BAGLEY, Minn. - Two Washington state women accused of tampering with Enbridge pipeline valves in Clearwater County, Minn., said they are willing to go to prison for their beliefs.
Emily Johnston, 50, of Seattle, and Annette Klapstein, 64, of Bainbridge Island, Wash., both appeared in court Monday, Nov. 14, facing charges of criminal damage to property of critical public service facilities, utilities and pipelines; aiding and abetting criminal damage to property of critical public service facilities, utilities and pipelines; trespass on critical public service facility, utility or pipeline and aiding and abetting trespass on critical public service facility, utility or pipeline.
After the hearing, the women, part of a group called Climate Direct Action, read statements outside the courthouse, saying they were acting in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
Standing Rock is near the site site of a months long protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline project, opposed by many native communities.
Johnston and Klapstein were arrested Oct. 11 and accused of threatening to shut down two Enbridge pipelines and using bolt cutters to cut padlocks and chains to access the pipeline facility, according to the criminal complaints against them.
After two short and nearly identical hearings during which Klapstein and Johnston asked the judge to allow them to appear at future hearings by phone, they spoke with the media.
“I dread the thought of going to prison, being away from my loved ones and away from the natural world and daily rhythms that sustain me,” Johnston said. “But far more, I dread the devastation to every life on this planet if we keep going as we are. Between risking my access to what I love and risking what I love, there is no comparison.”
Johnston added that she was aware of the potential consequences tampering with the pipeline facility could bring, but that she accepted the risks.
Klapstein spoke about her history as an environmental activist and her years as a lawyer, saying she had spent her life trying to work within the system.
“I certainly have tried to make the system work,” Klapstein said. “I have used every legal means available to me. But what I have learned is that our political system is utterly unresponsive to the grave threat to our existence that climate change represents, so it is up to us to stop the fossil fuel industry from continuing to conduct business as usual.”
Klapstein said she and Johnston had “provided a true public service” by working to shut down the pipelines.
Klapstein and Johnston are scheduled to appear in Clearwater County Court by phone on Dec. 21.