"Remember the Kalamazoo" sign
Erica F

One oil spill in his community was more than enough for Kalamazoo resident Christopher Wahmhoff.

To protest Enbridge’s replacement of the pipeline that burst along a Michigan riverbank in 2010, Wahmhoff spent 10 hours of his 35th birthday inside the new pipe, slowing construction for a single day in June.

Now Wahmhoff, a member of the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands, has been charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor, charges that could see him put behind bars for more than two years.

“It was worth it, without a doubt,” he told the Battle Creek Enquirer on Tuesday following a preliminary hearing before a district judge. “We got awareness out.”

The prosecutorial overreaction is all the more striking because of the peacefulness of Wahmhoff’s protest. Though he refused to come out of the pipeline until 5 p.m., Sheriff Department Detective Steve Hinkley told the court, “He was very cooperative.”

Wahmhoff’s wrongdoings certainly pale in comparison to Enbridge’s. When the company’s improperly maintained pipeline ruptured in 2010, it led to the nation’s largest-ever onshore oil spill. More than a million gallons of goopy, toxic tar-sands oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River and a tributary, and up to 180,000 gallons are still contaminating the river bottom today. So who’s the criminal here?