Canadian energy giant ‘funding’ Oregon sheriff’s unit to thwart protests against one of its own pipeline projects – report
A Canadian fossil fuel company “bought” a sheriff’s unit in Oregon with the aim of controlling and monitoring the behavior and activities of anti-gas pipeline activists and environmentalists, the Intercept has revealed.
In November 2018, Coos County Sheriff’s Office – which has closely monitored local opposition to the Jordan Cove Energy Project – hosted a two-day training event for officers, instructing them on how to deal with battles against protesters.
Yet, the event costs of $26,250 were paid by Pembina Pipeline Corp. – the Canadian energy company that owns the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas project, which the Trump administration has named as one of its high-priority infrastructure projects.
Not only did it cover the costs of the police training event, Pembina for four years was the “sole funding source” of a unit within the sheriff’s office dedicated to handling security concerns around the pipeline development, according to a new investigation by the Intercept.
Despite the fact that the energy project still needs to be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, between 2016 and 2020 the sheriff’s department reportedly spent $2 million of Pembina’s cash, using the money to purchase riot gear, monitor activists and coordinate intelligence-gathering operations with “private security companies” that worked with the Canadian energy giant. A decision by the FERC was expected on February 13, but was delayed by another week.
The financial arrangement was put on hold in April 2019, but Coos County Sheriff Craig Zanni said the partnership is likely to be renewed, the report said.
At the same time, on behalf of Pembina, communications and intelligence operations on Jordan Cove were led by global consulting firm Teneo, which was founded by former aides to Bill and Hillary Clinton.
It was also uncovered that one of the workshops given at the 2018 Coos County training event was led by employees of a Washington DC-based company called Delve, which is affiliated with the Republican Party and worked with police during massive protests against the Dakota Access pipeline in 2016. Another workshop was led by the TigerSwan defense firm which had been criticized for its aggressive and militaristic handling of the Dakota Access pipeline protests.
Pembina money was also used to pay for repairs to a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle developed for use in war zones, but which was deployed during 2016 Ferguson riots and at the Standing Rock protests.
Local environmentalists and tribal members say the Jordan Cove pipeline will damage vital waterways and violate indigenous sovereignty. It would cross more than 300 waterways along the 229-mile planned route to the coast. Property owners could also see their private land seized under eminent domain if the project is approved.
One such landowner, Larry Mangan, a retired Bureau of Land Management biologist, told the Intercept that it was “almost unthinkable that our local police force would be so invested” in shutting down opposition to the project.
It is not wholly unusual for law enforcement agencies in the US to receive funding for equipment from corporations, but the practice has been criticized by civil liberties groups who say it benefits vested interests and enables corruption.
The Intercept, which based its investigation on more than 15,000 pages of documents obtained via open records requests, said the Coos County funding is an “extreme example” of a trend whereby corporations are “developing creative means” to funnel millions into law enforcement agencies and propaganda efforts to suit their own agendas.
Jordan Cove activists told the website they weren’t surprised by the surveillance. “This should clarify for anyone who still doubts which side the cops are really on and who they are invested in serving,” activist Holly Mills said.
Police departments and their corporate partners are not just monitoring anti-pipeline activity, however. They are actively interfering in public propaganda wars and organizing counter campaigns to suppress political protests.
In 2017, the Intercept said, two former TigerSwan consultants, Robert Rice and Nate Johnson, met with North Dakota residents concerned about the Standing Rock protests. Rice suggested to the group that they start a non-profit and come up with a catchy name like “Moms Against Violent Activists” to agitate against activists online. He said “a lot of companies would throw money” at a group like that.
“If you did it right, you could probably get anonymous donations from interested parties. Cough — oil — cough,” he said, according to an audio recording of the meeting heard by the Intercept.
Those are the kinds of tactics that would raise serious constitutional questions if they were being taught to and employed by law enforcement, ACLU attorney Kelly Simon told the Intercept.
When an attendee asked Rice if he had a vested interest in the issue, he said he had no vested interest “other than enjoying the shenanigans.”
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