An executive with the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline compared the actions of protesters with terrorists in testimony to Congress on Wednesday.
Opposition to the 1,172-mile oil pipeline “induced individuals to break into and shut down pump stations on four operational pipelines, Joey Mahmoud, executive vice president of Energy Transfer Partners, said in a written statement, according to The Associated Press. “Had these actions been undertaken by foreign nationals, they could only be described as acts of terrorism.”
Mahmoud told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that protesters had “assaulted numerous pipeline personnel” and caused millions of dollars of damage. Mahmoud, reading aloud from his prepared remarks, omitted the line about terrorism, AP reported.
Energy Transfer Partners representatives have previously alleged attacks on workers, but have repeatedly declined to provide details to The Huffington Post.
More than 700 pipeline protesters have been arrested by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department in months of confrontation with law enforcement. The sheriff’s department has accused demonstrators, who prefer to be called water protectors, of attacking officers. Protesters have criticized law enforcement for using tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons in frigid weather.
Mahmoud peppered his statement with criticism of former President Barack Obama’s administration for delaying construction of the final pipeline section.
“The Department of the Interior, and most likely senior members of the White House staff, interfered deeply and inappropriately in the waning stages of the regulatory process,” Mahmoud said. “Even a company as large as Energy Transfer is helpless in the face of a government which will neither obey nor enforce the law.”
President Donald Trump last month issued an order expediting pipeline approvals. The Army Corps of Engineers this month approved an easement allowing Energy Transfer Partners to resume construction over the objections of the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes, who contend it violates their treaty rights and would threaten their drinking water.
Construction could be complete within 30 days, a company attorney said this week.
Despite the company’s momentum, Mahmoud complained that Energy Transfer Partners has been hurt by playing by the rules.
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux dispute this. They’ve argued in court that the company and federal government failed to properly consult with them before routing the pipeline near their water source on the Missouri River.
“When in history has such a company been the victim of an impoverished Indian tribe? The answer is never,” Chad Harrison, a Standing Rock tribal councilman, said, according to the Dallas Morning News.