(Repeats Thursday story with no changes)
By Nia Williams and Laila Kearney
CALGARY, Alberta/NEW YORK Oct 13 Pipeline
sabotage by environmental activists that shook the North
American energy industry this week had its roots in a 2013
protest off Massachusetts, when two men in a 32-foot lobster
boat blocked a 40,000-ton coal shipment to a power station.
Three years on, Jay O'Hara and Ken Ward, the activists
involved in the "Lobster Boat Blockade", helped mastermind
Tuesday's audacious attempt to shut five major cross-border
pipelines which can carry millions of barrels of crude from
Canada's oil sands region to the United States.
Protest group Climate Direct Action has said the action was
taken to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which is
protesting construction of the $3.7 billion Dakota Access
pipeline carrying oil from North Dakota to the U.S. Gulf Coast
over fears of damage to sacred land and water supplies.
O'Hara, Ward and a small group of climate-change activists
spent months preparing for the biggest coordinated move on U.S.
energy infrastructure ever undertaken by environmental
The simple plan's effectiveness highlighted the
vulnerability of energy infrastructure and left policy makers
and energy executives mulling how to safeguard hundreds of
thousands of miles of pipeline from the growing activist threat.
In early-morning raids, around a dozen activists wearing
safety coats and hard hats simultaneously broke into valve
stations above the pipelines in remote locations stretching
1,600 miles (2,575 km) across four northern U.S. states.
At the easternmost site, in Leonard, Minnesota, a city of
only 40 people about two hours' drive from the Canadian border,
Annette Klapstein and Emily Johnston scaled a chain-link fence
and used bolt cutters to unlock the shut-off valves, said Ben
Joldersma, a technology worker from Seattle who drove the women
to the site and filmed the action.
A similar scene played out at other stations and in minutes
activists had choked off supply arteries pumping as much as 15
percent of daily oil demand in the world's largest economy.
The sites were carefully chosen for both the natural beauty
of their surroundings and their technical specifications, O'Hara
said. Each site was at least 10 miles from the nearest pump
station, which activist research had showed lowered the spill
risk during an unscheduled shut down.
"They are simply little chain-link enclosures around those
valves that are sticking out of the ground," O'Hara said in a
telephone interview with Reuters.
The action was a rare instance of an environmental group
focusing on disrupting operating energy infrastructure.
Protesters have typically targeted the development of new
pipelines and plants, rather than stopping those in service.
The sites sit atop the main lines transporting crude to the
United States from Canada's oil sands. Environmentalists have
fought for years to stem oil sands output in favour of cleaner
"We have to shut these things down now, it is no longer just
about stopping new infrastructure being built," O'Hara said.
The group's preparation included questioning retired
pipeline company employees and experts to devise a plan to shut
down pipelines safely.
Some of the activists signed up for online safety training.
Others researched the legal implications of the action and spent
time scouting out remote installations as potential targets,
according to Reuters interviews with the activists and their
LOBSTER TRUMPS COAL
Three years earlier, O'Hara and Ward anchored a small
lobster boat at the dock in Massachusetts where the large coal
tanker was due to unload, preventing it from landing.
"It was our first high-risk, non-violent civil disobedience
action," said Marla Marcum, who provided on-shore support for
the two men. Marcum was referring to the legal risk of the
action, which could have incurred federal charges.
Buoyed by their success, Marcum, O'Hara, Ward and a fourth
activist, Tim DeChristopher, plotted more action.
"We began to imagine what it was that we thought was unique
... to fill the niche that no-one else was filling in the
climate movement," she said.
They founded the Climate Disobedience Center, which Marcum
directs. The center provided financial, planning and legal
support to the Climate Direct Action Group that executed
Ward, 59, of Corbett, Oregon participated in Tuesday's
raids. He had studied for but not completed a seminary degree,
"He is motivated from his position of faith," she said.
Three of the four have attended seminary school and the
fourth is a Quaker, Marcum said. The center is not a faith-based
organisation, but religion played a role in spurring the group
on, she said.
Wade was arrested in Anacortes, Washington, on Tuesday at
the site of a valve station operated by Kinder Morgan.
Anacortes was important in the genesis of Tuesday's raids,
said Afrin Sopariwala, spokeswoman for Climate Direct Action.
Ward and the other activists that switched off the valves on
Tuesday all participated in a protest in Anacortes in May that
blocked rail tracks carrying oil wagons to refineries, she said.
"That was pretty massive, but it still felt like we weren't
breaking into the national narrative," she said.
During the planning for the rail protest, a small group
including Ward came up with the idea of shutting down valves at
multiple locations on a single day, she said. Ward approached
others to encourage them to take part and was key in keeping the
plan on track, she added.
On Tuesday, the activists called operating companies and
emergency services 15 minutes before turning the valves to tell
them what they were planning, and where. In response, the firms
shut the entire length of the pipelines as a precaution.
In Minnesota, after shutting the valve, Klapstein and
Johnston rechained the site and waited for authorities,
Joldersma said. They placed a flower at the site "to symbolise
the kind of world we want to live in," he added. Police soon
arrived, arresting the two women, who were later charged with
criminal damage and trespassing.
The two said legal methods of protesting against climate
change were ineffective and without radical action the earth
would be irreparably damaged.
"My fear of that possibility is far greater than my fear of
jail," said Johnston in a statement posted by Climate Direct
"My love for the beauties of this world is far greater than
my love of an easy life."
(Additional reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; Editing
by Simon Webb and James Dalgleish)