The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Activists May Argue Pipeline Shutdown Was Necessary Due to Climate Change, Court Rules
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 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.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
It's become a familiar story with the Trump administration: Scientists write a report that shows the administration's policies will cause environmental damage, then the administration buries the report and fires the scientists.
By Jake Johnson
Calling the global climate crisis both the greatest threat facing the U.S. and the greatest opportunity for transformative change, Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled today a comprehensive Green New Deal proposal that would transition the U.S. economy to 100 percent renewable energy and create 20 million well-paying union jobs over a decade.
The Parties to CITES agreed to list giraffes on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) today at the World Wildlife Conference or CoP18 in Geneva. Such protections will ensure that all giraffe parts trade were legally acquired and not sourced from the poached giraffes trade and will require countries to make non-detriment findings before allowing giraffe exports. The listing will also enable the collection of international trade data for giraffes that might justify greater protections at both CITES and other venues in the future.
The WHO stressed that more research is needed on the potential health risks of microplastic ingestion. luchschen / iStock / Getty Images Plus
The UN's health agency on Thursday said that microplastics contained in drinking water posed a "low" risk at their current levels.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) — in its first report on the potential health risks of microplastic ingestion — also stressed more research was needed to reassure consumers.