​Dakota Access builder compares pipeline protesters to terrorists

The Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp in November 2016. Image: Bold Alliance

The company building the Dakota Access pipeline told Congress that protesters trying to block the project were akin to terrorists.

"I fear the aggressive tactics we have seen in North Dakota will soon be the norm -- if they are not already," Joey Mahmoud, an executive vice president for the company, said in his written testimony before a panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"Had these actions been undertaken by foreign nationals, they could only be described as acts of terrorism."

Energy Transfer Partners largely stayed mum during the months in which supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe camped out by a section of the pipeline that was left uncompleted, stalled by the Obama administration. After President Donald Trump took office, the Army Corps of Engineers issued the final permit so the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile crude oil pipeline could be connected beneath Lake Oahe and completed.

Mahmoud said employees and their children faced death threats and activists broke into and shut down pump stations on four operational pipelines. He said the activism was part of a "well-funded effort based primarily on hostility to fossil fuels." Protesters were getting paid, he claimed.

Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, told reporters that likening protesters to terrorists was unfair and said while the activists have been peaceful, law enforcement has been aggressive in their use of rubber bullets and water canons.

The tribes argue the pipeline would damage sites that are culturally significant to Native Americans and pose an environmental hazard where it crosses the Missouri River. The company and the government ignored the tribe’s concerns, Chad Harrison, a councilman for the Standing Rock Sioux, testified at the same hearing Wednesday.

"This latest action hearkens back to a time when presidents exercised executive powers to take tribal lands, remove Indian people from their homelands and terminate tribes," he said. "This action represents the lost opportunity to do this process right."

In his testimony, Mahmoud also said the pipeline, which will carry shale oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Region to Patoka, Illinois, has been "subjected to a series of politically motivated actions by the previous administration, accompanied by a host of half-truths and misrepresentations in both social and mainstream media."

Obama administration officials "repeatedly made factual misrepresentations about the process and their intentions."

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