Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Activists May Argue Pipeline Shutdown Was Necessary Due to Climate Change, Court Rules

Climate
Activists May Argue Pipeline Shutdown Was Necessary Due to Climate Change, Court Rules
Climate activists Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein shut down Enbridge's tar sands pipelines 4 and 67 in Minnesota on Oct. 11, 2016. Climate Direct Action

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Monday that four climate activists facing criminal charges may use an unusual "necessity defense" over their efforts to shut down a pair of tar sands pipelines owned by Enbridge Energy.

"Valve turners" Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein were charged after shutting off the emergency valves on the two pipelines in October 2016. Johnston and Klapstein, and the two defendants who filmed them, argue their actions to stop the flow of the polluting bitumen were justified due to the threat of climate change.


The action was part of Climate Direct Action's plan to shut down five pipelines across the U.S. that deliver tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada.

The pipelines targeted were Enbridge line 4 and 67 in Leonard, Minnesota; TransCanada's Keystone pipeline in Walhalla, North Dakota; Spectra Energy's Express pipeline at Coal Banks Landing, Montana; and Kinder Morgan's Trans-Mountain pipeline in Anacortes, Washington.

The case now heads to trial in Clearwater County later this year. This court's decision allows the defense to call on climate scientists and other experts to explain the threat of climate change during the trial.

"The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld our right to present the facts on the ongoing climate catastrophe, caused largely by the fossil fuel industry, to a Minnesota jury," Klapstein told the Associated Press in a statement. "As a retired attorney, I am encouraged to see that courts across the country seem increasingly willing to allow the necessity defense in climate cases."

The activists face felony charges of criminal damage to property and other counts.

In October, a district court judge ruled that he will allow the pipeline protesters to present the necessity defense for the charges. State prosecutors challenged the decision and the Minnesota Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in February.

According to the Associated Press, the three-judge appeals panel ruled 2-1 Monday that the prosecutor failed to show that allowing the necessity defense will have a "critical impact" on the outcome of the protesters' trials.

However, Appeals Judge Francis Connolly wrote in a dissenting opinion that the necessity defense does not apply "because there is no direct, causal connection between respondents' criminal trespass and the prevention of global warming."

"This case is about whether respondents have committed the crimes of damage to property and trespass. It is not about global warming," Connolly wrote.

This is not the first time a court has dismissed charges against a group of protesters using the defense. Last month, a Boston judge sided with 13 climate activists who were arrested for protesting the West Roxbury Mass Lateral Pipeline. The protestors argued the threat of climate change necessitated their civil disobedience.

People Have the Power - VOTE 2020

Climate-action nonprofit Pathway to Paris first launched in 2014 with an "intimate evening" of music and conversation after the People's Climate March in New York City.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Heo Suwat Waterfall in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. sarote pruksachat / Moment / Getty Images

A national park in Thailand has come up with an innovative way to make sure guests clean up their own trash: mail it back to them.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The 2020 presidential election poses a critical test of climate conservatives' willingness to put their environmental concerns before party politics. filo / Getty Images

By Ilana Cohen

Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.

But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.

Read More Show Less
Headquarters of the World Health Organization in Geneva amid the COVID-19 outbreak on Aug. 17, 2020. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday that 64 high-income nations have joined an effort to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine fairly, prioritizing the most vulnerable citizens, as Science reported. The program is called the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, and it is a joint effort led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Read More Show Less
Exterior of Cold Tube demonstration pavilion. Lea Ruefenacht

By Gloria Oladipo

In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air conditioned cooling centers. Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch