Two activists with a long-history of engaging in eco-terrorism claimed responsibility Monday for a series of attacks against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) during the multi-billion oil project’s construction phase.
Iowa residents Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya provided a detailed description of their brazen efforts to prevent the $3.8 billion pipeline’s completion during a news conference outside the Iowa Utilities Board’s offices. They were arrested after the conference for using hammers to damage a sign on state property – Montoya and Reznicek were held on $1,000 bond.
“The Dakota Access Pipeline is an issue that affects this entire nation and the people that are subject to its rule,” Reznicek said. “With DAPL, we have seen incredible issues regarding the rule of law, indigenous sovereignty, land seizures, state-sanctioned brutality, as well as corporate protections and pardons for their wrongdoings.”
Montoya mirrored her fellow activists’ points, telling reporters that, “[o]ur conclusion is that the system is broken and it is up to us as individuals to take peaceful action and remedy it, and this we did, out of necessity.”
They are part of the Iowa’s Catholic Worker social justice movement and have noted that their sabotage efforts began on Election Day 2016. Their first incident of destruction allegedly involved using blowtorches to burn heavy equipment on the pipeline route in North Iowa. The Catholic Workers have no financial ties to the diocese.
Reznicek and Montoya are experienced political activists. Reznicek became heavily involved in the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, while Montoya went to Iowa last year after becoming involved in the Standing Rock protests targeting DAPL.
One of the incidents they described appears to match an act of vandalism in March along the pipeline’s route in Mahaska County, Iowa.
Mahaska County Sheriff Russ VanRenterghem said an activist used a blowtorch to burn a hole in the pipeline. He said the portion that was damaged was above ground. The burned portion was a safety valve that would have been used to prevent oil leaks, he said.
Some of the incidents pre-date the November election, however. The FBI launched an investigation last October, for instance, into a rash of fires along an oil pipeline, which will shuttle more than 500,000 barrels of oil from Illinois to the Dakotas.
The fires damaged various bulldozers and earth-moving equipment. Jasper County Sheriff’s Office estimated the fire caused $2,000,000 in damages. The equipment was operated by one of the companies contracted by the DAPL project.
DAPL came under withering scrutiny from protesters and members of Standing Rock, both who argue the project’s construction would trample on tribal lands and destroy artifacts. They also contend it could potentially poison waterways, including waterways such as the Missouri River and Lake Oahe.
Demonstrations died down shortly after former President Barack Obama decided in December to scuttle the project. He argued that the Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental review was not thorough enough to off-set possible risk of leaks.
DAPL opponents were re-energized after President Donald Trump took office and overturned his predecessor’s order. Activists have repeatedly called on demonstrators to engage in acts of civil disobedience against the project, but one environmental group appeared to backtrack after Reznicek and Montoya’s press conference.
“Certainly, we had absolutely no knowledge about what these women were doing or were going to do, and we condemn any kind of damage or anything like that,” Sierra Club of Iowa lawyer Wally Taylor said of the women’s actions. His group and others have been on the front-lines throughout the past several months demonstrating against the project.
The developer behind the project, Energy Transfer Partners, has not responded to reporters’ questions about the activists’ actions, but one of the project’s chief supporters called the activists’ news conference a “stunning admission of guilt.”
“Despite their repeated claims, in no way are the use of gasoline, motor oil, fire and welding torches to destroy construction equipment or pierce pipelines acts of ‘peaceful’ protest,” Craig Stevens, a spokesman for the Grow America’s Infrastructure Now Coalition, said in a press statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. GAIN Coalition is a pro-pipeline group that has spoken out against the demonstrations.
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