November 26, 2017

Barely News: Emboldened Eco-Terrorists Claim ‘Climate Necessity’ As a Defense

The left’s determination to stretch the limits of acceptable activism now includes condoning property destruction and unauthorized disruption of energy delivery systems. On a weekend when the national press is almost exclusively obsessed with matters involving sexual assault and harassment (obviously important) and the legitimacy of Sarah Sanders’ Thanksgiving pecan pie (obviously not), it’s fair to wonder why the national press has mostly failed to report that this irresponsible and fundamentally lawless perspective appears to be making some headway in the courts.

In an op-ed at The Hill on November 14, Ken Ward, attempted to justify his involvement and that of others he charitably described as “valve turners” on October 11, 2016. Ward is the co-founder of Climate Direct Action, whose website splash celebrates that day’s shutdown of “15% OF THE US DAILY OIL SUPPLY.” One of the few media reports that were filed described the actions as “an audacious act of sabotage.”

Ward disingenuously insisted that his group’s actions were not violent, and attempted to explain the “climate necessity” defense as required because, in his view, nobody, not even the wannabe climate change authoritarians who gathered in Bonn, Germany earlier this month, is doing what is really required to head off climate catastrophe (bolds are mine throughout this post):

My freedom is on the line to fight climate change, more will follow

at this late date, there is no credible leadership proposing any plan of climate action appropriate to the scale and speed of the problem. Instead of stark contrast between climate denial and action, what’s really on display in Bonn is 50 shades of climate denial.

… the crackdown on citizens who stand up to something about climate change continues apace: Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department responded to a letter spearheaded by Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) and signed by 83 other members of Congress, asking DoJ pointedly why it hasn’t prosecuted climate activists, like me, as domestic terrorists. In reply, DoJ pledged to vigorously prosecute those who damage “critical energy infrastructure in violation of federal law.”

That could have potential personal ramifications for me. I was one of the five “valve-turners” who, in a coordinated Oct. 11, 2016, action singled out in the Buck letter, closed the emergency valves on all five pipelines carrying Canadian tar sands oil into the U.S. Though Buck and his colleagues would like to brand us as domestic terrorists, we acted responsibly, with great care and concern for safety, to combat the climate change emergency by stopping the flow of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive form of oil.

Nice try, Ken. No sale.

Every dictionary definition of “violence” includes some version of the following: “an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power, as against rights or laws.”

These supposedly heroic and peaceful “valve turners” trespassed onto private property, “broke fences in four states,” used “bolt cutters to shear through the locks” at several of the locations, and manually turned off valves permitting oil to flow. That they allegedly placed phone calls “15 minutes in advance to the pipeline owner’s emergency response number to give operators time to turn off the pumping stations upstream from the shutoff valve and reduce pressure on the line” doesn’t change the fact that they committed acts any normal person would consider forms of “violence” to pull off their stunt. Any normal person would also recognize that the companies involved incurred significant costs in downtime and flow restoration.

Ward’s group deliberately claimed responsibility for their actions so they could be arrested and attempt their “necessity” defense in court. Here’s Ward’s explanation of it (links are in original):

We have sought to make this case at our trials, via the “climate necessity defense,” which argues that our actions were justified by the greater climate harms we’re seeking to avoid. In a precedent-setting decision, a judge in Clearwater County, Minn., granted my fellow valve-turners Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein the right to mount a necessity defense in their upcoming trial for shutting off two Enbridge tar sands pipelines. The decision means they will be able to bring in expert witnesses and testimony about climate change and the climate damage tar sands do, and that the jury will be allowed to hear and consider them.

One certainly hopes that the prosecution will remind the Clearwater County judge that “climate change” alarmists have been making doomsday predictions about “global warming” which haven’t panned out for at least the past 30 years. I saw no evidence that anyone in the press covering stories relating to Direct Climate Action acknowledged that very inconvenient truth.

The judge also should know that if Ward’s group achieves all it wants, the complete and virtually immediate elimination of fossil fuels would result. One of the activists has specifically articulated the group wishes: to “make it impossible for the fossil fuel companies to carry on their deadly business because they have to deal with protests and blockades around every corner” to the point where they “become financially unviable.” That is a virtually surefire recipe for sending most of the world into poverty, likely wars over the crumbs which remain, and famines with the potential to kill hundreds of millions.

Ward himself, who faced at least ten years in prison, got off earlier this year with a wrist slap, even though his “climate necessity defense” wasn’t allowed.

His first trial in Skagit County, Washington ended in a hung jury in February. He was found guilty of second-degree burglary at his second trial. Rather than send a message that there should be consequences for illegal acts, no matter how allegedly “noble” their motivation, Judge Michael Rickert considered “Ward’s motivation for committing the crime” and let him walk, requiring only 30 days of community service.

The judge, in his sentencing statement, reportedly said that “I don’t know that imposing … jail time is likely to have any impact on what Mr. Ward does in the future, or people like him.” That’s indefensible, and irresponsible. At least Ward himself wouldn’t be participating in eco-sabotage if he were sitting in jail, and his eco-terrorist colleagues might have second thoughts if they faced a realistic and completely deserved chance of serving time. Now, instead, Rickert, who retired in June, has encouraged them to get even more aggressive.

Fortunately for the rest of us, things may not be looking so good for Leonard Higgins, who went on trial last week for his part in closing the Spectra Energy Express pipeline in Coal Banks, MT during the coordinated Climate Direct Action effort. Leonard too was also denied the right to the “necessity” defense, and was convicted Wednesday of “misdemeanor trespassing and felony criminal mischief”:

The 12-person jury could have found Higgins guilty of a lesser charge but determined that his actions caused more than $1,500 in damage to the pipeline’s owner, Spectra Energy (now Enbridge Corp.), making the criminal mischief a felony offense.

Higgins’ lead defense attorney, Herman Watson IV of Bozeman, said his client intends to appeal the verdict to the Montana Supreme Court.

Higgins potentially faces 10 years in prison.

Ward’s optimism about the Minnesota case at which the airing of the “climate necessity defense” has been allowed may be misplaced, at least based on the judge’s stated constraints:

In Minnesota, (Judge Robert) Tiffany wrote, a defendant asserting a necessity defense “must show that the harm that would have resulted from obeying the law would have significantly exceeded the harm actually caused by breaking the law, there was no legal alternative to breaking the law, the defendant was in danger of imminent physical harm, and there was a direct causal connection between breaking the law and preventing the harm.”

The judge said it applies “only in emergency situations where the peril is instant, overwhelming, and leaves no alternative but the conduct in question.”

The defendants are citing “recent hurricanes and Western wildfires as evidence that climate change is making natural disasters worse.” One hopes the prosecution will note that “30 peer reviewed studies show no connection between climate change and hurricanes.”

As was the case with the violence and filth associated with the Dakota Access Pipeline protests which ended in February, the coverage of Climate Direct Action’s destructive efforts has been limited to regional news reports and national Associated Press stories the rest of the establishment press has chosen to almost completely ignore.

Cross-posted, with possible revisions, at NewsBusters.org.

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