Press Release 01.28.2020 - Prominent Valve Turner Goes to Trial: Ken Ward to Present Climate Necessity Defense to Jury

For immediate release: 

January 27, 2020


Media Contacts:

Dylan Plummer, Climate Direct Action; 541.531.1858; [email protected] 


Ken Ward, Defendant; 503.504.3534; [email protected] 


Lauren Regan, Attorney, Civil Liberties Defense Center; 541.687.9180; [email protected]


Alice Cherry, Attorney, Climate Defense Project; 847.859.9572;


Prominent Valve Turner Goes to Trial: Ken Ward to Present Climate Necessity Defense to Jury


After a huge win in the Washington Court of Appeals, Ward will be allowed to bring in expert witnesses to speak to the necessity of urgent action in response to the climate emergency


Mount Vernon, WA - On Monday, February 10, “Valve Turner” Ken Ward will be tried in Skagit County Superior Court for the actions that he took in 2016 to shut off the flow of tar sands oil into the United States. After a Washington Court of Appeals issued a unanimous decision in his favor, overturning his conviction on burglary (which followed a trial with a hung jury), Ward is facing prosecution for a third time. Ward will be allowed by the court to present a climate necessity defense to the jury, making the case that his actions were justified due to the imminent threat that climate change poses to human life. Rich Weyrich will prosecute the case with Superior Court Judge Laura Riquelme presiding. 


WHAT: On October 11, 2016, Ward participated  in an action that shut down the Trans Mountain pipeline carrying Canadian tar sands oil. Ward’s action in Skagit County, Washington was part of a coordinated climate action against all five pipelines carrying Canadian tar sands oil into the United States, which Reuters reported “shook the North American energy industry,” and resulted in multiple charges against the five “Valve Turners,” including Ward, Michael Foster, Emily Johnston, Annette Klapstein, and Leonard Higgins, along with several supporters and videographers. Ward will be the first of the Valve Turners permitted to present a climate necessity defense to a jury, and will be joined in the courtroom by expert witnesses including leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen.


WHERE: Skagit County Superior Court, Mt Vernon, Washington   


WHEN: 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. PST, February 10-14, 2020


Defense: Lauren Regan and Ralph Hurwitz with Civil Liberties Defense Center, and Alice Cherry with Climate Defense Project are preparing the climate necessity defense granted by the Appeals Court ruling. 

Background and Resources

See bios for Ken and all of the Valve-Turners here.   

See this February 2018 piece in New York Times Magazine for an in-depth look at the Valve-Turners and check out other media coverage of the actions and previous Valve-Turner trials here.

More on this Climate Necessity Defense here and here.

There will be a livestream of the trial available on the Climate Direct Action Facebook page.


The defendant and defense attorneys can comment and grant interviews on request. For further information, to request copies of court documents or to arrange interviews, please contact Dylan Plummer, [email protected], 541.531.1858.


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