October 4 2019, 7:01 a.m.
TWO WOMEN WHO vandalized the Dakota Access pipeline in an effort to halt construction have been indicted on charges that carry up to 110 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. They are among the harshest penalties environmental activists have faced in the last decade.
Civil liberties lawyers say the charges are in line with industry-inspired scare tactics meant to deter citizens from participating in direct-action protests or acts of sabotage against oil and gas companies. As the deadly impacts of carbon emissions grow ever clearer, the fossil fuel industry has increased pressure on lawmakers and government officials to penalize those who would inhibit their projects’ operations.
At the same time, a growing number of activists have demonstrated willingness to break laws in order to highlight the urgency of the climate emergency and other ecological crises. Ruby Montoya and Jessica Reznicek, who stand accused of damaging pipeline valve sites using a welding torch, “tires ignited by fire, and gasoline-soaked rags,” are part of that trend.