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Support offered to online energy auctions in face of fierce protests

North Dakota law enforcement officials arrested protestors for inciting a riot over crude oil pipeline.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Trade group said the nature of protests against a North Dakota oil pipeline support a move to put some oil and gas lease activity online. Photo by Heinz Ruckemann/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/424c28c3c452a67cc139a088d8d15f36/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Trade group said the nature of protests against a North Dakota oil pipeline support a move to put some oil and gas lease activity online. Photo by Heinz Ruckemann/UPI | License Photo

DENVER, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Protests against a North Dakota oil pipeline that some authorities have said are violent supports a push to hold oil and gas leases online, backers said.

A federal appeals court during the weekend ruled that construction can proceed on the Dakota Access pipeline in the face of challenges to the extent of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers consultation with tribal groups concerned about the sanctity of sacred sites. Dozens of people were arrested in protests related to the project during the weekend for "inciting a riot," according local sheriffs in North Dakota.

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Some regional oil infrastructure was disrupted as a result of protest activity. Last week, the state government in North Dakota called for support from neighboring states to respond to the unrest.

The Western Energy Alliance, a non-profit trade association, said it was standing in support of a move by the federal Bureau of Land Management to hold oil and gas auctions online in light of protests against the Dakota oil pipeline and sabotage of other regional energy infrastructure.

RELATED Concerns raised over Dakota Access pipeline "riots"

"The extremism we see from anti-oil and gas protesters, such as the vandalism and sabotage in North Dakota, is cause enough for BLM to hold leases sales online," Kathleen Sgamma, a spokesperson for the alliance, said in a statement.

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Some of the parties concerned about the Dakota pipeline who contacted UPI said the police use of the word "riot" did not reflect the situation on the ground.

The Innovation in Offshore Leasing Act, introduced by Reps. Garret Graves, R-La., and Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., last month would give the federal Department of the Interior authority to hold offshore oil and natural gas leases online.

RELATED Dakota Access Pipeline poses an 'existential' threat, groups says in letter to Obama

Graves said moving the process to the Internet would increase competition and cut out some of the costs associated with holding leases in public space. The last lease sale for western parcels in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico was online in real time.

Environmental groups flocked to New Orleans, the site of the latest auction, to protest by suggesting devastating summer flooding in Louisiana was the result of the reliance on fossil fuels.

The House measure could be limiting in that it offers the federal government little time to switch to an internet-based system. Moving auctions online could also sideline groups opposed to oil- and gas-related activity.

RELATED House moves to hold oil, gas leases online

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