This morning, three Seattle-based activists attempted to manually shut down the flow of tar sands oil in two separate pipelines in North Dakota and Minnesota, according to the activists' press contact for the Climate Disobedience Action Fund.
Six more activists, including a film crew, participated in similar actions at three other pipeline locations throughout the United States, including in Skagit County, the Climate Disobedience Action Fund reported.
Activist spokesperson Afrin Sopariwala said that nine activists in total have now been arrested, including the three Seattleites, two of whom were in Minnesota and one of whom was in North Dakota. The activists reportedly arrested in Minnesota were Annette Klapstein, a Seattle Raging Granny and familiar face at Shell No! protests, and Emily Johnston, a local organizer with 350 Seattle. Sopariwala said Michael Foster, one of the fathers of the children who sued Washington State over its emissions targets, was arrested in North Dakota.
The Clearwater County Sheriff's Department in Minnesota declined to confirm the arrests of Klapstein and Johnston and said that the protesters had not yet been booked into jail. The arrest in North Dakota could not be immediately confirmed, but the Pembina County State's Attorney's office said they would be issuing a statement about the pipeline protest soon.
"We had five activists go to five different pipelines across the country," Sopariwala, of the Climate Disobedience Action Fund, said. "We called the pipelines ahead of time, told them what we were doing, and gave them our contact information. We turned off the valves and put sunflowers into the pipelines to show a symbol of what we want our future to be."
It seems like some of the attempted valve shutdowns may have worked—at least temporarily. Enbridge reported that it shut down pipelines 4 and 67 at their Leonard, Minnesota valve site "after trespassers cut chains and attempted to turn off valves." Spectra Energy also told the Montana Standard that they received a 20-minute warning from the protesters and shut down their Coal Banks Landing, Montana pipeline in advance.
Kinder Morgan, however, reports that the action did not result in a shutdown. "Earlier this morning, reckless trespassers broke into a location on Trans Mountain's Puget Sound pipeline system in Washington State," a Kinder Morgan spokesman said in an e-mailed statement. "At the time of the incident, we were not operating through that portion of the line and their actions did not cause the release of any product. Local authorities responded and three individuals were arrested. We are conducting a thorough inspection to ensure the integrity of the pipeline system."
TransCanada did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to the #ShutItDown website, the protest was staged to show that "any hope of keeping temperature below even 2.0°C depends on a total ban on new fossil fuel extractions and an immediate end to oil sands and coal use." Activists involved in the actions posted an open letter to President Obama, asking that he invoke the National Emergencies Act to shut down tar sands pipelines, close all US coal and tar sands production, and put together a plan to transfer the country toward reliance on renewable energy.
The protesters have also expressed solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's months-long demonstration in North Dakota.
We'll update when we hear more.
UPDATE: The Pembina County State's Attorney in North Dakota confirmed three arrests and issued a statement saying that the TransCanada Keystone pipeline was shut down for seven hours as a result.