Sen. Paul Utke: Legislation needed to protect against repeated pipeline attacks

On Monday, four protesters were arrested for attempting to close pipeline valves for Enbridge’s Line 3 and Line 4 pipelines which stretch across north-central Minnesota. The activists broke into a facility in near Grand Rapids and were able to find the shut-off valves for three pipelines, but Enbridge was able to remotely shut the pipeline down before the protesters took any dangerous action. 

This is not the first instance where protesters have attempted to disrupt pipelines in Minnesota. Back in 2016 three protestors were arrested for attempting to shut down Enbridge pipelines in Northwestern Minnesota.

Sen. Paul Utke (R-Park Rapids) issued the following statement in response:

“The actions taken by the four protestors on Monday put themselves, first responders, neighboring communities and our environment at risk,” said Sen. Utke. “While all Minnesotans have the right to protest, there is a clear difference between the safe expression of your first amendment rights and actions that could threaten the public safety. I hope that Governor Walz and the new administration heed these attempts and work with legislators on solutions that will help.”

Last session, lawmakers in the Senate and the House approved a measure aimed at discouraging these dangerously illegal acts of protest. The law would have extended civil and criminal liability to any groups or organizations that recruit, trains, aids, or conspires with individuals who criminally trespass or damage Minnesota’s critical infrastructure such as airports, railroads, utilities, or oil or gas pipelines. Unfortunately, that bill was ultimately vetoed by Governor Dayton.

Senator Utke has been a long supporter of the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project. A study by the University of Minnesota Duluth determined the project would bring over $2 billion in direct and related spending. Additionally, the project would create an estimated 8,600 jobs, amounting to a payroll of $344 million over two years and an additional $19.5 million in property tax revenue annually.