​Activists’ tampering shuts down five Canada-U.S. pipelines

TransCanada's Keystone pipeline. Source: TransCanada

(Bloomberg) — Activists acting in solidarity with protesters seeking to stop construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota temporarily shut five pipelines on Tuesday able to carry more than two 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 Corporation 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.”

Dakota Access Pipeline

Meanwhile, Energy Transfer Partners LP is moving forward with construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, rejecting the Obama administration’s request that it voluntarily halt some work on the $3.8 billion project.

"Dakota Access looks forward to a prompt resumption of construction activities" the company said in an emailed statement Tuesday after an appeals court decision cleared the way for construction to continue on one segment of the project that had been blocked by a legal challenge. While work can continue on a stretch of private land near Lake Oahe in North and South Dakota, construction remains suspended by federal order on another segment, preventing completion of the project.

The company’s decision to resume work comes after several protesters were arrested trying to halt construction at the project earlier this week, and amid a broader effort Tuesday to shut down other pipelines bringing crude from Canada.

Securing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ authorization is the last hurdle for the 1,172-mile (1,886-kilometer) pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois, which is almost 60 per cent complete. Critics of the project are pressing ahead with protests despite the recent legal setback.

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