Last week’s cold, this week’s trespassers, shows we need a pipeline protection bill

Last week saw temperatures in Minnesota plummet to 24 below zero in the Twin Cities, and International Falls registered a temperature of minus 36 degrees. It was so cold outside that Xcel Energy had to urge its 460,000 natural as customers to turn their thermostats down to 63 degrees or face widespread shortages of natural gas, putting hundreds of thousands of people on edge, worrying about whether they could stay warm. Part of the problem  was a strain Xcel’s natural gas distribution system, and this will likely need to be remedied with more pipeline infrastructure, if Xcel can get it built.

This week, less than seven days after it should be been blindingly obvious to everyone that natural gas, oil, and coal play a vital role in making sure our homes stay heated and the lights stay on, four anti-pipeline activists were arrested attempting to “turn the valves” of the Enbridge pipeline off, impeding the flow of oil through the pipeline, as Dan Kraker in the Duluth News Tribune reports:

The activists, who call themselves the “Four Necessity Valve Turners,” are part of the Catholic Worker Movement from Texas, Wisconsin and Minnesota. They posted Facebook Live video of the incident, in which they try for several minutes to close an emergency shut-off valve on an Enbridge pipeline using a variety of tools and other objects, such as a rosary.

“This was an action to address the imminent damage and destruction that’s already being done to the climate, and the fact that government and regulatory agencies have not adequately addressed that imminent and irreversible danger,” said Diane Leutgeb Munson, a spokesperson for the Catholic Workers.

Granted, oil is not natural gas, but anti-pipeline activists have been just as avid about stopping new natural gas infrastructure as they have for oil. This will make it more difficult, and expensive, for natural gas companies to address any potential inadequacies in their natural gas transportation and distribution system.

It’s almost as if it might be a good idea to enact legislation that would protect critical infrastructure, such as pipelines, from these sorts of protests and vandalism. Oh, wait! Last session, Republican lawmakers in the Minnesota House and Senate passed this bill, but it was vetoed by former Governor Mark Dayton.

It would be a good idea for lawmakers to use last week’s bitter cold as reason to reexamine a critical infrastructure bill. Hopefully, a different Governor will yield different results.