Dozens of Congressional members are requesting U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions consider domestic terrorism charges for those who oppose pipeline construction projects. In a recent letter to Sessions, 84 members of Congress said “maintaining safe and reliable energy infrastructure is a matter of national security”. They referenced the national protests sparked by the four-state Dakota Access pipeline which crosses 18 Iowa counties. Citing national concerns resulting from physical vandalism and work stoppage on construction sites, these members of Congress want harsher penalties for those exercising their rights to free speech.
The GAIN coalition- short for Grow America’s Infrastructure Now- applauds the effort. That group lobbies hard on behalf of Energy Transfer Partners, arguing that pipelines would provide jobs while providing a safe and efficient way to move energy across the country. GAIN has even developed a moniker for protestors, calling them all eco-terrorists.
Understanding that the first step to marginalizing a group of people is to name them I would argue this tactic is a terrible idea. Never attack people for ostensibly exercising their right to free speech in what they believe to be simply protecting the environment. Vandalism is one thing, but that’s a criminal offense – not terrorism.
The American public will quickly ascertain the conflict as becoming a David vs. Goliath issue. Because everyone roots for the underdog, if these members of Congress get their way you can bet a Freedom of Information Request will quickly follow detailing campaign contributions to each lawmaker from energy companies and their lobbying groups. This will only further distance the good that comes from pipeline projects from the national conversation. It will appear as if energy companies are just trying to use their money and clout in Washington to run roughshod over the environment.