As the holiday season comes to a close and people head back to work, it’s important to remember not everyone was fortunate enough to enjoy the rest and relaxation the holidays allow. While many families were exchanging gifts, catching up with relatives and enjoying hearty meals, our first responders were working around the clock, keeping our communities safe, just as they are today and every day.
Of course, when taking the job, first responders understand the risks involved, the long hours, rigorous physical requirements and constant training. However, many of our emergency workers are starting to face an unexpected hurdle and a new kind of threat: anti-energy protesters.
From British Columbia to Louisiana, North Dakota to Alberta, and Pennsylvania to Minnesota, anti-energy activists continue to escalate tactics, willing to do whatever it takes to impede the construction of lawful energy infrastructure projects. Earlier this week southwest of Houston, RCMP were dispatched and arrested 14 protesters for blocking the access road for construction workers attempting to work on an LNG pipeline project. Officers saw a number of fires being lit, as well as large, felled trees along the road.
Despite the numerous regulatory agencies ensuring a careful approval and construction process, protesters fervently press on, continuing to utilize tactics that risk their safety as well as the safety and livelihood of construction workers, community members and first responders.
In addition to posing a threat to themselves and bystanders, anti-energy protesters and their risky theatrics pull first responders off the street, forcing them to dedicate time and resources to cleaning up after their efforts. First responders have a duty to protect and serve but protester antics take advantage of our essential emergency services at taxpayer expense.
For example, law enforcement in Louisiana have faced resistance from vigilante protesters in the swamps where the Bayou Bridge Pipeline is nearing completion. Throughout the past several months, protesters have chained themselves to equipment, scaled construction cranes, blocked access roads, fought with police and climbed up trees in the path of construction and refused to come down. Many of these tactics have required first responders to deal with protesters, keeping them away from their other critical responsibilities.
In Pennsylvania, a group of protesters has continued to oppose the Mariner East 2 Pipeline project. One elderly woman went so far as to set a fire near construction equipment and spread spoiled food around construction sites to attract wild animals. In Minnesota, more than 100 people recently blocked streets in a small town to express their opposition to an oil line, as law enforcement spent nearly 2½ hours trying to disperse the crowd.
Of course there was also the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. In late 2016 and early 2017, protesters descended on Morton County, ND, in an attempt to stop construction. Protesters used aggressive and violent tactics, including burning vehicles, building road blocks and lighting them on fire, damaging bridges and fighting with police. Law-enforcement reinforcements were called in from around the country to assist. Police, fire and cleanup costs are estimated to have cost the county nearly $40 million. Now, the pipeline has been safely operating for more than a year, carrying more than 500,000 barrels of crude oil per day to consumers across the U.S.
These are just a few examples of activist efforts that have pulled first responders off the street at taxpayer expense. Surely, freedom of speech and the right to assemble are critical bulwarks of our democracy. But there is an appropriate time and place for protest. Our economy, industry and first responders have already started to pay the price of anti-energy antics. Let’s put an end to these risky games before other innocent bystanders get hurt.