Dakota Access Pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners clarified its earlier allegations about the “recent coordinated physical attacks” on the 1,172-mile long pipeline, which is set to begin transporting crude oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois this week.

The developer said there was vandalism to aboveground portions of the pipe at shut-off valve sites in South Dakota and Iowa, it confirmed to The Associated Press yesterday (March 21). 

In Mahaska County, Iowa, Sheriff Russell Van Renterghem told the AP that whoever is responsible accessed the pipeline from under a fence. The vandalism was discovered March 13. In Lincoln County, South Dakota, the area wasn’t fenced, and the incident happened Friday (March 17). Offenders, who remain at-large, could face up to 20 years in prison.

The company took these cases of vandalism, including using a torch to burn a hole into an empty segment of pipe, to court to help ensure information like spill response plans and pipeline features stay out of the hands of other pipeline opponents who may take further action.

Such attacks can pose environmental risks by potentially leading to spills, but Jay O’Hara, spokesperson for Climate Direct Action, told the AP that the real danger is the pipelines. This group has coordinated direct actions against pipelines in the past, also at shut-off valve sites. He denies they were involved.

“The hypocrisy really lies in the pipeline corporations who say their pipelines are safe, say leaks don’t happen,” he said to the AP. “They blame activists who are trying to stop global cataclysm by taking action to point out what they do every day, which is leak and spill.”

(H/t The Associated Press)