Following is the statement made by Leonard Higgins, valve turner, on his arraignment at the Chouteau County Court House in Fort Benton, Montana on December 6 2016. He is charged with a felony for turning off an oil pipeline carrying tar-sands oil into the United States from Canada.
I’m Leonard Higgins. I’m here in front of the Chouteau County District Court in Fort Benton, Montana on December 6, 2016. I was arraigned today on two charges, misdemeanor Criminal Trespass and felony Criminal Mischief with a maximum sentence of 10 years prison and up to a $50,000 fine. The charges are connected to my October 11th use of an emergency block valve to shut down the Spectra Express Pipeline near Coal Banks Landing, Montana just north of the Missouri River. The valve closure was coordinated with the shut down of 4 other pipelines transporting tar sands oil from Alberta Canada to the United States. We acted in prayerful solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux and out of love for our families and communities.
I lived a law abiding life of responsibility in the workforce for 40 years to support my family and succeed in a career. Now I see my children, grandchildren and other loved ones’ lives threatened by runaway climate change. Our country has known for decades that a steady, job preserving shift away from fossil fuel energy sources to renewables was necessary. Instead political and business leaders allowed that opportunity for a steady, easy changeover to slip through our fingers. They are working together instead to prolong fossil fuel profits even though the pollution from extraction, shipment and burning of those fuels is literally killing us. Our increasing use of fossil fuels is doing irreversible damage to the ecosystems that support life. Gradual reductions are no longer enough to save life as we know it for our children and communities.
I was compelled to take direct action because lives are already being lost to climate change and there is an imminent threat to the lives of our children and communities. Based on the science and continuing inadequate and harmful actions of government and business, it’s reasonable to conclude all our lives will be damaged and many lives lost if I and we fail to act.
We’re out of time and we can see there is no hope that our leaders have the resolve and ability to immediately and dramatically reduce carbon emissions. My responsibility to community, to the rule of law, and to my children and grandchildren now requires me to break laws protecting corporate profits to prevent the greater harm of doing nothing. If I do nothing, if all of the millions of other American citizens do nothing; our reductions in carbon emissions will be to little, too late.
Our only hope is to clearly show we are removing the fossil fuel industries’ social license to profit at the expense of life. We have seen how effective it is at Standing Rock and previous movements in our country when thousands of people take prayerful action actually putting their bodies in the way of the harm. The historic victory of the people against DAPL demonstrates that prayerful, non-violent, direct action can triumph over corporate greed and destruction of the land and water we all need to survive.
These actions provide the societal support and the strong push needed to clear the obstacles away and move us to clean energy. The money and power of those that wish to continue to profit from fossil fuels cannot block our efforts to save ourselves from catastrophic climate change unless we let them. Many are already working on a hopeful future for all of us. They need our help to clear the way.