About the action

On October 11, 2016, five climate activists, who have since become known as "The Valve Turners", determined to act commensurately with the truth of unfolding climate cataclysm in the face of the failure of adequate policy, closed safety valves on the 5 pipelines carrying tar sands crude oil into the United States.

This act of climate disobedience shut down 15% of US crude oil imports for nearly a day - a display of the sorts of shifts that are necessary to avoid complete cataclysm. In this light, the five valve-turners are standing by their actions, saying that they are not only necessary, but morally and legally justified to avoid the catastrophic harm caused to humanity by unprecedented climactic disruption.

The timing of the action on that particular day was no accident. The valve turners acted in response to a request for action in solidarity with Standing Rock.

The morning of the action, the valve turners sent a letter to President Obama requesting that in keeping with his expressed understanding of the "terrifying" nature of the climate emergency he invoke the National Emergencies Act to continue the shutdown of tar sands oil, begin a shutdown of US tar sands and coal extraction, and put before Congress a plan for a national mobilization to address the climate emergency. No reply was received.

In order to ensure that the pipelines would be safely shut down, a call was placed to each company’s emergency response and control number fifteen minutes before valve turners entered the sites, apprising them of the situation and giving them ample time to shut each pipeline down.


Following an 8:30AM Central time call to Enbridge, Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein cut the locks and entered the fences around two safety valves for Enbridge Corporation's tar sands pipelines 4 and 67 near the town of Leonard, Minnesota. At 8:45, Ben Joldersma placed an additional call to Enbridge to ensure that the pipeline would be shut down safely, and as Emily and Annette prepared to manually close the valves, Enbridge remotely shut first the valve on line 67 and then, about 10-15 minutes later, the valve on line 4. After locking the valves in the closed position, they placed flowers in the valve handles and waited about an hour until the Clearwater County Sheriff arrived and Emily and Annette were arrested.

michael_valve.pngAt 9:00AM Central, Michael Foster pulled up to a safety valve near the town of Walhalla, North Dakota. After placing the safety phone call, Michael turned the huge wheel on the valve for the TransCanada Corporation’s Keystone pipeline and ceased the flow of oil. After waiting for half an hour, Pembina County Sheriffs arrived and arrested Michael. Later, after waiting to recieve information about where Michael was being taken, Sam Jessup (who was live-streaming the action) and documentary filmmaker Deia Schlosberg were questioned and then arrested.

At 8:15AM Mountain Time, Leonard Higgins, near Coal Banks Landing, Montana, cut the lock on a valve enclosure on Spectra Energy’s Express Pipeline. After turning the manual wheel for a time discovered a switch on the other side of the valve. When he turned the switch from “remote” to “local” the hydraulics took over and closed the safety valve. He watched as a gauge of oil thru-put slowly diminished to zero. He waited until Chouteau County Sheriffs arrived and he was arrested.


At 7:30AM Pacific Time, Ken Ward cut the chain on the valve wheel of Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline in a field near the refineries of Anacortes, WA. He turned the manual valve wheel, closing the valve. He noticed it was surprisingly easy to close, and drew the conclusion that oil must not have been flowing that day, which was confirmed by the corporation later. He was later arrested on the site by Skagit County Sheriffs, along with two independent documentary filmmakers who did not trespass, Linsday Grayzel and Carl Davis.


With that final valve closure, all five pipelines bringing carbon-intense Canadian tar sands into the United States were shut down. They remained shut down for most of the day, halting 15% of the US’s daily oil supply.

Later that day after being detained for questioning, Reed Ingalls, who was live-streaming Leonard in Montana, was arrested while leaving Fort Benton. All the activists and filmmakers spent the night in their respective county jails.


  • Latest from the blog

    Steve Liptay, Filmmaker, Arraigned Today

    Steve Liptay is an independent filmmaker who was documenting the valve-turning action in Leonard, MN. Steve was arraigned today on two misdemeanor charges in Bagley, MN for filming the October 11 action. He released the following statement:
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    Emily Johnston Arraignment Statement

    Valve-Turners Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein along with independent filmmaker Steve Liptay were arraigned in November in Bagley, MN. Emily made the following statement after her arraignment.
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    Not Backing Down - Donations Needed

    YOUR DONATIONS ARE STILL NEEDED TO COVER ONGOING LEGAL DEFENSE  It’s been three weeks since five brave valve-turners shut down the tar sands oil flowing into the United States, and 11 people--valve-turners, supporters and documentarians--are being charged with a multitude of felonies and misdemeanors from Assembling Saboteurs to Conspiracy to Tamper or Damage a Public Service. But these folks are not rolling over or giving over to fear. The valve-turners are preparing to argue that these actions are critically necessary, and are ready to defend what they have done. Court dates are coming up on a rolling basis. And we’re facing more expenses than expected: we are having to pay substantial fees to hire lawyers. In North Dakota alone this will cost $35,000. Can you donate today to help pay all the legal expenses?  In addition to the 10 arrested during the action itself, Steve Liptay, a documentarian covering the action in Minnesota, received charges in the mail a week and a half ago. He is due in court today. Michael, Sam and Deia - arrested in North Dakota - are scheduled in court on November 7th. Your support will make sure that they are adequately defended, and that their stories of valiant action in the face of climate cataclysm will be shared across the country and around the world. Many of you said that you were interested in taking action, and others told us you were ready to help raise money to support this work. We’ll be getting back in touch with you over the coming weeks to follow up. Thanks you so much for your support.
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    Ken Ward's Statement at Arraignment

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    Media Coverage

    We've gotten lots of good media coverage. Here are some of the highlights: Thursday, October 13, 2016 Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan, Democracy Now! "Putting Their Bodies on the (Pipe)line"  "Perhaps leadership from the top has been lacking. But from a small boat bobbing in the ocean to the growing resistance camps in North Dakota, the climate movement is on the rise."   Nia Williams & Laila Kearney, Reuters, "Daring U.S. Pipeline Sabotage Spawned by Lobster Boat Coal Protest" "Pipeline sabotage by environmental activists that shook the North American energy industry this week had its roots in a 2013 protest off Massachusetts, when two men in a 32-foot lobster boat blocked a 40,000-ton coal shipment to a power station."   Josh Fox, EcoWatch, "Award-Winning Filmmaker Arrested Documenting Pipeline Protest" "The action was conducted by Climate Direct Action, but Deia was not part of the group and did not participate in the action, only filmed it. Her film footage was confiscated and she is currently being held in jail."  
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