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Local View: Minnesotans must reject protesters' dangerous escalation

It happened again this week. And Minnesota is beyond lucky that the worst-case scenario was not realized.

Two times now, eco-activists threatened to create an environmental disaster by stating that they were going to manually shut off a valve on an active oil pipeline.

People who claim to be "spiritually rooted and devoted to the care of all life," as their website states, have now twice shown little care for their lives or for the lives of others who would be impacted by a shut-down pipeline. These protesters are wrapping themselves in a false sense of morality to justify something illegal with claims they have "exhausted all legal and political avenues and (have) found those avenues lethally inadequate."

What is being exhausted now is Minnesota's patience and tolerance for militant activism that wants to be thought of as civil disobedience when instead it goes well beyond that. Trespassing on private property, using bolt cutters to cut through a lock, and threatening to shut down the valve on an active pipeline in the pursuit of a political goal has to be seen as nothing more than dangerous and illegal action.

We get that they want us to immediately stop using fossil fuels. Yet, when the process does not give them the result they are looking for, they twist logic to create a morally false way to justify what could create a disaster.

In 2016, it was two women from Seattle who drove here (ironically), to Clearwater County, Minn., where they cut a padlock in the name of trying to close a shut-off valve on an Enbridge pipeline carrying millions of gallons of oil every day.

This week it was four members of a group calling themselves "valve-turners" who broke into Enbridge property in Itasca County with similar intent. Both times, Enbridge was able to shut down the line before the activists were able to manually close the valve. Had Enbridge not been able to, the pressure and force used to move oil through pipelines could have ruptured the lines because the valve was shut off. Nearby homes could have been impacted and the environment polluted by people claiming to protect and defend it.

There cannot and must not be a third time.

Civil disobedience long has been part of Minnesota's and America's history. There is a time and place for different points of view to be shared about issues like climate change and Line 3. There is no place nor any justification for illegally shutting down a pipeline.

Claiming the need to take "direct action" to protect "the water we all depend on for survival" by potentially creating a massive pipeline rupture or spill that would pollute the very water they care so much about is an insult to common sense and Minnesotans.

We understand some strongly oppose Line 3. We disagree with them, but we respect the right of someone to disagree with us. What can't be understood and should never be accepted is the conceit of a few people to take selfish and outlandish risks that could create real harm. Our fear is the results may be different if this ever happens again.

That is why we believe it is time to say enough is enough. It's time to stop trying to "turn valves" and instead accept our roles in the broader conversation and process, knowing no one gets everything they want but we all get the chance to be heard.

Todd Rothe is president of J.R. Jensen Construction in Superior. Mel Olson is president of United Piping in Duluth. Both are members of the Minnesotans for Line 3 Advisory Council.

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