Several climate-change activists were arrested Tuesday after shutting down five oil pipelines from Canada that can potentially carry nearly 15 percent of daily U.S. consumption, in the latest move by environmental groups to disrupt the movement of oil across North America to heighten awareness of the environmental and human dangers posed.
Protesters in Montana, Minnesota, North Dakota and Washington state successfully turned off valves on pipelines that flow from Canada's oil sands into the United States, said Climate Direct Action, adding that there were at least nine arrests
In a press release, the group said it had attempted to shut the pipelines in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has been protesting the construction of the US$3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline that would carry oil from North Dakota to the U.S. Gulf Coast over fears of potential damage to sacred lands and water supplies.
"We are acting in response to this catastrophe we are facing," Afrin Sopariwala, a spokesperson for the group, told Reuters. Together, the lines impacted can carry up to 2.8 million barrels of oil a day, equivalent to about 15 percent of daily U.S. petroleum consumption.
Sopariwala said protesters shut down the pipelines between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. local time by manually shutting off valves. In some places, they had to cut chains to reach the valves. She said the group had spent months researching how to safely shut down the pipelines.
"There is no plan of action, policy or strategy being advanced now by any political leader or environmental organization playing by the rules that does anything but acquiesce to ruin,” Ken Ward, one of the activists involved in the action, said in the press release.
“Our only hope is to step outside polite conversation and put our bodies in the way. We must shut it down, starting with the most immediate threats — oil sands fuels and coal."
The activist group also posted videos online showing the protesters breaking chains and turning the valves. “Our support team and videographer in Montana are being detailed by police. 9 have already been arrested,” the group said in their latest Facebook post Tuesday afternoon.
The incident is the latest in a series of actions by environmentalists and others in response to growing concern over the effects of fossil-fuel production on the environment and the potential effects on land and likelihoods of oil spills.
In its press release, the group further called on President Barack Obama to use his emergency powers to shut down the pipelines permanently, halt the construction of other ones as well as shift the country away from dependence on fossil fuels.
The most notable protest has been against the construction of the 1,100 miles (1,770 km) Dakota Access Pipeline, a project spearheaded by Energy Transfer Partners that would carry oil from North Dakota's Bakken shale plate into Texas.
The action against the Dakota pipeline has attracted more than 300 Native American nations from across the U.S., which Dennis Banks, one of the founders of the American Indian Movement, described as a formation of nationhood in a way that he had never seen before.
“And this what I felt was beautiful. I have not seen this kind of gathering and bringing in of support. I have never seen it in my entire life,” Banks told teleSUR’s Abby Martin in her latest “The Empire Files” episode.