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Judge Rules Valve Turner Ken Ward Must Be Allowed to Present 'Necessity Defense' for Climate Action

"I am very heartened that the Appeals Court recognized the validity of a necessity defense, in light of abundant evidence that the climate crisis is at a tipping point."

f the case of valve-turner Ken Ward (second from right) goes to trial once again he will be allowed to present the necessity defense, a court ruled on Monday. "Ward intended to protest the continued use of tar sands oil, which he contends significantly contributes to climate change, and the inaction by governments to meaningfully address the crisis of climate change," wrote the judge. (Photo: 350.org)

The Court of Appeals for the state of Washington on Monday overturned valve turner Ken Ward's burglary conviction because he was not allowed to present a climate "necessity defense" of his role in the multi-state action to shut down tar sands pipelines in 2016.

"Ward intended to protest the continued use of tar sands oil, which he contends significantly contributes to climate change, and the inaction by governments to meaningfully address the crisis of climate change."
—Judge David Mann

"Kenneth Ward appeals his conviction for burglary in the second degree after he broke into a Kinder Morgan pipeline facility and turned off a valve, which stopped the flow of Canadian tar sands oil to refineries in Skagit and Whatcom Counties," wrote Judge David Mann, who sent Ward's case back to a lower court for a third trial.

"Ward intended to protest the continued use of tar sands oil," Mann added, "which he contends significantly contributes to climate change, and the inaction by governments to meaningfully address the crisis of climate change."

If Ward's case goes to trial once again, he will be allowed to present the necessity defense, explained the Civil Liberties Defense Center, which represented Ward.

In a statement, Ward celebrated the judge's ruling and said he looks forward to "putting the true facts of my case before a jury."

"I am very heartened that the Appeals Court recognized the validity of a necessity defense, in light of abundant evidence that the climate crisis is at a tipping point, and that our government is utterly ineffectual," Ward said.

Environmentalist and 350.org founder Bill McKibben celebrated the judge's ruling on Twitter:

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The case originated in 2016, when five climate activists temporarily disabled several pipelines carrying crude oil into the United States from Canada.

As Common Dreams reported at the time, a Minnesota state judge dismissed all charges against three valve turners last October. While celebrating the dropped charges, the activists expressed regret that they were not able to present a "necessity defense."

Emily Johnston, one of the valve turners whose charges were dropped, expressed hope that Ward will get the opportunity to use the climate necessity defense:

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