It’s been three years since the Dakota Access pipeline protests captured the nation’s attention. Some might remember it as a grassroots movement, but a closer look shows that’s far from reality. In 2016, as thousands of organized protesters masquerading as environmentalists left North Dakota, they left the state with damaged public property to fix, a massive mess to clean up, and a multi-million-dollar bill to pay. Needless to say, not exactly the aftermath one might expect from those whose protests are inspired by their concern for the environment.

 

So why should anyone care about it three years later? Because these same professional, organized, astroturf protesters have set their sights on yet another project being undertaken to update an aging pipeline, this time in Minnesota. Before we shrug it off or assume it won’t impact most of us, it’s important to understand what’s behind this opposition — especially if we care about reliable, affordable, and safe energy.

 

Groups like Honor the Earth and the Tides Foundation were behind the infamous protests in North Dakota. And though they presented themselves as grassroots activists, these groups are actually funded by billionaires like George Soros, Warren Buffet, and the Rockefellers. These deep-pocketed donors prop up these organizations and deploy them to attack our energy infrastructure, leaving the destruction of public property and significant costs to U.S. taxpayers in their wake.

 

Look at the facts: In North Dakota, the state was left with a bill of nearly $40 million due to policing the large protests, one that has yet to be paid. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent over $1 million and had to remove over 8,000 cubic yards of debris from the protesters’ camps. It took years to wrap up hundreds of criminal cases that stemmed from illegal activity during the protests that the state had to process. The billionaires aren’t the ones paying for the giant mess that these activists leave behind, either, but rather it’s at the expense of the state and local taxpayers they target.

 

What’s more curious is that these groups seem to only target pipelines. Studies show that pipelines are the safest, most reliable means to transport crude oil over other forms of transportation, like railroads. Over the last five years, the number of large pipeline incidents has decreased significantly. And not only are pipelines safer, but they also are less harmful to the environment than transporting crude oil by railroad. According to the Congressional Research Service, pipelines generally can provide safer, less expensive transportation than railroads and oil by rail has “raised significant concerns about transportation safety and potential impacts to the environment.”

 

It’s no secret that some of these large donors have a substantial stake in the railroad business, and therefore an ulterior motive in derailing the construction of pipelines, especially when it would decrease the need to transport oil by rail. This is all the more reason to be wary of the groups that these billionaires are funding to stage destructive protests.

 

Everyone should consider the real motives behind the groups — and their financiers — that are systematically targeting our nation’s energy infrastructure. A lot is at stake here. Updating our nation’s infrastructure is an important part of providing reliable energy to American families all across the U.S. We shouldn’t allow professional protesters working on behalf of billionaires and their interests to risk our access to affordable and safe energy.