Pipeline companies along the Canada-United States border were forced to shut down five lines representing 2.8 million barrels per day of oil capacity yesterday, after Climate Direct Action members working in solidarity with Dakota Access Pipeline protesters in North Dakota tampered with remote flow stations in four U.S. states.
The protesters were arrested “after they cut padlocks and chains and entered remote flow stations to turn off valves in an attempt to stop crude moving through lines that carry as much as 15% of daily U.S. oil consumption,” CBC reports. “The group posted videos online showing the early-morning raids.”
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Enbridge Inc. “said protesters attempted to slow the flow of oil on a pipeline in Minnesota by using bolt cutters to tamper with valves,” forcing the company to close down its Line 4 and Line 67 pipelines at a valve site in Minnesota, Bloomberg and CBC report.
“Spectra Energy Corporation also said it shut a section of its Express Pipeline in Montana after activists trespassed and interfered with a valve,” Bloomberg states. “TransCanada Corporation said it shut the Keystone pipeline as a precaution. Kinder Morgan Inc. shut a section of its Trans Mountain line in Washington state, which has since been restarted.”
Activists also interfered with a Spectra Energy natural gas pipeline under construction near the Indian Point nuclear station in New York state.
Companies and pipeline experts said the intrusions could have caused environmental damage of their own, since “unscheduled shutdowns can lead to a buildup of pressure and cause ruptures or leaks,” CBC notes. “Closing valves on major pipelines can have unexpected consequences endangering people and the environment. We do not support this type of action,” said Carl Weimer, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, who called the protest a “dangerous stunt”.
Climate Direct Action spokesperson Arfin Sopariwala said the protesters trained for months to learn how to shut down the pipelines safely. “We are acting in response to this [climate] catastrophe we are facing,” she told Reuters.
Along the Dakota Access line yesterday, construction restarted on private land about 20 miles from a campsite where thousands of opponents have now been gathered for months. “Protesters said they’re discussing non-violent opposition measures, including chaining themselves to equipment,” CBC reports. In light of a court decision Sunday to lift an injunction on construction, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the U.S. government had both asked pipeline builder Energy Transfer Partners to stop work along a contested section of the project.
ETP “still needs approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work on a separate parcel of federal land bordering and under Lake Oahe, which the agency manages,” CBC notes. “The Corps said Monday it was not ready to give that approval because it is still reviewing whether reforms are needed in the way tribal views are considered for such projects.”
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