Authorities in Iowa and South Dakota are investigating a series of “coordinated physical attacks” on the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that someone used a blowtorch to burn a hole in an above ground safety valve connected to the pipeline. The incident, which was characterized as “felony vandalism” by the South Dakota attorney general’s office, marks a new low for the month’s long protests against the project. Similarly, in Iowa, Mahaska County Sheriff Russ Van Renterghem told the Des Moines Register that a similar attack took place south of Des Moines earlier this month.
“If they had tried to utilize a torch to burn through the sidewall, they would have likely ignited the oil inside and been killed instantly,” said Brigham McCown, a former administrator of the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. “This is a serious safety issue and cannot be justified under any basis. Those responsible should face severe criminal penalties.”
Local, state, and federal law enforcement officials are now investigating the incidents and increasing security along the pipeline’s route.
The attacks on the Dakota Access Pipeline come amid a recent increase in guerrilla-style actions against energy infrastructure in both the U.S. and Canada. Eco-terrorism, according to the FBI, represents “one of the most serious domestic terrorism threats in the U.S. today.”