66 year-old Leonard Higgins was found guilty in November of 2017 for committing an act of what he termed civil disobedience when he cut two chains at the Enbridge Tar Sands pipeline at Coal Sands, Montana and manually turned the emergency shutoff valve.

Higgins was sentenced on Tuesday afternoon in Fort Benton, and could have received a 10 years in prison. Fellow ‘valve-turner’ Annette Klapstein relayed the verdict.

“The sentence the judge gave him was a deferred sentence three years, and he will be on probation,” said Klapstein. “That means after three years, assuming he complies with the terms of his probation, he would have the felony removed from his record. The judge said because he didn’t do it for personal gain and out of a deep personal conviction, that he was 66 and should have the chance to clear his record.”

Klapstein explained why she, Higgins, and several others committed their criminal acts.

“We’re all climate activists, and we’re terribly concerned for our children and grandchildren,” she said. “We’re already in a climate emergency and if we don’t turn things around very rapidly our children stand no chance whatsoever of living in a habitable world.”

Klapstein also referenced the massive wildfires that have plagued the West for the last several years, and that tar sands oil is the worst offender in the northwest.

“Tar sands oil specifically is the worst of the worst,” she said. “They are massively carbon intensive, they’ve already destroyed many, many miles of indigenous people’s lands, their water is poisoned and they’re getting cancer. The only way to get their attention is to shut off the flow of oil and hit them in the pocketbook.”

Klapstein is a retired attorney who shut off a pipeline in Minnesota and is facing up to 22 years in prison and fines of up to $46,000.