalize, deface, or tamper with equipment in a critical infrastructure facility.”

According to disclosure records, corporations lobbying for the Iowa bill include not only Energy Transfer Partners, but also Koch Industries, the American Petroleum Institute, Valero Energy, Magellan Midstream, and others. The Iowa State Police Association has also come out in support of the bill, while the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa is against it. The bill has passed out of subcommittee and next goes in front of the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

US Bank Declares End to Oil and Gas Pipeline Loans—Then Quietly Joins $4B Deal with Dakota Access Owner

US Bank logo

At a shareholder meeting this past spring, U.S. Bank announced it would be the first large American bank to completely stop issuing loans for oil and gas pipeline construction projects.

Environmental groups, indigenous activists, and divestment advocates hailed U.S. Bank's announcement as a triumph.

Yet that triumph — and the bank's commitment — seems less sure with the news that U.S. Bank has entered into a new $4 billion loan deal with the company behind the contentious Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL).

ALEC, Corporate-Funded Bill Mill, Considers Model State Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protesters

Protesters march with a banner against the Dakota Access pipeline

At its recent States & Nation Policy Summit, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that connects state legislators with corporations and creates templates for state legislation, voted on a model bill calling for the crack down and potential criminalization of those protesting U.S. oil and gas pipeline infrastructure.

Dubbed the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, the model legislation states in its preamble that it draws inspiration from two bills passed in the Oklahoma Legislature in 2017. Those bills, House Bill 1123 and House Bill 2128, offered both criminal and civil penalties which would apply to protests happening at pipeline sites. Critics viewed these bills as an outgrowth of the heavy-handed law enforcement reaction to protests of the Dakota Access pipeline.

Congress Works with Big Oil on Letter Suggesting Anti-Pipeline Activists Face Terrorism Charges

Five anti-tar sands activists who shut down tar sands pipelines into the U.S.

On October 23, 84 Congressional representatives made a splash when they published a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking if those engaged in activism disrupting or damaging pipeline operations should face criminal prosecution as an act of terrorism under the USA PATRIOT ACT

Spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) and co-signed by dozens of other, primarily Republican, representatives, the letter pays homage to the First Amendment, while also noting that “violence toward individuals and destruction of property are both illegal and potentially fatal.” The letter, covered by several media outlets, was championed by the industry lobbying and trade association, the American Petroleum Institute (API), which said it “welcomed” the letter.

But according to a DeSmog review, API and other industry groups were a key part of bolstering the letter itself. API, along with the Association of Oil Pipe Lines (AOPL) and the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), is listed as among the “supporting groups” on the website DearColleague.us, which tracks congressional letters and their backers.

This Law Firm Is Both Representing Dakota Access Owner and Suing Its Security Firm

A police officer stands near protesters with signs against Dakota Access blocking the entrance to an Army Corps building

Energy Transfer Partners, owner of the Dakota Access pipeline, has filed a federal lawsuit against Greenpeace and others for alleged racketeering in their anti-pipeline activism related to Standing Rock. The company’s legal support comes from the firm Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, whose attorneys also represent President Donald Trump in the ongoing Russia-U.S. election investigation.  

However, federal court rules require that, in addition to the New York-based team at Kasowitz, Energy Transfer Partners must retain local legal counsel in North Dakota, where the lawsuit was filed. The bottom of the 187-page legal complaint filed on August 22 reveals that the corporation chose Vogel Law Firm, with offices in both Minnesota and North Dakota, for that job.

However, by serving as a law firm for Energy Transfer Partners, Vogel may have a potential conflict of interest. That's because, at the same time, the firm is representing the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board in its ongoing lawsuit against TigerSwan. This private security firm worked on behalf of Dakota Access during the months-long protest movement at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

‘Poison’ PR Campaign Has Biased Jury Pool, Say Dakota Access Protester's Lawyers

The defendant, Red Fawn Fallis, right, at her mother's memorial.

By Steve Horn and Curtis Waltman

As tensions rose at Standing Rock last fall, Red Fawn Fallis was one of many arrested at the scene of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) protests near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. However, her charges stood apart: Attempted murder of police officers, an indictment later dropped for lesser charges.

Still, the claim that Fallis shot at police has stuck in the minds of North Dakotans who may have to judge her culpability and is one reason she could not get a fair trial in the area, her lawyers argueAttorneys for Fallis, a 38-year-old Oglala Lakota Sioux woman from Colorado, have posited that the case should be moved to a different federal court district.

Their argument, made in a pair of recent pre-trial motions for a venue change, revolves around the public relations campaign waged by law enforcement, private security, and public relations firms hired by Dakota Access owner, Energy Transfer Partners. That campaign was headed by firms such as TigerSwan, the National Sheriffs' Association, Delve and Off the Record Strategies, as reported by The Intercept and DeSmog.

The recent motions pushing for a venue shift cite as exhibits multiple documents and emails previously obtained and published by DeSmog and The Intercept, along with other law enforcement communications and media efforts. 

Trump Attorney Sues Greenpeace Over Dakota Access in $300 Million Racketeering Case

Protesters in San Francisco march in support of indigenous efforts against the Dakota Access pipeline

Energy Transfer Partners, owner of the Dakota Access pipeline, has filed a $300 million Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) lawsuit against Greenpeace and other environmental groups for their activism against the long-contested North Dakota-to-Illinois project.

In its 187-page complaint, Energy Transfer alleges that “putative not-for-profits and rogue eco-terrorist groups who employ patterns of criminal activity and campaigns of misinformation to target legitimate companies and industries with fabricated environmental claims and other purported misconduct” caused the company to lose “billions of dollars.” 

In the case, Energy Transfer is represented by lawyers from the firm Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, one of the namesakes of which is Marc Kasowitz. Kasowitz is a member of the legal team representing President Donald Trump in the ongoing congressional and special counsel investigation of his 2016 presidential campaign's alleged ties and potential collusion with Russian state actors. The press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit details that Kasowitz attorney Michael J. Bowe is leading what the firm describes as an ongoing probe into the environmental groups' “campaign and practices.”

Emails Show Iraq War PR Alums Led Attempt to Discredit Dakota Access Protesters

militarized police presence lined up in North Dakota against Dakota Access pipeline protesters

By Steve Horn and Curtis Waltman, MuckRock

Behind the scenes, as law enforcement officials tried to stem protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, alumni from the George W. Bush White House were leading a crisis communications effort to discredit pipeline protesters.

Emails show that the firms Delve and Off the Record Strategies, apparently working on contract with the National Sheriffs’ Association, worked in secret on talking points, media outreach, and communications training for law enforcement dealing with Dakota Access opponents mobilized at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. This revelation comes from documents obtained via an open records request from the Laramie County Sheriff's Department in Wyoming.

Dakota Access Security Firm's Top Adviser Led Military Intelligence Efforts for 1992 LA Riots

James 'Spider' Marks

By Steve Horn and Curtis Waltman

Retired Major General James “Spider” Marks chairs the advisory board for TigerSwan, a private security firm hired by Energy Transfer Partners to help police protests of the Dakota Access pipeline — an approach for which Marks has shown vocal support.

DeSmog has found that Marks also headed up intelligence efforts for the task force which brought over 10,000 U.S. military troops to police the 1992 riots following the acquittal of Los Angeles Police Department members involved in beating Rodney King. In addition, Marks, a long-time military analyst for CNN, led intelligence-gathering efforts for the U.S. military’s 2003 “shock and awe” campaign in Iraq, which was dubbed “Operation Iraqi Liberation.”

In recent months, Marks has endorsed Dakota Access and its southern leg, the Bayou Bridge pipeline. He has shown this support by writing op-ed pieces published in various newspapers and on the website of a pro-Dakota Access coalition run by a PR firm funded by Energy Transfer Partners.

Louisiana Joins Compact Which Brought Out-of-State Cops to Dakota Access Protests

Militarized law enforcement lined up and in armored cars at Standing Rock

By Steve Horn and Curtis Waltman

On June 19, Louisiana’s Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill into law which will enter his state into the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).

EMAC is the compact which last year gave out-of-state cops the legal authority to flood into North Dakota during the protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer PartnersThe Louisiana bill, SB 151, was signed as Energy Transfer Partners has another pipeline proposed to run through Louisiana, the Bayou Bridge pipeline. Bayou Bridge is an extension of Dakota Access, set to run from Nederland, Texas, to refinery markets and export terminals in Louisiana.

The compact, signed into existence by President Bill Clinton in 1996, was created in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew with the intent of expediting and bolstering natural disaster response efforts. But the federal legislation creating the compact also has language allowing for a governor of a state to issue an emergency order in the case of the rise of an “insurgency or enemy attack.”

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