BISMARCK, N.D. – Environmental activists who tried to disrupt some oil pipeline operations in four states last year to protest the Dakota Access pipeline said Tuesday that they aren't responsible for any recent attacks on that pipeline.
The remarks came in response to allegations that Texas-based Dakota Access developer Energy Transfer Partners made in court documents late Monday. The company said there have been "recent coordinated physical attacks along the pipeline that pose threats to life, physical safety and the environment," but did not say who was responsible for those alleged attacks.
Company spokeswoman Vicki Granado and company attorney William Scherman didn't immediately respond to requests Tuesday from The Associated Press for more details. Scherman did say in the court documents that ETP still plans to have oil flowing this week through the $3.8 billion pipeline that will carry North Dakota crude to a shipping point in Illinois.
Jay O'Hara with the Climate Disobedience Center told the AP that Climate Direct Action wasn't involved in any attacks against the pipeline, and he wasn't aware of anyone claiming responsibility.
In October, Climate Direct Action activists tried to shut valves on pipelines in North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Washington to show support for Dakota Access opponents. Other than that, "we have nothing in the works," O'Hara said.The Red Warrior Society, a pipeline protest group that advocated aggressive tactics such as confrontations with pipeline security and police in North Dakota last year, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
The pipeline runs 1,200 miles through the Dakotas, Iowa and Illinois. State officials in the Dakotas and Iowa on Tuesday said they were not aware of any pipeline attacks in their states. State officials in Illinois didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
The company's report didn't change the plan of authorities in North Dakota to reopen a stretch of highway that was closed for months due to pipeline protests. Part of state Highway 1806 was shut down in late October after a bridge was damaged by fires during protests.
Authorities on Friday began allowing public traffic with the assistance of pilot cars escorting vehicles over the 9-mile stretch near the site where pipeline opponents camped for months. The camps were cleared out and shut down late last month in advance of spring flooding season.
The highway was being fully reopened without pilot cars at midday Tuesday, according to Morton County sheriff's spokesman Rob Keller.
Authorities also are slowly shuttering a law enforcement staging area that was set up last summer in the protest camp area. There is no set timeline for removing the last officers and structures, but Keller and state Emergency Services spokeswoman Cecily Fong indicated it's likely to happen soon after oil begins flowing through the pipeline.
"That's going to be the sort of flash point for us," Fong said.