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Oregon Climate Activist Convicted for Pipeline Shutdown in Washington

A Skagit County, Washington, jury found climate activist Ken Ward guilty Wednesday of second degree burglary for turning off an oil pipeline.

June 7, 2017

A Skagit County, Washington, jury found climate activist Ken Ward guilty Wednesday of second degree burglary for turning off an oil pipeline.

Ken Ward (far left) on the steps of the courthouse in Skagit County, Washington, where he was found guilty on June 7, 2017 of second-degree burglary after turning off an oil pipeline valve. He says the action was necessary to combat climate change, which is cause by burning fossil fuels. Courtesy of Climate Direct Action

Ward, a Corbett, Oregon resident, was one of five activists who took part in the pipeline protest, turning off valves on Oct. 11 to stop the flow of oil from Canada into the U.S. in October. His case was the first to reach a jury verdict.

This is the second time Ward’s been tried for his role in the pipeline shutdown; the first trial, in January, ended in a hung jury. In neither trial was Ward permitted to say what he wanted: that what he and his fellow activists did was necessary to combat climate change.

 “The judge did not allow us to offer what is called a necessity defense in which we would have been able to argue to the jury that yes, I did what I did, but I did it for this greater purpose dealing with this larger crisis” — that is, climate change, Ward said in a telephone interview after the jury verdict was delivered. Ward plans to appeal.

 Kinder Morgan owns the pipeline. It has said shutting down the valves improperly creates risks for public safety and the environment.

 Second degree burglary is a Class B felony in Washington. Ward could face up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000. His sentencing is set for June 23. The jury deadlocked on a second charge of sabotage.

The pipeline shutdown took place in Washington, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota. Other so-called valve-turners arrested were Emily Johnston of Seattle, Annette Klapstein of Bainbridge Island, Washington, Michael Foster of Seattle and Leonard Higgins of Corvallis, Oregon.


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The five climate activists arrested after shutting down Canada-to-U.S. pipelines pose for a photo. They were identified by Climate Direct Action as (left to right): Emily Johnson, Annette Klapstein, Leonard Higgins, Ken Ward, and Michael Foster.

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