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Four activists arrested in attempt to shut down oil pipeline

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

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

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, spokeswoman in Minnesota for the Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge, said the protesters put people and the environment at risk, although 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 fight over Line 3 fight has now moved to the courts, where appeals are pending.

In October, ajudge in Clearwater County dismissed charges against three other activists who had tried to shut down Enrbidge Lines 4 and 67 in northwestern Minnesota in 2016, saying prosecutors had failed to prove that the protesters had 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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