Pipeline Activists Charged With Felonies In Clearwater County
Two activists who tampered with Enbridge pipeline valves Tuesday in solidarity with Dakota Access Pipeline opponents have been charged with felonies in Clearwater County.
Emily Nesbitt Johnston, 50, of Seattle, and Annette Marie Klapstein, 64, of Bainbridge Island, Wash., were each charged Wednesday, with two felony counts related to criminal damage to property of critical public facilities, utilities and pipelines, and two gross misdemeanor charges of trespassing.
The women were part of a group called Climate Direct Action that tried to shut down five pipeline valves – two pipelines in Minnesota, one in North Dakota, one in Montana and one in Washington state – on Tuesday morning. All of the lines move oil from Canada to the United States.
According to a complaint, Clearwater County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a protest at the Enbridge pipeline valve site near Leonard, Minnesota. Officers confirmed the women were not authorized on the property after noticing them inside the gated and enclosed area of the valve site.
A video taken shows that the women had used bolt cutters to cut padlocks and chains to access the pipeline valves at the facility.
Each felony counts could carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and a $20,000 fine. Each gross misdemeanor charge carries a maximum of one year and $3,000 fine.
Pipeline officials said their attempt did not disrupt oil delivery. An Enbridge spokesperson said pipelines at four of the sites were temporarily shut down before the protesters could reach the valves.
In a Tuesday statement to Lakeland News, an Enbridge spokesperson called the tampering “reckless and dangerous,” and will support the prosecution of those involved.
The protest group said 10 people have been arrested as of Tuesday evening.