BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Civil liberties advocates sued the U.S. government Tuesday, alleging law enforcement agencies have been maneuvering to crack down on anticipated protests over the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and its Montana affiliate filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Missoula against the Defense, Homeland Security, Interior and Justice departments.
They asked the court to order the release of all documents about cooperation between federal, state and local law enforcement and private security companies over the disputed pipeline.
They cited confrontations between law enforcement and protesters, including many Native Americans, that turned violent during construction of another crude oil project, the Dakota Access Pipeline through South Dakota.
"We don't want to see that kind of governmental overreach and abuse in our state," ACLU of Montana executive director Caitlin Borgmann said. "We are very concerned about the specter of government and law enforcement officials plotting to silence opposition" to Keystone XL.
The pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil daily from Canada through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska. It was approved by President Donald Trump in March 2017, a decision that's been challenged in court.
A judge in that case last month ordered federal officials to conduct a more thorough review of the project after the Nebraska Public Service Commission approved an alternative route for the line through Nebraska.
On the lawsuit, Homeland Security spokeswoman Katie Waldman said the agency does not comment on litigation.
The Interior Department referred questions to the Justice Department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Defense Department did not immediately respond to questions.
The lawsuit included emails obtained by the ACLU under a public records request in which federal officials discussed the establishment of an "interagency team" to coordinate security of Keystone XL construction.
Also included was a Homeland Security analysis from last year on attacks on pipelines by "environmental rights extremists." The document focused in part on activists who sought to shut down five pipelines along the U.S.-Canada border by illegally closing valves on the lines.