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ALEC, GOP Ignoring/Enabling Right-Wing Terrorist Control of U.S. Oil Infrastructure

The sight of a white-supremacist (and historically fallacious) “Three Percenter” flag in one of my neighbors’ yards here in Aberdeen got me reading about how insurrection-minded far-right radicals may be laying the groundwork to control critical energy infrastructure… and that crony-corporate conservatives like Kristi Noem may be helping them.

CAH, tweet from the mean streets of Aberdeen, SD, 2021.04.16.
CAH, tweet from the mean streets of Aberdeen, SD, 2021.04.16.

Last July, the DeSmog Blog reported that far-right Three Percenter militants were taking a lot of jobs in the Bakken oil fields and other petro-states:

According to a whistleblower who contacted DeSmog, Three Percenters have established a prominent presence at a Bakken oil and gas facility regarded as critical infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security. Militia-related patches, flags, and artwork have popped up across the Bakken oil patch, and a thriving gun culture among its workers has led to a Mad Max-mentality of chaos plaguing residents of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

…Paul Lehto is a 54-year-old former plant operator at the Lonesome Creek Gas Processing Plant, outside Watford City, North Dakota. During his tenure there in 2016, he says coworkers would “talk about automatic weapons all the time,” gather in common spaces to watch social media videos that featured demonstrations of people firing sub-automatic machine guns, leave articles of clothing with Three Percenter insignia lying around the workplace, and regularly wear the militia’s notorious patches, which typically contain the Roman numeral III, sometimes placed over a darkened American flag. During one conversation, he says a coworker spoke about hijacking a commercial jet.

Although Lehto says the comment may well have been in jest, it conveyed a “habit of thinking” that was worrisome and was part of his decision to eventually leave his job at the natural gas processing plant. “The constellation of issues around being a Three Percenter was probably the number one topic of conversation at work,” says Lehto. “These guys are basically supportive of the idea of some sort of eventual civil war in the United States of America” [Justin Nobel, “Whose Allegiance? Three Percenters Militia Working in Bakken Oil Patch Raises Concerns of Domestic Terrorism Risk,” DeSmog Blog, 2020.07.21].

What would a bunch of terrorists want with oil fields out in a desert? Maybe they could set up an ISIS-style energy and export supply, but they could also sabotage the nation’s fuel network to sow chaos:

Daryl Johnson, an expert on right-wing militia groups who from 2004 to 2010 served as the Department of Homeland Security’s senior domestic terrorism analyst, told DeSmog that this was the first information he has received of right-wing militia presence in the oil and gas industry. He was deeply alarmed.

These are operationally minded people with a paranoid worldview that believe at some point there is going to be a societal collapse,” said Johnson, who authored the 2012 book, Right-Wing Resurgence: How A Domestic Terrorist Threat Is Being Ignored. “What militias like this do is conduct surveillance and find facilities they will either need to take over or attack when ‘shit hits the fan.’ When they are working, they are also thinking about what else they would need to do to bring the plant to its knees. They may follow the order of their commander or act on a lone wolf instinct, and their allegiance lies not with their employer but with the militia, although they might think they are doing something righteous and good for the country” [Nobel, 2020.07.21].

Domestic terror from right-wing radicals like the Three Percenters in the Bakken, not to mention the Three Percenters who planned and participated in insurrection at the Capitol in January, is the greatest security risk this nation faces. Yet the only legislative action we’ve seen to protect oil pipelines and other critical infrastructure from terrorists has targeted left-wing groups who protest the building of such facilities:

…[S]o-called “critical infrastructure” laws… implement harsh fines and criminal penalties on activists who protest fossil fuel projects by trespassing on grounds. Since 2018, at least 13 states have passed laws empowering police officers to crack down on climate protesters at energy facilities.

The laws are all drafted by the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, and promoted heavily by fossil fuel companies and industry trade groups. At least three of those laws were passed in the early days of the pandemic.

ALEC, ONEOK, and other fossil fuel industry players say these laws are necessary because most of their facilities are deemed “critical infrastructure” by the Department of Homeland Security. Proponents have said protesters who attempt to interfere with operations should be treated as domestic terrorists.

But neither ALEC nor its industry supporters have proposed any law or policy to prevent people affiliated with right-wing anti-government groups from working inside their “critical infrastructure” facilities [Emily Atkins, “Big Oil’s Extremist Hypocrisy,” Heated, 2021.01.14].

Governor Kristi Noem has been one of the passionate peddlers of anti-protestor pipeline protection laws. Yet such laws seem to be a ruse, demonizing valid First Amendment expression by stoking baseless fears of nearly non-existent left-wing terrorism to distract us from the real terrorists barely behind the curtain, the violent right-wing apartheidists whose rabidity (rabor?) fueled the rise of the previous federal executive and the current South Dakota executive. Our Republican leaders tell us we should ban immigrants from the state. They warn that terrorists look like strangers “of mixed racial background,” when really the terrorists look like the scruffy, bulky white guys in camo and Carhartts infiltrating the Bakken oil facilities, buying ammo at Runnings, and flying Three Percenter flags in their Aberdeen yards.

South Dakota Republican’s attacks on immigrants and environmental protestors aren’t just un-American and un-Constitutional; they are part of a smokescreen blown by Big Oil that distracts from and enables the real threat of white-supremacist terrorism against our energy infrastructure and insurrection against our nation. We need to be less distracted and more vigilant about the big-picture danger that politicking like Kristi Noem’s poses to our Republic.


  1. jerry 2021-04-16 13:04

    With the emblems, easy to identify.

    “An Indiana man accused of being a longtime member of the Oath Keepers pleaded guilty Friday to illegally entering the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot, an important milestone in the government’s effort to understand the forces behind the siege.”

  2. Richard Schriever 2021-04-16 14:43

    Aren’t the petro-industrial types the cornerstone of Russian oligarchism? Just a consideration.

  3. Mark Anderson 2021-04-16 15:09

    This goes way back, when I was in grad school at USD I traded a work of mine to get a painting by Gordan Kohl’s niece. My wife never let’s me display it, it suggests violence. Its an egg tempra. Its a good painting based on events surrounding, the Posse Comitatus. The FBI was watching her, this was the year they killed him. The Posse Comitatus had followers all over the state. They were a serious group. She was just documenting them.. To think that North Dakota was the first socialist government in the world. The early settlers had brains, I wouldn’t worry about the three percenters, they don’t.

  4. John Dale 2021-04-16 18:33

    Right wing terrorists?


    Well .. so ..





  5. mike from iowa 2021-04-16 18:49

    Indianapolis mass murderer/domestic terrorist was a wasicu wastey, probabkly afraid of 5g and fake covid pandemic.

  6. Porter Lansing 2021-04-16 18:50

    The groups and lone wolf operatives Cory mentioned are under continual surveillance.
    Dems are running the bingo, now.

  7. leslie 2021-04-17 10:43

    There are other “right wing-domestic terrorists” sitting on SCOTUS, you might say, over Dale’s trolling. “Friday night was the seventh time this term that the Supreme Court has issued an emergency injunction pending appeal. All seven were in COVID free-exercise cases. The first was in November, in ‘Roman Catholic Diocese’. Before November, it had been five years since the court had issued an emergency injunction….these “decisions” are… flouting and defying its own internal standards and rules for this kind of relief simply because they like the result. [“they”-conservative justices Thomas, Alito and Trump’s trio of Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett (emphasis added)] In the process, they (hypocritically) attack [ad hominem] critics for being insufficiently sensitive to religious liberty. And that’s a preposterous claim. These rules exist for a reason. If the justices are going to defy them or change them, the very least they can do is tell us that.”

    Instead this conservative majority is changing free exercise rules and appellate procedure in secret. WWJD:) ??

    Like right wing-domestic terrorists. Dale, Proud Boys dressed incognito, used subterranean radio channels, and terrorist leader Spazz (who first broke the bullet proof-hardened window out on 1.06.21 yelling “Go, Go, Go” to “his” stack of kevlar-clad, armed commandos, said upon arrest that his communication ear piece was for listening to music.” This was a right-wing, Republican Insurrection. (c)leslie 4.17.21

    Spazz went on the hunt for Pence on the Senate side chased decorated former military hero/Officer Eugene Goodman defending Congress, up and down staircases and hallways.

  8. Arlo Blundt 2021-04-17 19:18

    well…3 percenters in Watford City?? No surprise, here. A very isolated part of isolated North Dakota. Not much competing information coming in to that environment, and as Mark points out NoDak has a long history of outlying conservative fringe groups….like SoDak.

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