[UPDATE: Trial Delayed] Prominent Valve Turner Goes to Trial: Ken Ward to Present Climate Necessity Defense to Jury

For immediate release: 

February 4, 2020


Media Contacts:

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


Lauren Regan, Executive Director and Senior Staff Attorney, Civil Liberties Defense Center; 541.687.9180; [email protected] 


Alice Cherry, Attorney, Climate Defense Project; 847.859.9572; alice@climatedefenseproject.org


[UPDATE: Trial Delayed] 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 was to be tried in Skagit County Superior Court for the non-violent actions that he took in 2016 to shut off the flow of tar sands oil into the United States. 


However, on February 3, the court granted the Prosecution’s motion to delay the proceedings. The new trial date will depend on the availability of expert witnesses and attorneys, and is likely to be later this spring. Contact Dylan Plummer for more details: [email protected]


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. 


WHAT: On October 11, 2016, Ward participated in a nonviolent action that shut down the Trans Mountain pipeline carrying Canadian tar sands oil. Ward’s action in Skagit County, Washington was part of a nonviolent 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 to present a climate necessity defense to a jury, and will be joined in the courtroom by several expert witnesses. Those experts will most likely include Princeton Professor of Politics Martin Gilens, Nobel Laureate Dr. Steven Running, author of the National Pipeline Safety Standards Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, Executive Director of the Albert Einstein Institution Jamila Raqib, and leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen. 


WHERE: Skagit County Superior Court, Mt. Vernon, Washington   


WHEN: TBA for some time later this spring


Defense: Lauren Regan with the Civil Liberties Defense Center, Washington attorney Ralph Hurwitz, and Alice Cherry with Climate Defense Project are litigating the criminal trial where the climate necessity defense will be asserted, as granted by the Appeals Court ruling. 

Background and Resources

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

Read the historic 2019 opinion from the Washington Court of Appeals on Ward’s trial 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 the 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 are available for comment and may 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.

The Civil Liberties Defense Center supports movements that seek to dismantle the political and economic structures at the root of social inequality and environmental destruction.


The Climate Defense Project supports front-line activists, pursues climate impact litigation, and connects attorneys with communities and campaigns.  



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  • Alice Lockhart
    published this page in Press Releases 2020-02-07 14:45:01 -0800

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