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'Valve Turner' From Oregon Faces Trial In Washington For Pipeline Protest


Ken Ward of Corbett, Oregon, faced criminal charges in a 2017 trial after turning off a valve to stop the flow of oil from the tar sands in Canada into the United States.

Ken Ward of Corbett, Oregon, faced criminal charges in a 2017 trial after turning off a valve to stop the flow of oil from the tar sands in Canada into the United States.

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An Oregon man is set to be tried Monday in a Western Washington courtroom after for turning off a pipeline that brings Canadian oil into the U.S. It’s his second trial for the shut-off; the first trial, in January, ended in a hung jury.

Ken Ward and four other activists shut down oil pipelines at the Canada-U.S. border in October 2016. Ward says they notified the pipeline owners ahead of time and filmed themselves.

“We are trying to create a public ruckus around the reality of what’s happening to our earth,” said Ward, a resident of Corbett.

Kinder Morgan owns the pipeline. It says inexpert pipeline shutoffs can endanger both the environment and communities.

Now, Ward faces felony charges of burglary and sabotage in Skagit County Superior Court. A conviction could carry penalties of up to $20,000 in fines and 20 years in prison. But Ward said, given the choice, he’d do the same thing again.

“Nonviolent climate direct action is the last thing that’s available,” he said.

Ward wanted to bring climate scientists before the court to argue that climate change is imminent and turning off the pipeline was therefore necessary, but the judge denied him that defense. So Ward says, if he’s found guilty, he’ll appeal.

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