Activists just disrupted Canada’s tar sands pipelines into the United States

Five oil pipelines into the U.S. were allegedly disrupted.

An activist allegedly shuts the Keystone pipeline in North Dakota. CREDIT: Climate Direct Action
An activist allegedly shuts the Keystone pipeline in North Dakota. CREDIT: Climate Direct Action

At least nine anti-fossil fuel activists were arrested in multiple states Tuesday after allegedly shutting down five pipelines that transport crude oil from Canada’s tar sands into the United States.

The activists and support crews were arrested during the morning hours in Minnesota, Washington, North Dakota, and Montana, Climate Direct Action said in statement. In solidarity with Dakota Access Pipeline protests, activists said they used manual safety valves to shut down Enbridge’s Line 4 and 67, Kinder Morgan’s Trans-Mountain Pipeline, Transcanada’s Keystone Pipeline, and Spectra Energy’s Express Pipeline.

“There is no plan of action, policy or strategy being advanced now by any political leader or environmental organization playing by the rules,” Ken Ward, one of the arrested activists, said in a statement. “Our only hope is to step outside polite conversation and put our bodies in the way. We must shut it down.”

Ward recorded as an officer approached him moments after allegedly tampering with the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline. In the video, Ward says he cut a lock to get into the station.

“Okay, right now you are under arrest for trespassing,” the officer then says.

Kinder Morgan said it’s inspecting the line to ensure its integrity. Meanwhile, Enbridge confirmed on its Twitter account that a pipeline had been tampered with. Enbridge called the actions “incredibly dangerous” and “reckless.” Enbridge and Spectra Energy are said to have shut off their lines for safety, Reuters reported.

It’s unclear if the activists actually managed to stop pipeline operations completely, but Climate Direct Action reportedly said the group had spent several months preparing to safely shut down the pipelines. The group also said police reached the sites within 20 to 90 minutes after the valves were turned.


“In the absence of any political leadership… these individuals feel duty bound to halt the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels by personal direct action,” Climate Direct Action said.

CREDIT: Climate Direct Action
CREDIT: Climate Direct Action

What’s been described as an unprecedented protest has quickly garnished attention on Twitter, where major environmental groups like have started using the #shutitdown hashtag as activists asked.

Canada’s tar sands are the third-largest proven crude oil reserve in the world, next to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Tar sands mining involves removing the top layer of organic matter — trees and plants — before heavy crude oil is filtered from the sand and clay below.

The coordinated action against tar sands pipelines comes days after a federal appeals court denied the request by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to stop construction on a portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a $3.8 billion project that has reignited the anti-pipeline movement across the United States.

Activists say stopping climate change depends on a total ban on new fossil fuel extractions, as well as coal use. They note a growing number of scientists have said aggressively halting greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels like oil is the only way to meet the Paris accord and limit warming below 2°C. Just last week James Hansen, former NASA director turned climate activists, said in his newest study that negative carbon dioxide emissions, or taking out carbon dioxide from the air, will be necessary to limit warming.