Environmental Extremists


  • Environmental extremists view manmade threats to the environment as so severe that violence and property damage are justified to prevent further destruction. Groups such as the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Earth First! adopt a “by any means necessary” approach, although violent tactics such as arson are considered a last resort. ELF considers acts of property destruction as “non-violent” because no human beings or animals are intentional targets.

  • ELF ideology adopts a leaderless resistance model and has no formal membership. Adherents engage in the destruction of property and criminal activity, such as graffiti, trespassing, vandalism, sabotage, and arson, to inflict economic loss.

  • Environmental extremist activity is largely limited to the west coast, in California, Washington, and Oregon.

Threat to New Jersey: Low

Environmental extremists are not active in New Jersey because grassroots organizations throughout the State take an active role in environmental issues, reducing the perceived need for violent and criminal activity. Environmental agencies at the State and federal levels conduct aggressive oversight and prosecutions of environmental extremists, contributing to the low threat level. There have been no documented violent incidents involving environmental extremists in New Jersey since 1998.

  • Conservation groups in New Jersey routinely join forces to oppose projects they deem detrimental to the environment, such as natural gas and oil pipelines that could cause pollution.

  • Environmental activists in New Jersey continue to oppose the PennEast pipeline, citing negative environmental impacts and loss of preserved open space. These organized protests have been peaceful and non-violent, although some private landowners have refused to give surveyors access to their property, which has slowed the project.

New Jersey Nexus

  • Activists in New Jersey and the tri-state region are involved in the fight against a number of pipeline construction projects, including in New Jersey. While there is no supporting evidence to suggest ties to extremists, contractors in the Greater Philadelphia area saw some damage to construction equipment in 2018.

  • According to PennEast, the 120-mile pipeline will originate in Dallas, Luzerne County, in northeastern Pennsylvania and terminate at Transco’s pipeline interconnection near Pennington (Mercer County). The project is moving forward, and PennEast expects to begin construction and operations this year.

For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at analysis@njohsp.gov or 609-584-4000.