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Four pipeline activists arrested in Itasca County

The "Four Necessity Valve Turners" prepare to protest in Itasca County. (Photo courtesy of the "Four Necessity Valve Turners")

A group of four Catholic Workers were arrested Monday after entering a fenced-off area along Enbridge Energy's oil pipeline system in Itasca County and protesting oil industry expansion, citing the need to cut fossil fuels to curb climate change.

Videos posted to Facebook show the group, which call themselves the "Four Necessity Valve Turners" entering a fenced-off area along Enbridge's mainline corridor — a system of five pipelines that cut across northern Minnesota carrying oil from Alberta to the Enbridge Superior terminal — then tampering with valves onsite as they hold a rosary and sing hymns. The series of live videos end shortly after a law enforcement officer arrives on scene.

"The Four Necessity Valve Turners believe it is time to take personal responsibility for preventing the dangerous expansion of the oil industry, because governments and regulators have failed to do so," the group said in a statement, which identifies Allyson Polman, Brenna Cussen Anglada, Michel Naar Obed and Daniel Yildirim as the activists in the videos.

Catholic Workers in the area have been part of the pipeline protests since at least April 2018 and the Catholic Worker Movement is made up of people whose lives are spent advocating justice for others.

"The group acts in solidarity with the most vulnerable worldwide who suffer the greatest impact from climate change," the group said Monday.

The group claimed to have disrupted service to several of the pipelines, but Enbridge spokesperson Juli Kellner would not confirm that.

"Enbridge will not comment on the steps we're taking to protect the safety and security of our operations," Kellner said.

In a statement responding to the group's actions, Kellner warned "today's pipeline tampering incident put people and the environment at risk" but said no oil was released Monday.

"While we respect the rights of individuals to safely express their views on the energy we all use, we take these matters very seriously and support the prosecution of all those involved," Kellner said.

The Itasca County Sheriff's department did not immediately return calls or emails from the News Tribune Monday seeking information on the incident.

Enbridge is seeking to replace its aging Line 3 oil pipeline, which currently follows the mainline system, along a mostly new route through Minnesota. The new route would travel farther south and would not pass through Itasca County.

While the project's certificate of need and route permit has been approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, it still needs a number of permits before construction can begin.

Jimmy Lovrien

Jimmy Lovrien is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. He spent the summer of 2015 as an intern for the Duluth News Tribune and was hired full time in October 2017 as a reporter for the Weekly Observer. He also reported for the Lake County News-Chronicle in 2017-18. Lovrien grew up in Alexandria, Minn., but moved to Duluth in 2013 to attend The College of St. Scholastica. Lovrien graduated from St. Scholastica in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in English and history. He also spent a summer studying journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

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