Activists attempt to shut down Enbridge pipeline in Minnesota

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UPDATE: 8:00 p.m.

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. (AP) – Activists from the Catholic Worker movement say four protesters have been arrested in an attempt to shut down an Enbridge oil pipeline in north-central Minnesota.

Spokeswoman Diane Leutgeb Monson says the four broke into an area containing shut-off valves for three Enbridge pipelines around noon Monday, then called to warn the company of their plans to turn off the Line 4 pipeline. Monson say Enbridge itself shut the line down remotely.

She says Itasca County sheriff’s deputies arrested the four around 1:30 p.m. Monday afternoon.

Sheriff’s officials did not immediately return a call.

Enbridge spokeswoman Juli Kellner says the protesters put people and the environment at risk.

A judge in September dismissed charges against three other activists who tried to shut down two Enbridge pipelines in northwestern Minnesota.

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Online video posted by “Four Neccessity” shows four people, described as Catholic Workers, apparently attempting to turn off valves to at least one Enbridge pipeline in Minnesota.

According to “Four Necessity,” the group tried to close pipeline valves to Line 3 and 4 in Northern Minnesota, citing “the imminent and irreversible damage being done to the climate.”

Four Necessity reports at least some of the people on scene were taken into custody. Calls to the Itasca County Sheriff’s Office were not immediately returned.

The group claims that the pipelines were shut off before anyone was allegedly taken into custody, but Enbridge was not able to immediately confirm those details.

“Having exhausted all legal and political avenues, we find it necessary to take this direct action of turning off the flow of poisonous tar sands oil,” “Four Necessity” posted on Facebook.

Enbridge calls the “pipeline tampering incident” something that put people and the environment at risk.

“The actions taken to trespass on our facility and tamper with energy infrastructure were reckless and dangerous,” Juli Kellner, a representative for Enbridge, wrote. “The people involved claimed to be protecting the environment, but they did the opposite. Their actions put themselves, first responders, neighboring communities and landowners at risk. While we respect the rights of individuals to safely express their views on the energy we all use, we take these matters very seriously and support the prosecution of all those involved.”

Mel Olson and Todd Rothe issued the following statement from Minnesotans for Line 3:

“What happened today is not civil disobedience. It is dangerous and potentially criminal activity that puts lives and the environment at risk. It is wrong and thankfully the Enbridge system prevented any accident from happening.  Claiming to be non-violent and wanting “justice” while trespassing and trying to damage an active oil pipeline is ecological hypocrisy. They could have created a disaster and put people and the environment at risk of serious damage.  Minnesota has rules and processes in place to regulate things like pipelines and it is not an option as to which laws can be ignored. We hope when these militant activists are prosecuted that this be treated as serious as it is to send a clear message that Minnesota does not stand for this.”

Rep. Sandy Layman, R-Cohasset, issued the following statement regarding the incident:

“These reckless actions threaten the safety of surrounding communities, first responders, and the protesters themselves,” Layman said. “Everyone has the right the protest, but trespassing on private property and tampering with critical infrastructure is dangerous and extremely irresponsible.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Photo credit: Brenna Cussen Anglada

Brenna Cussen Anglada
Briggs LeSavage

Briggs LeSavage

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