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Protesters try to shut 5 Canada-US oil sands pipes; 9 activists arrested

Environmental activists on Oct. 11 tried to shut down fivepipelines that bring oil sands crude into the U.S. from Canada, in some casessuccessfully blocking liquids flow.

The activists, organized under the name Climate Direct Action,said they used manual shut-off valves on Enbridge Inc.'s lines 4 and 67 in Leonard, Minn.;TransCanada Corp.'sKeystone pipeline in Walhalla, N.D.; SpectraEnergy Corp's Express pipeline in Coal Banks Landing, Mont.; andKinder Morgan Inc.'sTrans Mountain pipeline in Anacortes, Wash.

TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper said in an Oct. 11 emailthat trespassers had tried to shut down the Keystone pipeline but failed to doso. However, the company closed off the pipeline temporarily "out of anabundance of caution" to investigate the situation.

Spectra Energy, too, temporarily closed off a segment of itsExpress pipeline after trespassers broke into a locked facility and tamperedwith a valve on the line, company spokesman Creighton Welch said in an Oct. 11email.

Kinder Morgan confirmed via email that activists had gottento a line on the company's Puget Sound pipeline system but that the segment wasnot in use at the time.

"Earlier this morning, reckless trespassers broke intoa location on Trans Mountain's Puget Sound pipeline system in Washington State.At the time of the incident, we were not operating through that portion of theline and their actions did not cause the release of any product," TransMountain spokeswoman Ali Hounsell said. "We are conducting a thoroughinspection to ensure the integrity of the pipeline system."

Enbridge, too, affirmed that activists had trespassed at thecompany's Minnesota facility and condemned the protesters' decision to tamperwith the pipeline system.

"The groups involved in this morning's activities claimto be protecting the environment, but they do the opposite and put the safetyof people at risk ­— including themselves, first responders and neighboringcommunities and landowners," Terri Larson said Oct. 11 in an emailedstatement. "We respect the rights of others to express their views on theenergy we all use, but this morning's pipeline tampering incidents involvingEnbridge and other pipeline operators were not lawful protests."

Climate Direct Action said that nine individuals werearrested across the four states in connection with the pipeline shutdowns.Enbridge said it would support the prosecution of all those involved withinterfering with the company's lines.

The protesters said in an Oct. 11 news release that theiractions were to highlight their opposition to fossil fuel use because of theresulting greenhouse gas emissions. Climate Direct Action's members have alsotaken a stand againstEnergy Transfer Partners LP'splanned 1,170-mile Dakota Accesspipeline.

"In the absence of any political leadership or legalmechanisms for accomplishing this, these individuals feel duty bound to haltthe extraction and combustion of fossil fuels by personal direct action,"the news release said.

In an open letter to President Barack Obama, the protestersasked that he invoke the National Emergencies Act to keep the pipelinesshut down, take legal action to stop coal and oil sands extraction, and askCongress to approve a plan to aggressively move the nation to renewable fuelsand champion a global movement to cut carbon output.

"We admit that this is a very difficult ask, especiallywith your limited remaining tenure, but … [y]ou have a moral and constitutionalobligation to take appropriate steps to safeguard the nation," the lettersaid. "If you take no action, you will have presided over the collapse ofcivilization."