Police Arrest Pipeline Protesters—And Get Paid by the Pipeline’s Owner

In just five months, an energy company has paid Massachusetts State Police nearly $773,000 for extra security details—as they’ve helped arrest protesters fighting a pipeline.

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

A controversial gas pipeline has Massachusetts State Police in its pocket, more than $770,000 in recent payments seem to indicate.

Since April, more than 70 activists have been arrested protesting a natural gas pipeline that would run through miles of Otis State Forest in Massachusetts. But while those protesters await trial, their arresting officers are earning serious money from Kinder Morgan, the energy company behind the pipeline. In just five months, Kinder Morgan has paid Massachusetts State Police nearly $773,000 for extra security details, according to invoices obtained by local activists and published by the Berkshire Eagle.

Kinder Morgan has been fined tens of millions for incidents involving pipeline explosions, oil spills, and deaths. But in April, the company won a federal contract to build the Connecticut Expansion Project, a natural gas pipeline between New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. That path takes the pipeline through Otis State Forest, a protected parkland in Massachusetts, where rare species live, activists say.

Within a month of winning the contract, Kinder Morgan was already planning to take on those activists. The company enlisted a special kind of security force: the state police.

Kinder Morgan declined The Daily Beast’s request for comment, stating that the company does not comment on police matters.

In June, the Massachusetts State Police sent Kinder Morgan a hefty bill. The invoice first reported by MuckRock this summer, revealed that Kinder Morgan had racked up nearly $116,000 in “pipeline security” and “pipeline authority” services from state police.

The invoice showed how many “security” hours individual state troopers had logged at the Otis Forest pipeline site—and each officer’s hourly rate.

The top hourly rate of $127.99 per hour went to two state police captains in April and May, the first invoice shows. That rate is above average for the two captains, who made approximately $200,000 in 2016, according to state salary documents. Other police were close behind, earning an hourly $111.59 on Kinder Morgan’s dime. Most worked security at the pipeline on eight-hour shifts.

But one of the captains earning an hourly $127.99 logged 16 hours in one April shift at the pipeline. Kinder Morgan paid him $2,047 for that day’s service. And by August, Kinder Morgan’s payments to state police would nearly double.

Invoices obtained by a local activist and shared with the Berkshire Eagle reveal four more months of payments. From April to September, some state troopers earned over five figures working as Kinder Morgan’s unofficial security force, with one sergeant earning over $19,000 across 24 shifts, and a captain earning over $13,000 for 11 shifts.

Kinder Morgan sent Massachusetts State Police $108,131 in June, $160,254 in July, $200,105 in August, and $188,339 in September, bringing the total to nearly $773,000.

Those rising figures mirror a rise in protests from local activists. In July, police arrested two dozen activists in Otis State Forest, after a demonstration at the pipeline site. Activists told MassLive they were having a protest picnic at the future pipeline site, and knocking on a Kinder Morgan office door in the area.

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Relations between police and protesters have since taken a turn for the violent. In early November, state police officers used a Taser on a 24-year-old protester who was running away. Law enforcement said the man was resisting arrest and shoved an officer who attempted to stop him.

But activists on the ground described police as showing up in excessive numbers. In a Facebook post, the environmental group Sugar Shack Alliance described protesters as being outnumbered three to one.

“As usual, ratio of law enforcement to water protectors and Sugar Shack and local residents about three to one,” the group wrote, “plus three police dogs... for the protection of the police we were told.”