An activist who attempted to damage part of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) last year is arguing that his sabotage effort was in the public interest.
Michael Foster will be tried Monday for breaking into private property and tampering with shutoff valves at five pipelines in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana. He did it to show support for demonstrations against the so-called DAPL, which was still under construction.
Foster plans to argue that he was trying to protect the environment from what he believes to be the fossil fuel industry’s role in global warming.
“I’m going into this to challenge the jury to use their conscience to consider my act of conscience,” Foster said about his plan. The necessity defense is popular among activists.
Attorneys involved with the case, meanwhile, are asking District Judge Laurie Fonataine to toss out Foster’s necessity defense.
“Although the defendants may testify what was going through their mind at the time they took the actions they did, the court should prohibit any other presentation of a climate necessity defense or the attempt to turn this into a trial on global warming,” assistant North Dakota Attorney General Jon Byers told the judge.
Foster was one of several protesters associated with the group Climate Direct Action in October to warn officials at Enbridge, Kinder Morgan, and TransCanada ahead of time of their intent to take the projects offline. The pipeline in Washington wasn’t operating at the time of the attempt.
Foster faces various felony and misdemeanor charges in North Dakota, including criminal mischief, conspiracy, and reckless endangerment. His fellow protesters will be tried later this year for the joint action.
Pipeline developers have been successful in recent cases against environmentalists.
A federal judge determined earlier this year that Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind DAPL, could hide information pertaining to the pipeline’s leak points at areas along its route. The judge argued the exception was necessary to prevent possible acts of vandalism in the future.
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux and other DAPL opponents believe information disclosing the route’s leak points could bolster their arguments that the line needs further environmental studies. The project is slated to shuttle 500,000 barrels of Bakken oil from the Dakotas to parts of Illinois.
Anti-DAPL activists argue the $3.8 billion project tramples on tribal grounds and could potentially poison the Standing Rock Sioux’s primary water supply if the line springs a leak. The project is currently operational, even as activists continue fighting against the project.
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