Environment

Pipeline builders’ group starts “incident database” to track protests

Tom Clark opposes the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. He spoke against the $5.5 billion project at a recent listening session hosted by state environmental officials. (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

An organization that supplies the energy industry with equipment and machinery is tracking protests against oil and gas pipeline projects, including those that are peaceful demonstrations.

Energy Builders lists 18 incidents over the past year in which protesters were arrested. Some of those incidents involved vandalism to heavy machinery and pipelines under construction, but those acts were limited to property damage.

However, the organization makes no mention of the police violence against peaceful protesters. The group is also alleging the protesters are paid, although none of the news articles that the website links to substantiate that claim.

At least one of the incidents appears to be overblown. In an incident in Iowa, 32 people, including many American Indian tribe members, were arrested. But the Incident Tracker claims that private security officers were “ambushed and assaulted” at the Dakota Access Pipeline site. According to the video embedded in the linked story, there was no ambush. None of the 32 people arrested was charged with assault, only trespassing.

The tracker also lists a demonstration in Virginia against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, both recently approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In that case, protesters peacefully blockaded the offices of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Police were also peaceful, according to the Roanoke Times, and a law enforcement spokeswoman was quoted as saying the demonstration was “an ideal peaceful protest.”

Energy Builders claims that it is a “grassroots coalition of workers, local businesses, civic leaders, unions and American families.” However, Energy Builders does not list its members on its website. It is a subsidiary of the nonprofit group Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance, which was also headed by Mack (Update Thursday at 2:39 p.m. Mack retired four years ago from the organization). The alliance’s federal tax returns show that it generated $500,000 in membership fees in fiscal year 2015.

The cell phone number provided on the press release connects to the voicemail of Jonathan Toby Mack. He was president and CEO of Associated Equipment Distributors, an international trade association representing suppliers of heavy machinery and related services to the construction, mining and forestry industries in North America.

He did not return a phone call and an email with detailed questions regarding the Incident Tracker, including the omission of violent police tactics and the paramilitary surveillance techniques used by private security forces.

One Comment


  1. Mike H.

    October 25, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    Too bad pipeline companies don’t face up to the failures they have, like the recent offshore Venice LA pipeline spill, the worst in 7 years, or, the gas pipeline maintenance worker killed 2 days ago, during work on a mainline valve.

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