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UPDATE 2-U.S. Justice pledges to prosecute activists who damage pipelines

From Reuters - November 10, 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday pledged to prosecute protesters who damage oil pipelines and other energy infrastructure, a move that could escalate tensions between climate activists and the administration of President Donald Trump.

The DOJ said it was committed to vigorously prosecuting those who damage critical energy infrastructure in violation of federal law.

Attempts to damage or shut down pipelines deprive communities of services and can put lives at risk, cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and threaten the environment, a department official said in a statement sent to Reuters.

The statement was in response to a letter sent last month to Attorney General Jeff Sessions by 84 U.S. representatives asking whether domestic terrorism law covers activists who shut oil pipelines in October 2016. The DOJ said it was reviewing the letter.

The DOJ did not say whether it would investigate or prosecute the protesters who broke fences in four states last year and twisted shut valves on several pipelines importing crude oil from Canada that carry the equivalent of as much as 15 percent of U.S. daily oil consumption.

The group Climate Direct Action said at the time the action was in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has protested Energy Transfer Partners LPs Dakota Access Pipeline.

Last months letter to Sessions, spearheaded by Representative Ken Buck, a Republican, and signed by at least two Democrats, said that when a protester burns a hole in an operating pipeline it risks igniting the contents and killing not only the perpetrator but other innocent victims. The letter had no details on any protesters who had ever actually taken a blowtorch to a live pipeline.

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