Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, wasted no time reacting to Clearwater County Judge Robert Tiffany’s decision to dismiss charges against three protesters who attempted to shut off pipelines in northwestern Minnesota by turning their emergency shut-off valves in 2016. The three protesters had been charged with felonies, and a jury had already been seated for the case. Tiffany ruled that there was no state evidence that the protesters caused any damages.
The case was notable because the judge had ruled that the protesters could introduce a defense of necessity: The threat of climate change from using crude oil drilled from Canadian tar sands was so imminent that the activists’ actions were not only morally right, but necessary.
Garofalo said, “Today’s decision is irresponsible, and sends the message that protesters are free to engage in reckless, illegal, and dangerous behavior that puts Minnesotans’ safety at risk. This is part of the reason the Legislature sought to enhance protection of critical infrastructure like pipelines — we need to send a strong message that this kind of illegal activity is unacceptable, and will not be tolerated. Protesters have already shut down freeways, closed airports and stopped trains. Now they are going after our energy infrastructure. This is a very dangerous action that needs to be corrected in the next legislative session.”