Activists arrested after targeting U.S-Canada oil pipelines

(Scott Dalton/Bloomberg)
(Scott Dalton/Bloomberg)

Nine environmental activists were arrested Tuesday after claiming credit for temporarily shutting down five major pipelines carrying oil from Canadian tar sands to the U.S.

The group, which calls itself “Climate Direct Action,” said it turned off emergency safety valves for pipelines in Washington, Minnesota, Montana and North Dakota, including the northern leg of TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline.

The others targeted were the TransMountain pipeline owned by Houston-based Kinder Morgan, Houston-based Spectra Energy’s Express Pipeline, and Canada-based Enbridge’s Line 4 and 67 pipelines. The activists claimed that tar sands coming to the U.S. via pipeline came to a halt for the first time.

“Activists employed manual safety valves, calling on President Obama to use emergency powers to keep the pipelines closed and mobilize for the extraordinary shift away from fossil fuels now required to avert catastrophe,” said Climate Direct Action spokeswoman Afrin Sopariwala in a prepared statement.

The group was standing in support of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which is fighting the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline project.

Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain spokeswoman Ali Hounsell said “reckless trespassers” broke into its Puget Sound pipeline system in Washington.But the pipeline wasn’t operating at the time of the incident and no oil was affected. Three people were arrested at the scene there.

“We are conducting a thorough inspection to ensure the integrity of the pipeline system,” Hounsell added.

Enbridge’s two pipelines were targeted in Minnesota. The company said the activists’ actions were criminal acts that could endanger the public and the environment.

“The actions taken to unlawfully trespass on our facility, use bolt cutters to cut chains off our valves and then attempt to turn the valves to stop the flow of oil were dangerous and reckless,” Enbridge spokesman Michael Barnes said in an emailed response to questions.

“The groups involved in this morning’s activities claim to be protecting the environment, but their actions alone are inviting an environmental incident and put the safety of people, including themselves and potentially first responders and our employees, at risk,” Barnes added.

He said Enbridge temporarily shut down the lines out of an abundance of caution.

Spectra confirmed that people broke into a locked facility and tampered with a pipeline valve in Montana.

“Our first concern is for the safety of the community and the environment, and tampering with this important U.S. energy infrastructure will not be tolerated,” Spectra spokesman Creighton Welch added. “This pipeline provides a vital source of affordable, reliable energy to fuel the everyday lives of Americans. As a cautionary measure, we temporarily shut down this section of the Express Pipeline.”