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Dakota Access Under Attack From Terrorist-Like Threats, Exec Tells Congress

While a Sioux tribal leader and some supportive congressional members painted a different picture, the senior executive in charge of the beleaguered Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project on Wednesday told a U.S. House subcommittee that opponents of the $3.8 billion oil pipeline through four states have resorted to terrorist tactics.

Joey Mahmoud, executive vice president for engineering at DAPL's main backer, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), told a hearing of the House Energy Subcommittee of how the nearly 1,200-mile project has been slandered and some of its construction workers abused by protesters who have fought the construction of the project's final link at a Missouri River crossing in south-central North Dakota for the past six months

Citing ETP getting reports of some protesters being paid, Mahmoud told the House hearing that "this is a well-organized and well-funded effort based primarily on hostility to fossil fuels." He cautioned that the aggressive opposition tactics used against DAPL are likely to become "the norm, if they are not already."

Mahmoud strongly criticized the Obama administration for what he called "politically driven interference" in the DAPL regulatory process, and he was supported by Republican members of the subcommittee, such as Kevin Cramer (R-ND), whose district includes the protest site and who served as an early energy adviser to President Trump during the presidential election last year.

The ETP executive said that he and other company representatives at one point in the process last summer were lied to by representatives in the Departments of Justice, Interior and the Army.

"Notwithstanding their repeated public pronouncements that the Army Corps of Engineers and DAPL has complied with all applicable requirements for construction of the pipeline, and notwithstanding two successful defenses of the permitting process in federal court, these agencies made the political decision that they were not going to issue the easement."

While Mahmoud emphasized that the regulatory record over a two-year period supports ETP's contention that it played by the rules and adhered to social and cultural concerns, the witness from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Chad Harrison, a councilman-at-large, emphasized the tribe's history of what it considered bad faith dealings with the U.S. government. Harrison criticized DAPL as another example of the federal government and company ignoring tribal concerns.

He urged that federal law be followed in such a way that "infrastructure development can be done correctly so that tribal communities do not bear the burden of the development." Harrison contends that the federal government and ETP did not do this with DAPL.

Mahmoud refuted many of the major criticisms of the tribal and other opponents, pointing out that no Native American lands or sacred sites are involved in the 1,172-mile pipeline route and the proposed 1,094-foot federal easement to cross under Lake Oahe in a dammed portion of the Missouri River is not unique; it would be the 15th pipeline crossing of the river, and DAPL will be buried 90 feet below the bottom of the river.

"Perhaps the greatest irony in a saga replete with ironies is that the Standing Rock tribe has just relocated its water intake to a point more than 70 miles downstream from the pipeline crossing, but less than two miles downstream from a railroad crossing that is known to carry large amounts of crude oil in tank cars," said Mahmoud, who told the subcommittee members that rail transport of crude was about four times more likely to have accidents than pipeline transportation.

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