Protest Groups Must Be Held Civilly Liable for Harm Done to Lawful, Permitted Industry

Douglas County (Wis.) sheriff deputies, along with Sheriff Tom Dalbec, center, pointing in tan shirt and brown pants, and pipeline workers stand along County Road W on Tuesday morning, Aug. 29, south of Oliver. Jed Carlson / Forum News Service

I’m sure the folks at Enbridge, who are in the process of building the Line 3 Replacement pipeline which crosses down from Canada through the northeast corner of North Dakota and across Minnesota to Wisconson, are apprehensive that their project will turn into as big of a mess as the Dakota Access Pipeline did.

News yesterday is that six activists, calling themselves “water protectors” as those trying to obstruct DAPL did, were arrested in Wisconsin.  The incident represents the third time in the last nine days that construction was shut down because of the actions of anti-oil zealots.

If the people in charge of the project are on edge, they should be. The DAPL project was delayed by months of often violent and illegal protests, something which added tens of millions of dollars in expenses to the project from damaged equipment, delays, and additional security personnel.

This sort of thing cannot be allowed to stand. These protest tactics are not protected by the 1st amendment. Self-styled “water protectors” do not have any constitutional right to obstruct lawful industry.

Nobody, not an individual or an organization of individuals, should be able to harm others physically or economically while hiding behind the 1st amendment.

Love pipelines or hate them, the simple reality is that these projects are legal. They’re permitted. Those attacking them are acting illegally.

Which is why it’s time to hold those individuals and groups who organize unlawful obstruction of these projects civilly liable. It’s clear that criminal sanctions won’t work. The big money environmental groups have shown a willingness to use their rank-and-file followers as cannon fodder against these projects with little concern for their arrest and conviction for crimes.

So perhaps using civil lawsuits to hit these groups where it hurts – in the bank account – is the right tactic going forward.

Energy Transfer Partners, the folks behind the DAPL project, have done just that with a lawsuit filed against dozens of environmental groups accusing them of racketeering and fomenting terrorism. I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t speak to the soundness of the particular strategy taken by ETP in their suit, but the concept is one the public at large should get behind.

Nobody, not an individual or an organization of individuals, should be able to harm others physically or economically while hiding behind the 1st amendment. It shouldn’t matter if it’s pro-life demonstrators blocking an abortion clinic or black-masked anarchists vandalizing a Walmart or environmentalists setting a bulldozer on file and harassing pipeline workers.

We cannot allow it. Those engaging in such acts of extremism should be liable for the costs of their actions.

Some of these environmental groups involved in the anti-pipeline protests have very deep pockets. I hope the pipeline companies take the fight to them, and force them to either pony up or at the very least stop assisting in violent and unlawful protests against legal projects.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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