Statement of Ken Ward at his Arraignment

Statement of Ken Ward at his Arraignment on Charges of Burglary, Criminal Trespass, Sabotage and Assemblages of Saboteurs 

October 20, 2016 in Mt. Vernon, WA 

I have been charged by the Prosecuting Attorney for Skagit County, Washington with four crimes - burglary, criminal trespass, sabotage and assemblages of saboteurs - for my action last Tuesday, closing a safety valve on the TransMountain pipeline and blocking the flow of Canadian tar sands oil from Alberta to the Anacortes refineries. 


There is no question about what I did – I livestreamed it, and you can see the video at and on my FaceBook page, The only question is whether what I did was an appropriate and practical response to what President Obama recently described as “terrifying” climate change conditions. 

I am a responsible and law abiding citizen. I have never been charged with a crime until four years ago when I anchored a lobster boat off a pier at the Brayton Point coal-fired power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts, and last May, when I joined the Break Free from Fossil Fuels oil train blockade at Anacortes. 

I did these things because I believe that it is the obligation of every thinking person to find a way to stave off climate cataclysm, and there is no effective, legal alternative to personal direct action. 

Ten years ago, Dr. James Hansen published “A Slippery Slope,” arguing that warming atmosphere and oceans could cause ice shelves in Greenland and Antarctica to break off into the oceans, like a bar of soap sliding into a bathtub, causing sea levels to rise by several feet over hundreds of years. 

As of last summer, the West Antarctic ice shelf is in “unstoppable collapse” and, combined with other melting, will lead to sea level rise up to five or six feet by 2100, which the New York Times reports, “…is roughly twice the increase reported as a plausible worst-case scenario by a United Nations panel just three years ago, and so high it would likely provoke a profound crisis within the lifetimes of children being born today.” 

My entire life, since my first job as the New Hampshire Field Coordinator for the National Campaign for Safe Energy in 1980, I have worked through every legal means available to me to shift our energy system from large scale fossil fuel and nuclear power to decentralized renewable energy, to advance efficiency over increasing energy supply, and to embrace social values of simplicity and ecological sanity over mindless growth and waste. 

Last night I watched the third and final Presidential debate, and the fact that the conditions which make civilization possible are collapsing was not mentioned. Donald Trump has declared that he is "not a believer in man-made global warming,” and Hillary Clinton mocks truth tellers, saying “Will [I] promise never to take any fossil fuels out of the earth ever again? No, I won’t promise that. Get a life, you know.” 

We don’t need to shut down all fossil fuel extractions tomorrow, just tar sands oil and coal. Last month Oil Change International released a report which Bill McKibben summarized: “To have just a break-even chance of meeting [the] 1.5 degree goal we solemnly set in Paris, we’ll need to close all of the coal mines and some of the oil and gas fields we’re currently operating long before they’re exhausted.” 

As a father, a patriot and an environmentalist, I don’t think 50/50 odds of keeping to a global target that is already high enough to flood major seaboard cities like Seattle and low-lying areas like Anacortes - during my son’s lifetime - are anywhere near good enough. 

I believe that the only means available to responsible citizens who want to slow the collapse of the West Antarctic and other ice shelves and prevent rapid sea level rise that will destroy our nation and the conditions which make civilization possible, is to take effective direct action to stop the extraction, transport, refining and burning of tar sands oil and coal, and block investment and construction of all new fossil fuel infrastructure, and that this must be done in a timeframe measured in months. 

That is why I took action last week to stop the TransMountain pipeline, which delivers the most carbon-intensive oil found in North America to the largest carbon emitting source in the Pacific Northwest, where I make my home. When I made my home in Boston, Massachusetts, I took action at Brayton Point, which was the largest carbon emitting source in the Northeast. I’m pleased to say that the Brayton Point coal-fired power plant is now slated to close. 

In this context and with these terrible imperatives, my actions of walking across a field, cutting a fence chain and turning a valve are inconsequential compared to the ghastly affect of continuing to burn tar sands oil. I do not agree, however, that it is reasonable to dust off antique laws designed to suppress labor union organizing (Sabotage and Assemblages of Saboteurs) and use them to shield the very industries that are driving us toward climate cataclysm. These are ridiculous, unconstitutional laws that should be struck from the books and replaced with statutes that hold the owners of fossil fuel companies responsible for their criminal actions. 

I look forward to putting these serious questions before a jury.


Showing 12 reactions

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  • commented 2017-05-15 10:13:26 -0400
    Isabella and others, Ken will be re-tried starting May 22nd, 2017 (the prosecutor decided to re-try him after the jury could not come to a decision in February). We’ll post an update early this week! Thanks for checking!
  • commented 2017-05-15 09:32:08 -0400
    Does anybody me know what’s happening with Ken?
  • commented 2017-02-14 15:17:47 -0500
    Ken, thank you so much . When the Last Tree Is Cut Down, the Last Fish Eaten, and the Last Stream Poisoned, You Will Realize That You Cannot Eat Money
  • commented 2017-02-05 00:04:26 -0500
    Fantastic, inspiring, Ken. Thank you for your courage.
  • commented 2017-02-03 15:06:30 -0500
    Brilliant. Congrats Ken on the mistrial. You have taken a very important stand and many more of us must follow. Courageous direct action is essential to spur others to action. Under the Trump regime, we must put our bodies on the line. Survival on this planet and any remnant of democracy are both at stake.

    Rich Wood, Port Townsend, WA
  • followed this page 2016-11-24 01:41:56 -0500
  • commented 2016-11-09 09:16:48 -0500
    I see your action as totally reckless and irresponsible! Closing down a pipeline during operation could cause a disaster. The pressure surge could cause a rupture causing environmental damage and loss of life. It happened in Bellingham and killed three children, as I am sure you are aware. Now you have encouraged others to do the same in the name of environmental protest? I hope you get the fullest punishment allowed by law so you have time to ponder your actions.
  • posted about this on Facebook 2016-10-30 18:36:24 -0400
    Statement of Ken Ward at his Arraignment: Charges of Burglary, Criminal Trespass, Sabotage and Assemblages of Saboteurs
  • commented 2016-10-21 23:13:13 -0400
    Ken, I am fully behind you. I read your carefully thought out statement and concur with it totally. From the Delta 5 site: “This “necessity defense” has allowed juries for hundreds of years to decide that under some circumstances, if defendants legitimately felt their actions were done to mitigate a greater harm to society, their conduct may not be a crime. The evidence will focus on the two main elements of the defense: that the greater harms are “imminent” and that the defendants reasonably felt they had “no reasonable legal alternative” to their action.”
  • commented 2016-10-21 17:45:57 -0400
    Spot on, Ken. Thank you, and keep up the inspirational work.
  • commented 2016-10-21 13:06:55 -0400
    Thank you, Ken. Your actions and words are a huge inspiration to many, many people.
  • commented 2016-10-20 17:18:00 -0400
    Great work Ken. Thank you for what you are doing.