When it comes to pipelines, all politics is (not) local

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Of the six people arrested last month in Lancaster, PA for blocking construction of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, four were residents of New York and another was from Philadelphia. Only one of the protesters was “a local.” This locals-to-carpetbaggers ratio is typical of the pipeline protests across the country. Very often, the overwhelming majority of those arrested for illegally protesting pipeline construction don’t live anywhere near the pipelines.

Of the nearly 600 activists arrested at the Dakota Access pipeline last year (many for instigating violent clashes with police), more than 94% of them were from out of state. And nearly a third of them had prior criminal records.

But rather than be embarrassed by their role as out-of-state instigators meddling in other people’s business, these professional activists actually brag about it. Emma Yip, a California activist who testified at a permit hearing for the Bayou Bridge pipeline in Baton Rouge, LA last January, boasted that she was instrumental in costing North Dakota taxpayers millions of dollars by recruiting hundreds of out-of-state activists to disrupt the Dakota Access pipeline. She then threatened to do the same to the taxpayers of Louisiana.

Active involvement from people from across the world have [sic] cost the state of North Dakota 22.3 million taxpayer dollars. And that is in a place that has blizzards. I image we could easily rack you up twice that in this comparable paradise, if you so choose … We are connected with people across the country—heck across the world—who won’t blink from your tear gas, duck from your rubber bullets, or cringe from your sound cannons.

The most troubling anti-pipeline carpetbaggers, however, aren’t just out-of-staters; they’re Russians. As we reported back in February:

A recently released U.S. intelligence report on Russia’s efforts to influence the presidential election cited clear evidence that the Kremlin is financing and choreographing anti-fracking propaganda in the United States … The Russian government is concerned about the impact of fracking and U.S. natural gas production on the global energy market, and they are going to great lengths to disrupt our nation’s natural gas production.

The Russian involvement is so significant that Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and Randy Weber (R-TX), chairman of the Energy Subcommittee, wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last summer asking him to “conduct a full and complete investigation into the allegations” that Russia was working with American activists to hobble pipeline construction and natural gas production.

And just last week, Buzzfeed reported that an Instagram account called @Native_Americans_United—which rallied its 33,000 followers against the Dakota Access pipeline—was “connected to a Russian troll farm intent on exploiting existing divisions and social movements in the United States.”

Russia’s involvement in anti-pipeline protests has been suspected for quite some time. In a June 2014 speech, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “We were even up against phony environmental groups, and I’m a big environmentalist, but these were funded by the Russians to stand up against any effort, ‘Oh that pipeline, that fracking, that whatever will be a problem for you,’ and a lot of that money supporting that effort was coming from Russia.”

It is said that all politics is local, but when it comes to pipelines, that is clearly not the case. This should be a concern to all Americans because the last thing we need are Russian agents working with out-of-state activists to cripple our vital energy infrastructure.