Protesting Pipelines Is Becoming A Growing 'Industry'

Protesting Pipelines Is Becoming A Growing 'Industry'
Protesting pipelines is becoming a growing 'industry' fueled by scare tactics and social media.

Stories about groups protesting the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines in the recent past remain in the minds of many, as their headlines once splashed across countless newspapers at home and abroad. And, there will likely be many more, as protesting the construction of new oil and gas pipelines has become an industry in itself, said David Holt, president of Consumer Energy Alliance, to Rigzone.

Environmental groups such as Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and Food & Water Watch are heavily targeting the energy industry with what appears to be an extreme goal: “To not build anything next to anything,” Holt said, explaining that many want to shut as many windows on the energy industry as possible.

Anti-energy groups are increasingly targeting pipeline projects, spreading misinformation about purported environmental hazards to incite citizens and elected officials, and using social media to quickly get the public on board with their agendas, said Jim Sisco, president and founder of ENODO Global, a consulting firm specializing in risk analysis and population-centric engagement, to Rigzone.

“This is a growing trend,” he said, adding that it can cost companies an enormous amount of time and money and can ultimately shut a project down – as it did with the Dakota Access Pipeline. “And if companies don’t change the way they manage public perception up front, it’s going to continue.”

Scare Tactics

In a March 2017 issue of Mother Jones, an article titled “Get Ready for the Trump Pipeline Boom” listed eight oil and gas pipeline projects in the queue for protests, including the Trans-Pecos, Bayou Bridge, Mariner East 2, Sabal Trail, Diamond, Atlantic Sunrise, Pacific Connector and Agua Prieta.

Many extremist groups are publishing the names of pipeline employees and commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and urging the public to travel to their homes and protest, Holt said.

“Yet the average man on the street is oblivious to the fact that the sign he is holding was made from petroleum products, not to mention the fact that he drove his car to get there,” Holt said.

Recalling the Dakota Access Pipeline protest that reached full fury in 2016, Sisco said opposition began when members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe expressed concern about the project infringing on their sacred sites. Yet, when professional activists learned of the issue, they “hijacked” the protest, changed the narrative into an environmental issue about contamination of the Missouri River and managed to rally thousands of people against the project, Sisco said.

Protesters from around the country and the world gathered at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota for months and fought for the community’s right for clean water, ultimately requiring Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access LLC, to pay approximately $30,000 a day for security – with a final estimate of $22 million, Sisco said.

It was later determined that 95 percent of the people who came to the site to protest did not even live in North Dakota, Sisco added. Ironically, Holt said environmental protesters left behind nearly 5 million pounds of garbage for the local community to clean up.

Construction on the 1,100-mile pipeline was halted when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied an easement last December, but was given a green light by President Donald Trump earlier this year.

Burying The Truth

A fact rarely mentioned is that of the approximately 2 million miles of pipelines in the country, more than 99 percent are safe and effective, Holt said. Furthermore, unlike barges and trains, pipelines do not release emissions. Like a web of arteries, they are the safest lifeline to supply oil and gas, and ultimately energy, to all areas of the country.

While some activists have good intentions when it comes to protecting the planet, others are using the oil and gas industry as a means to push an unrealistic agenda of eliminating the use of fossil fuels in the United States and fundraise for their respective organizations by organizing large protests, Holt said.

“They are raising money by scaring people with alarming information. It’s not all altruistic,” he said. “To go into a community and intentionally spread misinformation or to exaggerate potential implications in order to scare the public or to misinform elected officials so that rational decision making is no longer occurring is an abuse of power, social media and the system.”


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WHAT DO YOU THINK?


Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.

Peter Wechsler  |  November 01, 2017
For someone living by Standing Rock, the comments here are a good way to summarize the whole protest. You have the energy companies touting the safety of the pipeline while minimizing the fact that all the pipelines leak somewhere, no line is 100% leak proof. So ET can look at the other major pipeline spills and recognize they have to put all the protections in they can otherwise they'll be like Bridger/Belle Fourche or Tesoro and stuck with multi-million dollar cleanups and fines. However if Arbo is a good consensus for what the Native opinion is, then its as biased and propaganda laced as anything pushed by the fossil fuel industry. Arbo just brushes aside the TAT/MHA Nation, who have their own tribal oil company, are working on building their oil refinery, and have a number of oil pipelines running and being built under the lake that surrounds the Fort Berthold reservation. They've gone for a "Sovereignty by the Barrel" approach, seeing the plentiful reserves as an opportunity. If the Native opinion is that the oil companies are just colonialists once again denying them their rights, then how is it fair that protestors can deny the MHA nation its own choice in the matter. Has anyone asked how much tribal oil is flowing through DAPL off the reservation? Oh what the story could have been if Standing Rock had produced the oil instead of just dry holes. Also, stop bringing up the 1851 treaty lands, it was a treaty signed in bad faith by all parties involved (just ask the MHA nation, they'll tell you it was the Sioux that broke it first), and all that land that is being claimed as "Sioux Treaty Land" was Mandan land before the smallpox decimated them, forcing them to move north and combine with the Arikara and Hidatsa. So maybe ask them how they like their land being taken by the Sioux?
Glenn  |  September 22, 2017
So by Jays twisted logic we should not have airlines because they are involved in accidents. Even though they are clearly the safest way to travel.
Glenn  |  September 22, 2017
They hypocrisy of these professional protesters is staggering. Just look at how many of them drove vehicles powered by gasoline or diesel made possible by our countrys refining and pipeline network these sites. Whats worse, they abandoned their cars or burned them causing more environmental damage than a pipeline ever would. Rebels without a clue and useful idiots every one of them. Lord knows they are incapable of holding down any other job. There are few people I have less respect for than those who disparage the products and services they depend on for survival. And, they say nothing about an alternative solution. Where do you think all the components for cell phones, computers, tires, medicine, medical devices, solar panels, turbine blades, bicycles, water treatment facilities and thousands of other products come from? Thats right, fossil fuels. But dont let the facts get in the way of a good protest. If you really want to impress me, do without these products that you despise. Of course that means you wont be posting anything online since you will have to get rid of all your electronic devices.
mark  |  September 20, 2017
I have managed to live and work in the Oil and Gas industry for many years until this last down turn. Many things have changed. processes chemicals protecting the environment. We have all had to take responsibility for the land and environment we hope to turn over to our children. Miss information is the key today. Many of these who protest have no clue of the industry or how it really works. the geology and how things are done. But for anyone to say homeless and unemployed is also uniformed. organized and well funded is much more the case. this is a focused effort to change way of life and no one should believe otherwise!
Dejan Smaic  |  September 20, 2017
I agree that the narrative was changed. As in any industrial process, there are inherent risks. Ive covered protests as a freelance photographer along the Colorado front range, and there are a core of professional protesters that will chime in anything anti-establishment. The best ammunition is strongly supported information with facts, and the unbiased truth. Unfortunately, the truth gets lost over shouting of bad information, which tends to get more attention than good to marginally good news. I worked on the Ruby Pipeline as an environmental consultant. Had the present politically charged atmosphere existed then, we would have had protests at Goose Lake and along several other environmentally & culturally sensitive areas of the pipeline.
Arbo  |  September 20, 2017
Professional protestors? What about DAPLs paid infiltrators? I can name names. Sunoco Logistics has one of the worst spill records of any pipeline operator in the U.S. Not once in this article was it mentioned that there is no such thing as zero leak pipelines. Thats a true pipe dream. And so what if 95% (and where did you get that data?) came from out-of-state.. this isnt a state issue, its national and global issue. The article never mentions that many of the protestors came from Tribes from across the U.S. and Canada, Mongolia, and Australia. The pipeline was built on Sioux Treaty (Fort Laramie Treaty, 1851 and 1868( land that was never ceded to the United States. The article, as expected, never mentions the impact to Native American Tribes or the historical trauma tribes have faced. Yes, yes...we know that Three Affiliated produces Bakken crude. But you never mention that Bakken crude is absolutely the most toxic crude in the U.S. There was no mention that the Lake Oahe crossing is the absolute longest HDD crossing under a freshwater body of water in the entire world and it will leak, and no leak detection system can detect long, slow leaks. The article doesnt mention the number of sacred sites that the were desecrated despite being pointed out by the Standing Rock Traditional Cultural Property Officer. The article never points out that DAPL claims they have a spill plan in effect, but wont disclose to the Standing Rock Tribes emergency responders, who will be the first in harms way, where the spill response equipment is or where it is coming from (Bismarck and Minneapolis). There is no foam onsite, and if a spill occurs ETP/DAPL have no legal authority or business license to enter tribal land to control the spill. Why is ETP and Kelcey Warren spending so much advertising money on TV propaganda in North Dakota? The Army Corps of Engineers rubber-stamped this project with not a single engineer within their ranks capable of understanding HDD mechanics, nor a chemical engineer among them to even have the capability to challenge the engineering. Lets talk about irony... we just had a memorial for a terrorist attack killed 3600 people and people are shouting, never forget... But when millions of Native people have suffered genocide, oppression, and historical trauma over several hundred years by colonialists, the same people shout, get over it. No, my friends, I spent 20 plus years in the oil and gas industry, a good portion of my time in the Bakken, and nowhere have seen an industry floating so much propaganda and underhanded behavior. DAPLs behavior was shameful. This article is loaded with propaganda, alt facts, and bias... and as Native people lawyer-up, myself among them, were going to hit back..and hit hard. DAPL and how we take on the industry aint over, not by a long shot. We understand fossil fuels are here for awhile, but they are stranded assets and the future is not in them.
Jay  |  September 20, 2017
Enough pipelines have leaked and caused residents to evacuate, or outright caused explosions, that the pipeline owners have only themselves to blame. If pipelines didnt fail and cause harm, there would be no protesters. Owners of pipelines get what they pay for....poor maintenance and inspection to save a buck upfront causes this scenario, having to spend a buck later and get bad press.
Tim Albus  |  September 19, 2017
Hippies and Indians living on my tax dollars. Get out of the way or we will run you over
Robert J. Ryan  |  September 19, 2017
Energy Transfer appears to be fighting back - on August 22, 2017 they filed a RICO action against Greenpeace International and a number of other NGOs in North Dakota Federal Court.
alex  |  September 19, 2017
Bunch of homeless, jobless people who have nothing better to do than protest against something they have no knowledge about.