After disrupting the operation of two oil pipelines in northern Minnesota, two environmental activists were each charged Wednesday with two felonies in Clearwater County.
Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein, both of the Seattle area, were part of pipeline protests by Direct Climate Action in four states on Tuesday. The two closed emergency valves on two Enbridge Energy pipelines about 35 miles northwest of Bemidji, and then waited to turn themselves in to law enforcement, according to a spokeswoman for the activist group.
The pipelines transport Canadian crude oil to a terminal in Superior, Wis.
Activists from Direct Climate Action took similar actions on three other major pipelines transporting Canadian crude, all owned by companies other than Enbridge. They targeted sites in Walhalla, N.D.; Coal Banks Landing, Mont.; and Anacortes, Wash. All were arrested.
The Direct Climate Action website shows a picture of protesters using a bolt cutter to cut the chain securing the valve on Enbridge's pipeline near Leonard. They also used the bolt cutter to get through the gate of a chain-link fence surrounding the pipeline valve.
Protesters at other sites did the same thing, though some valves didn't have chains securing them, said Afrin Sopariwala, a spokeswoman for Direct Climate Action.
"We targeted the tars sands oil because it is the dirtiest fuel," she said, referring to the shale oil from Canada, which some environmentalists said spews more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than other types of crude. "But what motivates us in the larger picture is the climate change catastrophe going on."
Enbridge said Climate Direct Action's "attempts to tamper with energy infrastructure were reckless and dangerous." Shutting off emergency valves "put people and the environment at risk."
No damage was done to Enbridge's pipelines and no oil was spilled. Calgary-based Enbridge said it temporarily shut down the two Minnesota pipelines "out of an abundance of caution to protect communities, first responders and protesters. Operations are continuing as normal [Wednesday] morning. We don't anticipate any impacts to customer deliveries."
Johnston, 50, and Klapstein, 64, were each charged with "criminal damage to property of critical public service facilities, utilities and pipelines," as well as aiding and abetting the same crime — both felonies. The women were also charged with trespass on a critical public service facility, utility or pipeline, and abetting the same crime — both gross misdemeanors.
While the maximum sentences for each felony is 10 years in prison and/or $20,000, under sentencing guidelines the defendants are likely to get zero to one year in jail, said Clearwater County Attorney Rick Mollin.
Conditional bail was set at $10,000 for Klapstein and $5,000 for Johnson. Both were jailed Tuesday.
Other companies targeted by Climate Direct Action were TransCanada, Kinder Morgan and Spectra Energy.