Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Activists’ Tampering Shuts Down Five Canada-U.S. Pipelines

  • Lines have total capacity of more than 2 million barrels a day
  • Spectra Energy, Kinder restarting lines after inspection

Activists acting in solidarity with protesters seeking to stop construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota temporarily shut five pipelines able to carry more than 2 million barrels a day of Canadian crude into the U.S.

Enbridge Inc. said protesters attempted to slow the flow of oil on a pipeline in Minnesota by using bolt cutters to tamper with valves, forcing Enbridge to shut two of its main lines running from Alberta to the U.S. as a precaution. Spectra Energy Corp. also said it shut a section of its Express Pipeline in Montana after activists trespassed and interfered with a valve. The company said it has restarted the line.

TransCanada Corp. said it shut the Keystone pipeline as a precaution. Kinder Morgan Inc. shut a section of its Trans Mountain line in Washington state, which has since been restarted. Despite the shutdowns, Canadian heavy crude prices strengthened to the highest level since July, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Growing Opposition

The incidents come in the midst of a growing wave of opposition to energy infrastructure projects. Many of the same activists that opposed fracking have also protested pipelines, which are subject to a more complicated permitting process and regulations that can vary by state. Last year, environmentalists scored a win when President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline.

Prominent activists that opposed the project, including Bold Alliance’s Jane Kleeb, have turned their focus to the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has also garnered national attention -- and the Obama administration’s intervention. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and environmentalists have said the line will damage culturally significant sites and pose a hazard where it crosses the Missouri River.

TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline and natural-gas lines in the Northeastern U.S. have faced criticism. Protesters interfered with a Spectra natural gas pipeline that will cross the Hudson River near Entergy Corp.’s Indian Point nuclear plant in New York state, occupying it for about 16 hours on Monday, company spokeswoman Marylee Hanley said.

They were arrested and didn’t damage the line or impede construction, she said.

“Trespassing is not acceptable and we will prosecute,” Spectra said in a statement. “The protesters today are placing themselves and first responders at risk by entering the pipe and positioning themselves in a confined space.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in February urged federal energy regulators to suspend construction of the line, saying it may pose safety risks because of its proximity to the nuclear plant.

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