Pipeline Sabotage in UK: Does It Help Our Movement?

Pipeline Sabotage in UK: Does It Help Our Movement?

Editor’s Note: The natural world is dying and time is running out. DGR believes it is necessary to take any action possible to stop the destruction of the natural world. We believe sabotage of key infrastructures are more effective than social movements to bring the industrial civilization (and its death drive) down. In these dire times, we are glad to see increasing adoption of and advocacy for eco-sabotage. Fear that these actions will lead to further hostility from the powerful against the environmental movement are baseless. The powerful (including in UK) are already hostile to the environmental movement and the natural world. Any impact on hostility from the powerful is minimal. However, when it comes to tactics and strategy, context matters. No tactic can be judged as “effective” or “ineffective” in isolation. Goals, assumptions and political circumstances must be considered before selecting methods. As such, we think target selection is critical in evaluating an act of ecosabotage. Pipelines that transport oil are an example of strategic target selection. Windows of organizations linked to fossil fuels are not. Smashing windows or other similar small-scale acts of minor eco-sabotage may be useful for training and propaganda but it does little to challenge the power structure. Minor acts of eco-sabotage may be useful in drawing attention to the issue, by giving media attention to the issue (which is not guaranteed). DGR advocates to move beyond social-political goals and into physical material ones: challenging the power structure that enables destruction of nature through strategic dismantling of global industrial infrastructures. DGR also follows security culture. We maintain a strict firewall between underground action and aboveground organizing. That’s why, as an aboveground organization, we do not engage in any forms of underground action, nor do we know about any underground actions except through information published elsewhere. This article was originally published on opendemocracy.net


By Jack McGovan/Open Democracy UK climate activist group Pipe Busters first broke into the construction site for the Southampton to London Pipeline (SLP) in June. Using an array of carefully selected tools, from bolt cutters to a circular saw, they damaged several sections of uninstalled pipeline and a construction vehicle. This wasn’t a random act: the pipeline’s main function is to supply Heathrow with aviation fuel. “Aviation is a planet killer,” said Pipe Busters in an emailed statement. “Pipe Busters act to halt the expansion of flying that the SLP would make possible.” https://twitter.com/StopTheSLP/status/1539609635002400771 In a year in which heat records were smashed across the globe, a new wave of climate activists seems to have simultaneously begun its own campaign of breaking things. During the summer, Just Stop Oil activists destroyed several petrol pumps on the M25, while This Is Not a Drill smeared black paint on buildings and smashed the windows of organisations linked to fossil fuels. The disruption has continued into the autumn. Last week, Just Stop Oil threw black paint on Altcourse prison in Liverpool, in protest at one of their number being held in custody. On Monday, This Is Not a Drill’s website reported that campaigners had broken the front windows of the Schlumberger Cambridge Research Centre at Cambridge University, to draw attention to the recent disastrous flooding in Pakistan. Outside the UK, the French arm of Extinction Rebellion made the news for filling golf course holes with cement. Another group, the Tyre Extinguishers, have started a crusade against SUVs in urban environments across a number of countries by deflating their tyres. Not that long ago, climate activism made the headlines for school children skipping class to protest, so these more radical tactics seem to mark a turning point.

Losing patience

“I’ve tried all the conventional main means of creating change – I’ve had meetings with my MP, I’ve signed petitions, I’ve participated in public consultations, I’ve organised and taken part in marches,” says Indigo Rumbelow, a Just Stop Oil activist. “The conventional ways of making change are done.” Marion Walker, spokesperson for the Tyre Extinguishers, added: “We want to live in towns and cities with clean air and safe streets. Politely asking and protesting for these things has failed. “The only thing we can do is make it impossible or extremely inconvenient to own [an SUV].” The need for urgent action on the climate is not in doubt. These campaigners are frustrated by what they see as a lack of meaningful steps taken by governments to stem the flow of carbon into the atmosphere. Despite the need to move away from fossil fuels, for instance, the UK government recently opened up a new licensing round for North Sea oil and gas. Andreas Malm, associate professor in human ecology at Lund University in Sweden, made the case for sabotage as a legitimate form of climate activism in his provocative 2021 book ‘How to Blow Up a Pipeline’ – and he seems to have inspired others to follow his lead. Deflating SUV tyres, for example, is something Malm writes about and says he has done in the past. But is breaking stuff – temporarily or otherwise – really an effective form of action for a movement trying to communicate on such a serious issue? “Coordinated, sustained social movements that do destroy property tend to be pretty effective over the long term,” says Benjamin Sovacool, professor in energy policy at Sussex University. Sovacool highlights three global movements – the abolition of slavery, the prohibition of alcohol and the civil rights movement – that used violence, including destroying property, to achieve their goals. “Some work in sociology even suggests that violent social movements are actually more effective than non-violent ones,” he adds. In his own paper, Sovacool cites research from the late 20th century that looked into US social movements, and found that American activists in the 1980s who were willing to use violence were able to reach their objectives more quickly than those who weren’t. He goes on to describe a number of actions that could fall under the umbrella of violence, from destroying property through to assassinations and bombings. Others refer to property destruction as “unarmed violence”, and research suggests movements that adopt this specific style of violent tactic are more successful than others. Movements highlighted as having used unarmed violence include the Chuquisaca Revolution in 1809, and the overthrowing of the military dictatorship in Argentina in 1983. But there isn’t a consensus. Other research looking at similar kinds of movements comes to a different conclusion, indicating that violent tactics are less successful in specific cases, such as those seeking regime change. For any kind of action to have an impact, though, it has to be noticed. German climate movement Letzte Generation, part of the international A22 network that includes Just Stop Oil, sabotaged a number of fuel pipelines across Germany this spring – more than 30 times in total, the group claims. “We asked ourselves, what can we do to really put pressure on the government to give us a reaction towards our demands?” says Lars Werner, who was involved in the action. “We did it publicly – it wasn’t an action that we wanted to hide from.” But despite their enormous logistical efforts, the media coverage was underwhelming. The corporations targeted didn’t react publicly, either. “The government could ignore what we were doing because there wasn’t much attention,” says Werner. Following the action, the group reverted to its old tactics of blocking roads.

Accountability or anonymity?

Indigo Rumbelow is keen to highlight the importance of accountability – showing names and faces – to Just Stop Oil’s activism. Other groups, such as the Tyre Extinguishers, prefer to remain anonymous. “We’re trying to change the narrative around fossil fuels,” says Rumbelow. “We’re not trying to materially stop fossil fuels – we don’t have enough people, resources or power for that. “But by having our face attached to the action and being able to explain, ‘I did this and I believe that I am right because it’s the only right thing to do’ – that’s how we’re going to change the political story,” she says. Choosing to remain anonymous, and not being accountable for your actions, can also be risky. “If you put a mask on, there’s the danger of labelling those people in masks as terrorists,” says Laurence Delina, assistant professor in environment and sustainability at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He adds that this can be taken advantage of by others, such as fossil fuel interests, to demonise activists and undermine their message.

Indigenous communities

Those on the frontlines of resource extraction, however, don’t have the privilege of being able to decide whether they want to be accountable or not. Many Indigenous communities – such as the Wet’suwet’en, Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, Mapuche and Sioux peoples across the American continent – have used their bodies to obstruct pipelines, as well as logging and mining vehicles, that would otherwise destroy their lands. Some have resorted to arson to protect their way of life. Not only do these communities have fewer options; retaliation is usually more severe too, sometimes deadly. A Guardian investigation revealed in 2019 that Canadian police had discussed using lethal force against Wet’suwet’en activists blocking the construction of a gas pipeline. Last year, Global Witness reported that 277 land and environmental activists were murdered in 2020 for defending their land and the planet. Most of these incidents occurred in the Global South. Despite differences in opinion, there is a consensus among Malm, Walker and Rumbelow that sabotage, if used, would be most successful as part of a broader movement – that it is one tool in a wider arsenal, not the answer in itself. Delina thinks that sabotage is a legitimate tactic, but only in situations where all other avenues of action have been explored, emphasising that he thinks non-violent actions are preferable. Sovacool doesn’t advocate for sabotage, but agrees that a multiplicity of tactics is useful, and that it’s important for us to be able to talk about how successful sabotage has been in the past. “I think each person has to decide on their own threshold for action,” he says.


Featured image: Sabotage of a train in Copenhagen on March 27, 1945 by National Museum of Denmark via Picryl

Ecosaboteur Ruby Montoya Sentenced to 6 Years in Federal Prison

Ecosaboteur Ruby Montoya Sentenced to 6 Years in Federal Prison

Editor’s note: After months of aboveground organizing against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) Ruby Montoya and Jessica Reznicek conducted a campaign of underground sabotage to stop the pipeline in 2017. When their action received no media attention, they decided to go public to promote the seriousness of the cause. In a public statement, they claimed responsibility for their actions and consequently became subject to lawsuits, including criminal liability and terrorism charges. Jessica was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2021 and Ruby was recently sentenced to six years in prison. We understand and respect the risks that Jessica and Ruby took to protect what they love.

We find it disturbing that Ruby Montoya collaborated with the law enforcement agencies to put the blame against her co-defendant and other people for a lighter sentence on her part. This type of behavior harms the entire movement. Therefore before engaging in any form of environmental action, aboveground or underground, it is necessary to study security culture. Understand the risks associated with one’s actions and make a conscious decision of whether to engage in the action or not.

In order to follow the rules of security culture, as an aboveground organization, DGR does not engage in or have knowledge of any form of underground action. This increases the security and effectiveness of our movement as a whole. Though we do believe in using any means necessary to stop the ongoing ecocide. We also believe in a coordination between aboveground organizing and underground action. The Deep Green Resistance News Service exists to publicize and normalize the use of militant and underground tactics in the fight for justice and sustainability of the natural world.


September 26, 2022 / Unicorn Riot

Des Moines, IA – Ruby Montoya, admitted Dakota Access Pipeline ecosaboteur, stepped out of a car Wednesday morning in front of the federal courthouse in Des Moines, Iowa, and walked quietly into the building. Her dark hair was pulled back into a low bun and her long, teal skirt blew in the wind. Her attorney, Maria Borbón, walked behind her.

The atmosphere outside the courthouse that morning was mundane, lacking the usual fanfare of a high-profile political sentencing. No family, friends, or supporters were present for the two-day hearing, which brought to close a legal battle spanning almost exactly three years to the day. Montoya was ordered to spend the next 72 months of her life in federal prison—a sentence imposed for her fierce participation in the protest movement against the pipeline project, which at its height attracted tens of thousands to the icy plains of rural North Dakota.

Montoya was also ordered to pay over $3 million in restitution to Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the multi-billion dollar fossil fuel transport corporation primarily responsible for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, known as DAPL. She was ordered to pay the restitution jointly with her co-defendant Jessica Reznicek.

From her elevated platform, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Ebinger looked down on Montoya as she read aloud her sentence Thursday, stating in part that a long prison sentence was necessary to deter others from taking similar action. When the hearing was over, the judge nodded to the U.S. Marshals waiting in the back of the courtroom; they then approached Montoya and handcuffed her before leading her away.

It was a lonely end to Montoya’s yearslong journey from Mississippi Stand, the Iowa anti-pipeline encampment where she and Reznicek first met, to the most elaborate and successful campaign of sabotage to arise out of the No DAPL movement.

U.S. Marshals parked outside of the federal courthouse in Des Moines, Iowa during Ruby Montoya’s sentencing. After sentencing, the Marshals led her away in handcuffs. Photo by Ryan Fatica.

Between November 2016 and May 2017, Montoya and Reznicek attacked DAPL infrastructure in at least 10 locations, setting fire to construction equipment and using oxy-acetylene torches to cut holes in the pipeline’s steel walls. Prosecutors also alleged in court filings that two earlier acts of sabotage, for which the pair were not charged, matched the profile of their later actions.

According to the pipeline company, the attacks resulted not only in the $3,198,512.70 in damages Montoya and Reznicek were ordered to jointly pay in restitution, but cost ETP an additional $20 million in added security expenses as well.

In a dramatic press conference in July 2017, the two admitted to their direct action campaign before turning around and prying the letters off the sign in front of the Iowa Utilities Board Office of Consumer Advocacy, expressing no remorse for their actions. “If we have any regrets, it is that we did not act enough,”they wrote in a public statement at the time.

In June 2021, Reznicek was sentenced to eight years in prison, a term that included a domestic terrorism enhancement. Reznicek later appealed the enhancement, but it was upheld on June 6, 2022 by judges Ralph R. Erickson, David R. Stras, and Jonathan Kobes, on the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. (All three judges were appointed by former president Donald Trump.)

The course of Montoya’s three-year grind through the federal court system took many turns. She went through four attorneys and went from cooperating with her co-defendant to cooperating with law enforcement. During this legal process, she and Reznicek were labeled terrorists by the government, an highly political accusation that dramatically increased their possible prison sentences and created increased repression on environmental movements across the country.


A “Harmless” Terrorism Enhancement

In October 2017, less than three months after Montoya and Reznicek’s public confession, a group of 84 members of Congress wrote a letter to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asking the Department of Justice to consider whether 18 U.S.C. 2331(5), the federal criminal code governing domestic terrorism charges, applied to acts of sabotage committed against the DAPL project.

The application of terrorism enhancements at sentencing can add a decade or more to a defendant’s sentence, and the decision to apply them is highly politically charged. According to the federal statute, crimes can be considered “domestic terrorism” if they “involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State” and are “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.”

ecosaboteur
Two security camera stills of one instance of sabotage to DAPL used as evidence in the prosecution against Montoya and Reznicek.

There is a longstanding precedent for terrorism enhancements being used against animal rights and environmental activists. According to a 2019 study by The Intercept, of the 70 federal prosecutions of animal and environmental activists they identified, the government sought terrorism enhancements in 20. Those cases include 12 of the defendants in Operation Backfire, the major FBI operation that targeted the Earth Liberation Front, also known as ELF.

However, it’s also notable when terrorism enhancements are not applied. As many have pointed out, participants in the January 6th Insurrection have not received terrorism enhancements, despite participating in a political attack on the heart of the U.S. government, an event which led to several deaths. Neither Dylan Roof, the white supremacist who murdered nine African Americans in 2015, nor James Fields, the neo-Nazi who intentionally drove his car into a crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 35 others, received terrorism enhancements.

In Montoya’s case, Judge Ebinger calculated that according to federal sentencing guidelines Montoya’s sentence would have been 46-57 months without a terrorism enhancement. The terrorism enhancement elevated her sentencing range to 292-365 months—a possible sentence of 24 to 30 years in prison.

In November 2021, Reznicek appealed her case, arguing that the lower court had erred in applying the terrorism enhancement for several reasons. Reznicek’s actions, her attorneys argued, did not constitute terrorism in part because they did not primarily target government conduct. The pair’s public statements “decried perceived failures of the government but did not make express or implied threats and did not articulate any hoped-for effect of the offense on government conduct,” Reznicek’s attorneys wrote in the appeal. “The only purpose articulated in the statement was to ‘[get] this pipeline stopped,’” they continued.

The court of appeals upheld Reznicek’s conviction and the application of the terrorism enhancement, claiming that it was “harmless” because Judge Ebinger would have sentenced Reznicek to 96 months in prison regardless of the enhancement.

During Montoya’s sentencing hearing, the prosecutor seemed to anticipate the same arguments raised in Rezniceck’s appeal, arguing that Montoya’s actions were clearly intended as retaliation for the government’s approval of the DAPL project and to influence its decisions about the project’s future.

Maria Borbón, Montoya’s attorney, seemed ill-suited to the task of countering these arguments as well as many other arguments made by the prosecution during the two-day hearing. Her courtroom conduct frequently appeared to frustrate the judge, who repeatedly lectured her on procedural norms of federal court. When asked to speak, her comments were often off topic and occasionally incoherent.

Federal judges have discretion to deviate from sentencing calculations, and in Montoya’s case, Judge Ebinger explained that she decided to depart downward from the possible 24 years allowable under the guideline calculation. Her consideration included Montoya’s mental health and extensive history of childhood trauma, her good behavior on pretrial release, and her efforts to assist the government through four “proffer” interviews in 2021 (the contents of which remain sealed).


Violent Extremism Research Center Director Claims Iowa Catholic Workers Further “Terrorist Ideology”

At sentencing, the defense called Dr. Anne Speckhard, Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE), who claimed that Montoya had been manipulated by what she called the “terrorist ideology” of the Des Moines Catholic Worker and the environmental direct action movements she’d been a part of.

The Catholic Worker movement was founded in 1933 by anarchist journalist Dorothy Day and French-born Catholic social activist Peter Maurin. The movement, which is ongoing, focuses on redistributing wealth and resources through food pantries and shared housing, and uniting workers and intellectuals through educational discussions and joint activities.

While Speckhard testified in Montoya’s defense, claiming she had little to no responsibility for the actions she took while in a “dissociated state,” her testimony also insinuated that the actions taken by Montoya and Reznicek amounted to terrorism. She referred to the Des Moines Catholic Worker as “cult-like” and claimed that Montoya had been “recruited” and “elevated” by Reznicek who preyed upon her weakness.

Jessica Reznicek (L) and Ruby Montoya (R), as they participate in a vision quest led by Indigenous elders. Source: Ruby Montoya, Document 205, Supplement to Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea, Exhibit 17, Filed November 24, 2021.

According to its website, ICSVE was founded in 2015 and works closely with both domestic government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security as well as military organizations like NATO.

ICSVE is one of several organizations and governmental bodies that promote an approach to domestic terrorism called “Countering Violent Extremism”(CVE). According to the nonpartisan think tank Brennan Center for Justice, CVE are a “destructive counterterrorism program” that is “bad policy.” The think tank also explains that CVE are “based on junk science, have proven to be ineffective, discriminatory, and divisive.” 

After the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice named Boston as a CVE pilot program site in 2014, the ACLU of Massachusetts “raised serious concerns about the civil rights, civil liberties, and public safety implications of adopting this unproven and seemingly discriminatory approach to law enforcement.” Unicorn Riot spoke with an ex-FBI agent, Mike German, from the Brennan Center about CVE in 2017.

CVE originated in the United Kingdom as Preventing Violent Extremism or Prevent, which “led to repeated instances of innocent people ensnared, monitored, and stigmatized,” including a nine-year-old boy who was “referred to authorities for ‘deprogramming’ purposes,” according to the ACLU of Massachusetts. In 2016, Unicorn Riot covered a CVE panel in Minneapolis hosted by the Young Muslim Collective, a panel about resisting surveillance in 2017, and another in Boston in January 2018.


“She was not the one who struck the matches” 

Since August 2021, activists and legal professionals have raised concerns that Montoya may have begun cooperating with law enforcement in an attempt to reduce her prison sentence by putting other activists at risk of prison instead.

In her August 2021 motion to withdraw her previous guilty plea, Montoya publicly cast blame on a slew of people and claimed she lacked the mens rea—the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing—to understand what she was doing. Montoya argued that her abusive father, her “coercive” co-defendant Reznicek, the Des Moines Catholic Worker, and possible undercover “government operative[s]” were each in part responsible for her actions.

In the months that followed, Montoya’s new attorney Daphne Silverman filed a series of sealed documents with the court, the contents of which are still unknown to the public. Filing sealed documents is a practice usually avoided by participants in political movements as it can raise suspicion within activist communities that a defendant may be attempting to cast blame elsewhere by informing on other activists.

Montoya and her attorneys have also continued to pursue the argument that some sort of government or private security operatives “influenced me” and “appear to be unlawfully pressuring me to engage in illegal acts,” as Montoya put it in a November 2021 affidavit to the court. The affidavit goes on to discuss three unnamed people Montoya says influenced her to use fire to damage construction equipment and even taught her how to weld.

According to Montoya, she and Reznicek traveled to Denver where the unnamed people taught them to use an oxy-acetylene torch and encouraged them to do so. “Inside Person 2’s house,” in Denver, Montoya wrote, “there were army training manuals of how to destroy infrastructure, and little else. They slept on sheepskin.” 

In Montoya and Reznicek’s previous public statements, the pair claimed that they acted in secret without the knowledge or involvement of other activists. “It’s insulting on some level,” Reznicek said in a 2017 joint interview with Montoya, “but it needs to be cleared up. Ruby and I acted solely alone. Nobody else was involved in any of these actions. I think it’s hard for people to believe ― ‘How could these two women pull this off so easily?’”

Montoya’s testimony is the only evidence on record suggesting that the individuals she claims taught her to weld actually exist. If, indeed, they do exist, it is unclear whether they are actually government operatives or activists who believe in using direct action against the fossil fuel industry.

At sentencing, the federal prosecutor spoke of these assertions as though they were ridiculous, calling them “conspiracy theories” and even sought to increase Montoya’s prison sentence as a result of her implicating the government in her actions.

The historical record reveals that government operatives and informants, especially those employed by the FBI, pressuring activists into property destruction and even providing them the means to do so may be a conspiracy, but is much more than a theory. The fairly recent cases of Eric McDavid, in which a government informant concocted and lured him into a bomb plot and the Cleveland 4, in which a paid FBI informant sold fake C4 explosives to a group of young Occupy activists while also providing them drugs and resources, clearly document this reality. The history of FBI surveillance and entrapment of Muslim communities is even more extensive.

At sentencing, Montoya’s fourth attorney, Maria Borbón, argued that the courtroom should be closed during sentencing, referring to the “sensitive nature” of some of the topics discussed. The judge denied her request, saying that the public record in this case had already been “oversealed” in a manner that is “contrary to the public interest.”

On the morning of the first day of sentencing, federal prosecutors filed an unsealed document containing a list of more than 80 exhibits they intended to use at the hearing that day. Most of the items on the list are public statements made by Montoya about her actions as well as assessments and images of the damage her and Reznicek caused to fossil fuel infrastructure. At the end of the list, as seen below, are five exhibits titled Transcript of Proffer Interview and Grand Jury Testimony dated from November 2020 to July 2021.

A list of exhibits used by the prosecution at sentencing includes five documents attesting to Montoya’s cooperation with law enforcement. Source: United States v. Reznicek, Document 324, Filed 9/21/22.

Although transcripts of these interviews remain sealed, their contents were briefly mentioned by the attorneys throughout the proceedings, including a claim by Montoya that at one point she threw away $5,000 in cash in an effort to stop Reznicek from continuing the sabotage campaign. This claim was part of a relentless attempt by Montoya and her attorneys to deflect blame for her actions onto her co-defendant and the Des Moines Catholic Worker House, especially its founder and de facto leader, former priest Frank Cordero.

“At no time did Ms. Montoya lead,” said Borbón. She claimed instead that Montoya’s actions were “directed by the household,” referring to the Des Moines Catholic Worker House. “She remained in the vehicle,” Borbón explained when arguing Montoya’s alleged lack of participation.

“She was not the one who struck the matches, she was not the one who put together the funds to continue the vandalism.”

Maria Borbón, Montoya’s attorney

However, according to the federal prosecutor, Montoya said in her proffer interview that she was the one who lit the match during their election night attack on construction equipment in Buena Vista County, Iowa. The prosecutor also said that in those interviews, Montoya says that she, not Reznicek, was the author of the pair’s 2017 public statement claiming responsibility for the attacks.

The government’s exhibit list also contains a listing for a document titled Grand Jury Testimony of 1-21-21- Under seal. It was not previously known to the public that Montoya had testified before a federal grand jury, and the reason it was convened remains shrouded in mystery.


“Misguided, wrong and lawless” 

In her closing statements, Judge Ebinger identified “three versions” of the events of 2016 and 2017, each as told by Montoya at different points in time. The first is the story she told during her public confession and in the pair’s public talk at the Iowa City Public Library in August 2017. In this version, the judge said, Montoya appeared as “an educated woman who speaks articulately” and “passionately” about the value of property destruction in furthering the aims of the environmental movement.

“I have a choice,” said Judge Ebinger as she quoted Montoya’s description of why she joined the No DAPL protests, “I knew I had to go there. And so I hit the road.” 

The second version is the story told by Montoya in the proffer interviews with the government, in which she knew the facts of each attack and could recite them in great detail to the willing ears of law enforcement. In this version, Montoya said that she had limited contact with Des Moines Catholic Worker Frank Cordero, hearing his thoughts mostly from Reznicek.

The third version is the story told by Montoya to her mental health providers, which they relayed in court during the sentencing. In this version, Montoya is a deeply traumatized and mentally ill person who was “coached” and “manipulated” into taking action by Cordero and Reznicek. According to Montoya’s care providers, she suffers from such severe post-traumatic stress disorder that she committed her crimes “in a fog” and in a “dreamlike” and “childlike state” of dissociation that she hardly remembers them.

The Montoya represented in the third version of her story is deeply sorry for her actions and it was this Montoya who addressed the court during allocution, the defendant’s formal statement prior to sentencing.

federal
U.S. Federal District Court, Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Ryan Fatica.

“I am here to take responsibility for my actions,” Montoya told the court, “which were misguided, wrong and lawless.” Nonetheless, she said through tears, she was on a “journey of self-accountability” which included her attempts to “rectify” her actions through her “statements to the government and my grand jury testimony.”

Despite her pleas, it was primarily toward the Montoya represented in version number one that Judge Ebinger directed her sentence, saying that Montoya’s statements during “the conspiracy period” were entirely “inconsistent with someone who is in a fog or a dreamlike state.” The judge quoted repeatedly from Montoya’s public statements, arguing that she was cogent, articulate and proud of her actions.

Nonetheless, the judge said, “the court recognizes and credits the adverse childhood experiences” testified to by Montoya, her mental health providers, and several family members. “PTSD frequently rears its head in this courtroom,” Judge Ebinger said.

In recognition of these challenges, she recommended that the Bureau of Prisons designate Montoya to a facility in or close to Arizona and that she be allowed to participate in any available vocational trainings during her six years of life in a prison cell.


For more on DGR News Service coverage on the issue:

The Story of Line 3

The Story of Line 3

Editor’s note: The Extraction Economy and oil pipelines are everywhere, and they affect everyone.  If you are white enough, rich enough, and/or lucky enough, the pipelines might not be built in your backyard, but no matter who you are, they contaminate the water, air, and land upon which you depend for your life.  The distance does not keep you safe, it only delays alarm.  There are no safe places to hide from a culture and economy based on extraction, drawdown, theft, genocide, and ecocide; this culture eats beautiful forested lands, rich seas, and clear skies and leaves behind wasteland, toxic dead zones, and, possibly in the near future, an inhabitable planet.  If it doesn’t seem like this culture and its economy steals wealth of all sorts for the benefit of a few, it’s very likely that you live in an exclusion zone rather than a sacrifice zone.  The exclusion zones are where resources are sent, where power is concentrated, where the in-group is nourished.  Sacrifice zones are where resources are extracted, where power is enforced to maintain subjugation, where the out-group is impoverished.  Even if you recognize the material problems this culture produces, its strong tradition of silencing dissent, erasing indigenous cultures and knowledge, and spreading self-serving disinformation obscure the root cause of these problems.  For thousands of years, the dynamic of the haves and the have-nots has been at the core of an evolving culture that dominates and erases other cultures.  It has taken many forms, including city-states, empires, kingdoms, feudalism, mercantilism, colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and fascism.  The common denominator is a selfish urge to profit at the expense of others, beginning about 10,000 years ago with the advent of agriculture and male subjugation of women.  This developed into various socioeconomic structures that depend on and thus facilitate the destruction of life.  The dominant culture abuses the earth just as it abuses women.

“When it comes to protecting the planet, stopping pipelines needs to be one of our first priorities. And like other Earth-destroying machinery, pipelines are very vulnerable. They stretch on for miles with no guards, no fences, and no protection.” – Max Wilbert


By Theia Chatelle/Counterpunch

When Enbridge Inc. announced on September 29, 2021, its “Line 3 Replacement Project [was] Substantially Completed and Set to be Fully Operational,” Winona LaDuke, Executive Director of Honor the Earth, issued a video response from the White Earth Reservation in Northern Minnesota. After years of fighting against Enbridge’s efforts to desecrate Anishinaabe lands, Winona refused to give up the fight. In her words, “They’ve created their jobs. They put in their pipe. They won. They’ve committed a crime. And someone needs to stop them from making a profit off of that crime. Do something for the people. Stop Line 3 and give us a ‘just transition.’”

Line 3 is a project of Enbridge Inc., a multinational corporation headquartered in Alberta, Canada. Enbridge transports 30% of all oil produced in North America and operates 76,546 miles of pipeline across the continent. Last year, Enbridge reported yearly revenue of $39.853B, a 33.53% increase year-over-year. Line 3 is part of Enbridge’s Mainline System and runs 1,097 miles from Edmonton, Alberta, to Superior, Wisconsin. Line 3 transports ‘tar sands oil,’ a variant of oil that the Union of Concerned Scientists denounces as “a mixture of mostly sand, clay, water, and a thick, molasses-like substance called bitumen…[which] on a lifetime basis…produces about 15% more carbon dioxide emissions.” Built in 1960, Line 3 initially transported 760,000 barrels of oil a day. But, as of 2019, it could only transport 390,000, about half the amount. Enbridge Inc. announced its Line 3 Replacement Project on October 24, 2014, by filing a Notice Plan with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC). In Enbridge’s words, the Line 3 Replacement Project will “maintain … high safety standards…and restore the historical operating capabilities of Line 3.”

But, the story of Line 3 is not that of “safety standards” and “operating capabilities.” Instead, it is the story of Honor the Earth and the Anishinaabe’s resistance against Line 3. It is the story of ‘manoomin,’ and Turtle Island again being attacked by the “Black Snake.” And it is the story of the MPUC’s failure to honor treaty rights and protect the Earth. Line 3 was not a failure of the State of Minnesota but rather the logical consequence of a settler-colonial political system determined to destroy the Earth and any potential for Native sovereignty. Enbridge knew it would face a fight, as with the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL. But, this time, it came prepared. It assembled the Northern Lights Taskforce, “brought jobs to Minnesota,” and pursued every legal and illegal option available to nullify resistance to Line 3. Enbridge wielded its power to its advantage, and it won. But, that doesn’t mean that the resistance failed.

Andy Pearson, Midwest Tar Sands Coordinator at MN350, who was also detained at an MPUC hearing, said, “Although Line 3 is in the ground, the fight against tar sands and pipelines…is something that does continue and will continue. We’re seeing action against Line 5 in Northern Wisconsin, and we’ll see more work to build against the Enbridge Mainline System.” While Line 3 is just a single component of Enbridge’s vast infrastructure holdings across the so-called United States, Enbridge appeared determined to influence every unit of the State of Minnesota to its advantage. Despite resistance by Honor the Earth, StopLine3, MN350, the Giniw Collective, the Sierra Club, and many others, Enbridge was able to use the police, the legislature, and the PUC to neutralize the Anishinaabe people and affiliated water protectors.

Enbridge’s relationship with Minnesota law enforcement is well established. Before beginning construction on Line 3, Enbridge obtained a permit through the MPUC that outlined its financial responsibilities to the State of Minnesota, including Minnesota law enforcement. It states:

“Prior to construction, the Permittee shall establish a Public Safety Escrow Account…Local Government Units (LGU) shall submit in writing an itemized request to the Public Safety Liaison sufficient to recommend to the Commission’s Executive Secretary whether services rendered were additional municipal services uniquely provided as a result of construction of the pipeline during the term of this permit.”

While Enbridge didn’t explicitly approve of nor solicit this inclusion, it’s hard to imagine that they do not approve. The Northern Lights Task Force, a coalition of Police Departments in Northern Minnesota, including the Aitkin Police Department and Palisade Police Department, is also the direct beneficiary of this provision. The Escrow Account functions as a blank check written by Enbridge on behalf of the policing agencies in Northern Minnesota. There are few limitations on what can be included in a reimbursement request. And in documents obtained by The Intercept, one Aitkin Police Department Seargent expressed hope that “the pipeline will give us an extra boost to next year’s budget, which should make it easy for me to propose an upgrade/trade to your rifles rather than a rebuild of our 8 Bushmasters.”

Shanai Matteson, a Cultural & Campaign Organizer at Honor the Earth and lifelong resident of Palisade, Minnesota, was heavily involved in the resistance against Line 3. In one incident, Shanai was charged for, in her words, “conspiring, aiding and abetting trespass on critical public infrastructure” for making “a speech at a rally where I live, also known as the Welcome Water Protectors Camp.” On the 30th Anniversary of the Enbridge Oil Spill in Itasca County, Shanai was charged after officers “kettled and arrested dozens of people taking part in a memory march.” When asked about the relationship between the State of Minnesota and Enbridge, Shanai indicated, “What happened here in Northern Minnesota sets a dangerous precedent…with local law enforcement paid to police the property and profits of a private company.”

According to a Permit Compliance Filing with the MPUC, “$250,000 was deposited on May 8, 2020” into the Escrow Account. But, in total, Enbridge paid $2,171,008.84 to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and millions more to police departments across Northern Minnesota. Winona LaDuke, Executive Director of Honor the Earth, said she “was charged by a DNR officer first…so the guys charged with protecting us are the guys arresting us.” On June 15, 2021, Enbridge pierced an aquifer near its Clearbrook Terminal worksite. According to the DNR, as of September 5, 2021, 24.2 million gallons of groundwater had been spilled. As a penalty, the DNR ordered Enbridge to pay 3.32 million dollars. And yet, on September 10, 2021, Enbridge pierced another aquifer near the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation, spilling 220 million gallons of groundwater.

The Department of Natural Resources and the State of Minnesota did nothing to stop Enbridge’s criminal misconduct in Northern Minnesota. But that shouldn’t be a surprise. Enbridge bought off the police and was willing to accept whatever fine the DNR might levy, as long as it meant Line 3 was in the ground. Yet, at the same time, viewing Enbridge’s relationship with the Northern Lights Taskforce, the State of Minnesota, and the Department of Natural Resources through this lens of corruption or malfeasance doesn’t do justice to the nature or extent of the relationship. It is no mistake that the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation had 220 million gallons of water spilled into its Dead Fish Lake, threatening its wild rice harvest. Nor was it a mistake that Winona LaDuke, the ‘guardian ad litem for the Shell River’ appointed by the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, was arrested protecting the very river she swore to protect.

The Public Utilities Commission’s permit for Line 3 includes provision 6.11, titled Tribal Economic Opportunity and Labor Education Plan, which states, “The Plan must include…a discussion of how Minnesota-based tribal members and businesses will be given preference under the committed target.” Additionally, it demands that “The Plan…include: a discussion of a Regional Native American Training Program with the purpose of recruiting and training Native Americans in the region.” Enbridge employed 12,155 workers during its Line 3 Replacement Project, 295 of which identified as Native Americans and residents of Minnesota.

Even the Public Utilities Commission, despite serving as Enbridge’s puppet, recognized the plight of Native communities in Northern Minnesota.

Due to the legacy of displacement, assimilation, and extermination, Anishinaabe communities in Northern Minnesota have the highest poverty rates in the State. I.e., the 36.8% poverty rate on the Red Lake Reservation or the 37.9% poverty rate on the Leech Lake Reservation. If it could have a consciousness, Enbridge would not devote it to Minnesota, and certainly not the Anishinaabe. To Enbridge, the Anishinaabe are a resource and, at times, a nuisance. They are ‘people of the past’ and people to control. The MPUC urges Enbridge to “train” the Anishinaabe. But, here, “train” does not mean support or teach; instead, it means ‘to control.’ For Enbridge, it would be financially expedient to exterminate the last and only obstacle standing in the way of Line 3—the Anishinaabe who have stewarded the land for generations.

And while the Public Utilities Commission forbade “counterinsurgency tactics or misinformation campaigns” in Provision 5.5 titled Public Safety and Security, Enbridge didn’t listen. Documents obtained by the Intercept indicate that Enbridge launched an initiative titled “Opposition Driven Operational Threats,” which systematically documented and categorized Native individuals, tribes, and organizations into color-coded arrangements indicating whether or not they were a threat. In 2021, Enbridge event went so far as to purchase land near the headquarters of Honor the Earth (which they later sold after completing Line 3). While the relationship between Enbridge and the Northern Lights Task Force is well documented, Enbridge’s internally discussed strategy in directing the police against water protectors is less well known. Like a ‘black box,’ we know the result—nearly 900 arrests—but don’t know all of what went into Enbridge’s strategy.

While the battle against Line 3 is over, that does not mean that Honor the Earth or, for that matter, any other individual or organization involved in the fight against Line 3 has given up. Hundreds of water protectors are still facing charges, many of them, in StopLine3’s words, “with trumped-up felonies, with most of the felonies being bogus “theft” charges,” and a new campaign, “Drop the Charges,” has been launched to support those facing jail time upon conviction. But Enbridge hasn’t given up either. The fight against Line 5 is heating up in Michigan as Enbridge attempts to build a tunnel underneath the Straits of Mackinaw despite the opposition of the State of Michigan and the Bad River Tribe. When asked about the battle against Line 5 and why, despite the massive influence of a corporation like Enbridge, it’s still work fighting, Paul DeMain, Board Chair of Honor the Earth and Tribal Member of the Bad River Tribe, had this to say: “You know why? Because Enbridge fears the truth. And that’s what we’re fighting up against.”


 

Photo “Winona Laduke” by AK Rockefeller is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Niger Delta communities in ‘great danger’ as month-old oil spill continues

Niger Delta communities in ‘great danger’ as month-old oil spill continues

This article originally appeared in Mongabay.

Featured image: Barge transporting oil drums in the Niger Delta. Image by Stakeholder Democracy via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

  • Oil has been spilling from a wellhead in Nigeria’s Bayelsa state for a month now, with the local company responsible unable to contain it.
  • Experts say the scale and duration of the spill is so severe that it’s imperative that local communities be relocated for their safety.
  • Oil spills and other forms of pollution caused by the industry are common in Bayelsa, the heart of the oil-rich Niger Delta.
  • Companies, including foreign oil majors, are largely left to self-declare the spills that frequently occur, but face only token fines for failing to respond quickly.

Crude oil from a blowout has been pouring into creeks in the Niger Delta since Nov. 5, with the well’s owner, Nigerian energy firm Aiteo, unable to contain the spill and specialists called in to help.

The blowout, at a non-producing well in the Santa Barbara field in Bayelsa state, has caused extensive pollution of rivers and farmland in the Nembe local government area, according to the state governor, Douye Diri. According to the News Agency of Nigeria, he said Aiteo should not think that “this criminal neglect of its facilities and disregard for human life and the environment, as demonstrated by its conduct, will not be accounted for.”

In a statement released Nov. 22, the company blamed the incident on sabotage. “Aiteo remains committed to ascertaining, immediately the well head is secure, the immediate and remote causes of the leak which will be driven by a [joint investigative visit] that will follow,” it said.

The oil industry in Nigeria attributes many oil spills to sabotage by people trying to steal crude. Nigeria’s National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), which relies almost entirely on the industry itself for access to on- and offshore oil facilities, reports that around 75% of spills are caused by sabotage and theft.

The joint team initially despatched to the Nembe spill was unable to determine the cause of the spill, as the wellhead could not be accessed “due to hydrocarbon fumes that saturated the atmosphere in the area.” A video of the spill site, captured Nov. 29, showed a high-pressure stream of brownish liquid spraying through the creeks from a wellhead as technicians worked on the site.

The scale of the spill has overwhelmed local disaster response capabilities, and U.S.-headquartered oil-well control specialist Halliburton Boots and Coots has been drafted in to “kill the well,” a process that involves injecting cement into the well to plug it.

“Work is still ongoing at the site to stop the spill,” NOSDRA director-general Idris Musa told Mongabay last week, but all activities around the well were temporarily suspended Nov. 29 to allow the well-kill operation to proceed.

Decades of destruction

The Niger Delta is rich in biological diversity and natural resources. Its creeks, swamps and mangrove forests are home to fishing and farming communities as well as threatened species including manatees (Trichechus senegalensis), chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes ellioti), and the Niger Delta red colobus (Piliocolobus epieni).

But decades of oil production have made the region one of the most polluted places on Earth. NOSDRA recorded 639 oil spills in just the past two years, resulting in 28,003 barrels spewed into the environment, according to the agency’s data.

Bayelsa is where oil was first discovered in Nigeria, in 1956. In the decades since, oil spills from wells and pipelines have contaminated farmland and water bodies, and exposed residents to toxic chemicals. Flaring of gas has led to acid rain falling on the area, while contributing to making Nigeria the 17th largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

This environmental destruction has been caused by oil majors including Shell, Chevron and Eni. The Nembe well was bought from Shell by Lagos-based Aiteo in 2015.

“It is extremely disturbing because the trend we are seeing now is that international oil companies know that their equipment are dilapidated, and to avoid responsibility, they move offshore and sell to gullible local companies who think they can make profit and are not ready or equipped to [deal with] this kind of emergencies,” said Nnimmo Bassey, an environmentalist and founder of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), a prominent green NGO in Nigeria.

Dead and dying trees near the site of a previous Niger Delta oil spill in 2020. Image by Sosialistisk Ungdom (SU) via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Consequences — just not for oil companies

The impact of the Nembe spill on local communities and the environment is still to be determined, but Samuel Oburo, an environmental activist affiliated with Friends of the Earth, who lives about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Nembe, says villagers in the area have been badly impacted.

“I can tell you that the people there face great danger. They have started crying out. They have started experiencing strange illnesses due to the unfriendly atmosphere this spill has exposed the community to,” he told Mongabay over the phone.

But getting oil firms to clean up or pay for environmental crimes in Nigeria is difficult. Legal claims for compensation can take years, even decades, and companies are expected to pay relatively little in fines when they err.

NOSDRA’S regulations say oil companies have 24 hours to respond to the discovery of a spill. A joint visit by government agencies, company officials and community representatives should take place as soon as possible. But a 2018 study by Amnesty International found frequent delays, with some spills continuing for months after they were reported.

Shell, one of the largest operators in the country, visited spill sites within 24 hours on just 26% of occasions, Amnesty said. The slowest response time recorded was when Eni took 430 days to respond to a spill in Bayelsa state. “These delays point to serious negligence. Shell and Eni are wealthy, powerful multinationals: why can’t they act faster? Why can’t they do more?,” the report said.

But the penalties for noncompliance are negligible: 1 million naira ($2,400) for an initial default, and an additional 500,000 naira for every day after that.

“How much is N500,000 to an oil company?” NOSDRA’s Idris Musa said. An amendment increasing the fines is in progress.

Speaking to the ongoing spill at Nembe, HOMEF’s Bassey said that considering the apparent scale and duration of the latest spill, the safest option for residents of the area is to be relocated. “This area does not have pipe-borne water, and when the river is covered with crude oil, it means they have to depend on imported water,” he said. “Some may drink from that river because these areas are permanently polluted and they have no option. Children will swim in that river and people will drink from that river.”

“Crude oil contains very toxic heavy metals like lead; you know, lead affects a lot things concerning people, the nervous system, causes cancer. You have mercury in oil, you have cadmium, you have arsenic and benzene and many others,” he told Mongabay.

“So anybody eating fish from that river is in trouble already. So the relief that they are giving, I believe they should actually evacuate people from that territory at this time.”

Oburo agreed: “So long as the spill continues, there is nothing that can be done to restore the air quality. The only solution is to evacuate those people from there because their lives are precious.”

Bayelsa government spokesperson Dan Alabrah said the state is providing relief materials to communities, but had no plans to relocate them.

Statement from the Indigenous Environmental Network in Support of the Wet’suwet’en Peoples

Statement from the Indigenous Environmental Network in Support of the Wet’suwet’en Peoples

This story was originally published by the Indigenous Environmental Network.

The Indigenous Environmental Network condemns the actions of Canada as it inflicts settler violence against the Wet’suwet’en peoples, hypocritically breaking both Wet’suwet’en and Canadian law to push TC Energy’s illegal Coastal Gaslink pipeline through unceded territories.

By entering sovereign Wet’suwet’en territory with RCMP, dogs and assault rifles we are witnessing state-sanctioned violence on behalf of an Oil company, and such barbarous acts of violence inflicted upon Indigenous peoples cannot be defended. These attacks by RCMP are nothing less than Human Rights violations as defined by the United Nations, and acts of extreme detriment to the inherent sovereignty of the Wet’suwet’en. The Wet’suwet’en have asserted self-governance over their territories since time immemorial, and it is their inherent right to defend their lands, resources and bodies from foreign aggressors. They have signed no treaties nor have they relinquished title to their lands. They are not part of so-called Canada and have not consented to bearing the burden of the world’s dependence on an extractive industry such as oil.

We will continue to support the Wet’suwet’en in their struggle and call on others to join us in supporting our relatives. From disrupting business as usual to divesting from banks funding the theft of Indigenous lands, there are steps we can all take to stand with our relatives. These barbarous acts of violent aggression must cease and the inherent right to self determination must be upheld.

How You Can Help:
Over the past two days heavily militarized RCMP tactical team have descending on Coyote Camp with snipers, assault rifles, and K9 units,

In total, eleven people were arrested at Coyote Camp, including Gidimt’en Checkpoint spokesperson, Sleydo’, and Dinï’ze Woos’ daughter, Jocey. Four more were arrested at 44km later that day, including Sleydo’s husband, Cody.

Solidarity actions began immediately. Now is the time. Plan, organize or join an action where you are.

🔥Issue a solidarity statement from your organization or group and tag us.

🔥Host a solidarity rally or action in your area.

🔥Pressure the government, banks, and investors. http://yintahaccess.com/take-action-1

🔥Donate. http://go.rallyup.com/wetsuwetenstrong

🔥Spread the word. #WetsuwetenStrong #AllOutForWedzinKwa #ShutDownCanada

More information and developing stories:

Website: Yintahaccess.com

IG: @yintah_access

Twitter: @Gidimten

Facebook: @wetsuwetenstrong

Youtube: Gidimten Access Point

TikTok: GidimtenCheckpoint

Background:

The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs represent a governance system that predates colonization and the Indian Act which was created in an attempt to outlaw Indigenous peoples from their lands.

The Wet’suwet’en have continued to exercise their unbroken, unextinguished, and unceded right to govern and occupy their lands by continuing and empowering the clan-based governance system to this day. Under Wet’suwet’en law, clans have a responsibility and right to control access to their territories.
The validity of the Wet’suwet’en house and clan system was verified in the Delgamuukw and Red Top Decisions that uphold the authority of the hereditary system on Wet’suwet’en traditional territories.

At this very moment a standoff is unfolding, the outcome of which will determine the future of Northern “BC” for generations to come. Will the entire region be overtaken by the fracking industry, or will Indigenous people asserting their sovereignty be successful in repelling the assault on their homelands?

The future is unwritten. What comes next will be greatly influenced by actions taken in the coming days and weeks. This is a long-term struggle, but it is at a critical moment. That is why we say: The Time is Now. If you are a person of conscience and you understand the magnitude of what is at stake, ask yourself how you might best support the grassroots Wet’suwet’en.