Portland activist on trial for Montana pipeline shutdown

Leonard Higgins of Portland is charged with criminal mischief and trespassing

In this Wednesday, June 29, 2016 photo, Karenna Gore, daughter of former Vice President Al Gore protests at the site of Spectra Energy's West Roxbury Lateral pipeline in Boston. Karenna Gore was among demonstrators that tried to block construction activity on the site by lying in a trench. (Kori Feener via AP)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An Oregon man goes on trial in Montana Tuesday in the latest criminal prosecution against activists who sought to call attention to climate change by shutting down oil pipelines in four states.

Sixty-five-year-old Leonard Higgins of Portland is charged with criminal mischief and trespassing.

He told The Associated Press that he wants to tell jurors his closure of a Spectra Energy pipeline valve in north-central Montana in October 2016 was necessary because climate change is an emergency and can’t be ignored.

But District Judge Daniel Boucher says he won’t allow Higgins to place U.S. energy policy on trial. He ruled testimony on climate change is irrelevant.

Activists in a parallel case in Minnesota convinced a judge to let them present arguments that the threat of climate change justifies extreme action.