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Enbridge resumes use of 2 MN pipelines targeted by protesters

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Oil pipeline
In this 2014 file photo, a technician works on an Enbridge-owned crude oil pipeline in northern Minnesota.
Ann Arbor Miller | MPR News

Activists protesting the transport of heavy crude oil from Canada targeted five pipelines in the northern United States on Tuesday, including two operated by Enbridge in northern Minnesota.   

Enbridge spokesperson Shannon Gustafson said the company temporarily shut down Lines 4 and 67 as a safety precaution after two activists attempted to close a shut-off valve.   

The two pipelines are part of a network that carries hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day from Alberta's oil sands region across northern Minnesota to the Enbridge pipeline hub in Superior, Wis. From there the oil is transported to refineries around the Midwest. 

Protesters calling themselves Climate Direct Action, with support from the Vermont-based Climate Disobedience Action Fund, said they also caused shutdowns of pipelines in Washington, Montana and North Dakota. 

  In a statement, the group said the action was taken in solidarity with protesters fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation along North Dakota's border with South Dakota.   

The group said it's also calling on the president "to use emergency powers to keep the pipelines closed and mobilize for the extraordinary shift away from fossil fuels now required to avert [climate] catastrophe."

Emily Johnston, 50, of Seattle, Wash., and Annette Klapstein, 64, of Bainbridge Island, Wash., used bolt cutters to sever chains at an Enbridge valve site near Leonard, Minn. Both were arrested.   

Ben Joldersma filmed the action and posted several videos online. He called Enbridge to notify the company of the group's plans.   

"We must immediately halt the extraction and burning of Canadian tar sands," he told the operator. "For safety, I am calling to inform you that when I hang up this phone, we are closing the valves. Please shut down these two pipelines now for safety and for our future." 

Enbridge's Shannon Gustafson said at that point the company had already shut down the two lines "out of an abundance of caution, to protect our communities, first responders, and the protesters themselves."   

She said Enbridge had been alerted ahead of time about the activists' plans. 

  Gustafson said crews then conducted further investigation to determine whether the lines were safe to operate. The company was reporting normal system operations Tuesday afternoon, and Gustafson said it expected no effect on deliveries to customers.

"These are criminal acts that endanger the public and the environment and we take these very seriously," Gustafson said. "And we'll support prosecution of those involved."