U.S. Green Party’s Stein faces probe over North Dakota pipeline protest

WASHINGTON Authorities in North Dakota are investigating possible charges against U.S. Green Party presidential candidate for allegedly damaging equipment during protests on Tuesday over construction of an oil pipeline in the state.

Jill Stein allegedly was part of a group protesting the building of the Dakota Access pipeline and spray painted construction equipment, Morton County Sheriff’s Department said. Protesters also attached themselves to bulldozers and broke a fence, the department said.

No arrests were made, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said in excerpts of a news conference posted to the department’s Facebook page.

The department also posted a picture that is said showed Stein spraying paint on construction equipment. “Authorities are investigating this criminal act,” it wrote in the post late on Tuesday. Possible charge could include trespassing and vandalism, according to media reports.

Representatives for Stein could not be immediately reached for comment.

The $3.7 billion, 1,100-mile (1,770-km) pipeline project would be the first to move crude oil from the Bakken shale, a vast oil formation in North Dakota, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Energy Transfer Partners is leading a group of firms to build it.

The project sparked violent clashes during the weekend between protesters and security officers near the construction site, which several Native American tribe oppose, saying it affects areas where they have sacred sites.

On Tuesday, a federal judge granted in part and denied in part a temporary restraining order requested by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and a neighboring tribe.

The judge said he would decide by Friday whether to grant the tribes’ larger challenge to the pipeline, which would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw permits for the project.

Kirchmeier and other local authorities on Tuesday urged a peaceful resolution to the protests, which they said were continuing.

A Reuters-Ipsos poll in late August showed Stein, whose party promotes environmental issues, with 2 percent of voters in a field with Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republican Donald Trump and Libertarian Gary Johnson.

Stein was arrested for trespassing in Texas during her 2012 presidential campaign when she tried to take supplies to protesters opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Additional reporting by Julia Harte; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Trott)

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