Sean Hackbarth Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


August 02, 2017


Taking strong stands publicly on issues is part of the American Way and so cherished that free speech is embedded in our constitution.

Unfortunately, some “Keep it in the ground,” fracking opponents have moved from peaceful protests to violence, while others waste public funds on Quixotic escapades.

First in Iowa, where two opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline stood before reporters’ cameras and confessed to damaging oil pipeline valves and committing arson:

Jessica Reznicek, 35, and Ruby Montoya, 27, both of Des Moines, held a news conference Monday outside the Iowa Utilities Board’s offices where they provided a detailed description of their deliberate efforts to stop the pipeline's completion. They were taken into custody by state troopers immediately afterward when they abruptly began using a crowbar and a hammer to damage a sign on state property.

The two women said they researched how to pierce the steel pipe used for the pipeline and in March they began using oxyacetylene cutting torches to damage exposed, empty pipeline valves. They said they started deliberately vandalizing the pipeline in southeast Iowa's Mahaska County, delaying completion for weeks.

Reznicek and Montoya said they subsequently used torches to cause damage up and down the pipeline throughout Iowa and into part of South Dakota, moving from valve to valve until running out of supplies.

The two women said they later returned to arson as a tactic, using tires and gasoline soaked rags to burn multiple valve sites and electric units, as well as heavy equipment located on pipeline easements throughout Iowa. They said they attempted again in May to pierce a valve in southeast Iowa's Wapello County with a cutting torch. But they were disappointed to learn oil was already in the pipe.

Ironically, the vandals wouldn’t have been able to employ their tools or get to the scenes of their crimes without the petroleum they oppose.

More importantly, they could have caused an oil spill, something they said they’re trying to stop. Oil pipeline are under high pressure, and tampering with them is extremely dangerous. “On the wrong pipeline, in the wrong place (actions like this) could kill people,” said pipeline expert Richard Kuprewicz in 2016 when a set of coordinated attacks took place on five pipelines in four states. These actions are reckless and put the safety and lives of people in the community, workers, and public safety officials needlessly at risk and in harms way.

Next, in North Dakota, taxpayers have to fork over $38 million to pay for police costs and the cleanup of the messDakota Access Pipeline protesters made along the Missouri River. (These people claim to be fighting for a clean planet.) Far from being peaceful, the protesters attacked security guards and launched Molotov cocktails at police.

Finally, in Youngstown, Ohio, instead of property damage there's been taxpayer waste. Since 2013, shale energy opponents have been waging a fruitless war to ban fracking at the ballot box, even though the shale boom revived manufacturing and created jobs in the city.

They’ve been losing at the ballot box, but local taxpayers are stuck footing the bill, Energy In Depth discovered:

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and documents from the City of Youngstown and Mahoning County Board of Elections confirm that the city has paid $19,219.55 advertising the six previous ballot measures. Each time the so-called Community Bill of Rights is placed on the ballot, the City of Youngstown pays approximately $6,000 in required advertising costs. The Mahoning County Board of elections has confirmed that $168,000 has also been paid by the City of Youngstown to print the ballots, additional advertising, ballot space, poll workers, and notes there are additional funds that have been paid to staff to count the votes.

Thousands of dollars more could be spent, since fracking opponents have collected signatures to put another referendum on the ballot.

Whether it is property damage, violence, or wasted taxpayer dollars, communities are paying a high price for fracking opponents’ protests.

About the authors

Sean Hackbarth

Sean Hackbarth

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.

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