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4 activists arrested in oil pipeline shutdown attempt

February 4, 2019

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. (AP) — Four climate-change activists from the Catholic Worker movement were arrested Monday in an attempt to shut down an Enbridge oil pipeline in north-central Minnesota.

The four broke into a fenced area southeast of Grand Rapids that contains shut-off valves for three Enbridge pipelines around noon Monday, said their spokeswoman, Diane Leutgeb Monson. After a period of prayer and offerings, she said, they then called to warn the company of their plans to turn off the Line 4 pipeline. But she said Enbridge shut the pipeline down itself remotely.

Itasca County sheriff’s deputies arrested the four around 1:30 p.m., she said.

Sheriff Vic Williams didn’t immediately return a call from The Associated Press but told the Star Tribune that four people were in custody in the incident.

The group spokeswoman named the four as Michele Naar Obed, of Duluth, Minnesota; Allyson Polman, of Denton, Texas; and Brenna Cussen Anglada and Daniel Yildirim, of Cuba City, Wisconsin. In a statement, they said they believed it was “time to take personal responsibility for preventing the dangerous expansion of the oil industry, because governments and regulators have failed to do so.”

Juli Kellner a Minnesota-based spokeswoman for Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge, said the protesters put people and the environment at risk, though no oil was spilled. She also said the company supports the prosecution of everyone involved.

“The actions taken to trespass on our facility and tamper with energy infrastructure were reckless and dangerous,” she said in an email. “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.”

Line 4 is one of five Enbridge pipelines that carry Canadian crude from Alberta to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The company’s plan to replace its aging Line 3 was the subject of long, contentious proceedings before Minnesota regulators, who approved the project last year. The Line 3 fight has now switched to the courts , where appeals are pending , as well as protests along the route .

A Clearwater County judge in October dismissed charges against three other activists who tried to shut down Enrbidge Lines 4 and 67 in northwestern Minnesota in 2016, saying prosecutors failed to prove that the protesters caused any damage. District Judge Robert Tiffany threw the case out even before the protesters could argue that the threat of climate change from Canadian tar sands oil was so imminent that their actions were necessary and morally right. Climate change activists have had mixed legal success using the “necessity defense” in pipeline protest cases in other states.

“All of those actions have definitely provided inspiration for this group although they weren’t linked to this group,” Monson said.

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