Tracker Pixel for Entry

Valve turner sentenced, behind bars

by C.S. Hagen | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | News | February 6th, 2018

Michael Foster - photo by C.S. HagenCAVALIER – From the day Michael Foster plotted his course to turn off the Keystone Pipeline, he knew prison was a possibility. On Tuesday morning the activist was taken into custody after a North Dakota judge sentenced him to three years imprisonment with two years suspended. 

The state’s prosecution wanted to make an example out of Foster to deter future instances, and recommended a sentence of five years imprisonment and three years suspended for Foster. The prosecution, which included Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Byers and Pembina County State’s Attorney Rebecca Flanders, also wanted five years with four years suspended for Foster’s co-defendant, Sam Jessup, who filmed Foster’s actions on October 11, 2016. 

Foster and four other activists, known as valve turners, halted 15 percent of US oil consumption in one day, in what has become known as the “most expansive, coordinated, takeover of fossil fuel infrastructure ever attempted in the USA.” 

“I made a decision to commit civil disobedience to defend my family tree and yours, knowing that there’s no government, no politician, and no corporation on the planet right now putting forward a plan to defend life as we know it,” Foster, 52, said. “I’m trying to settle accounts with my kids, and stand on the right side of history for a brief moment.” 

Foster faced up to 21 years in prison, and he knew the risks before he committed the crimes. Presiding Judge Laurie A. Fontaine denied him a necessity defense, which is when a person commits a criminal act during an emergency situation in order to prevent a greater harm. 

“We shut down the pipeline exactly the way the industry does it,” Foster said. “The real reason why I’m here today is because I trespassed, and because I cut some chains to turn that valve off. We didn’t hurt anybody. So who is the victim? In this case it’s TransCanada Incorporated, a foreign corporation that makes billions of dollars every year pumping oil through our farmland, which they spilled last year from the Keystone Pipeline, which I shut off.

“And it is illegal to try and stop that poisoning.” 

Shortly before being taken into custody, Foster said, “It doesn’t matter if I’m sitting in jail. What matters is stopping the pollution. If other people don’t take action, mine makes no difference. And if they don’t, the planet comes apart at the seams. The only way what I did matters is if people are stopping the poison.”

The five valve turners - Climate Direct Action photo

Since a jury found Foster guilty last October, he’s been speaking to churches and anyone who will listen to his message about the dangers of climate change. He’s said he is not a spiritual leader like Gandhi, or Martin Luther King Jr., just a guy – a dad – volunteering his time to help out. He is a mental health counselor and climate activist from Washington, but was born near the Gulf of Mexico in Texas.

Other activists that helped shutdown pipelines from Minnesota to Oregon and have been sentenced of awaiting sentencing include: 

Leonard Higgins – A retired Oregon state government employee awaiting sentencing on felony charges carrying up to 10 years in jail and fines of up to $50,000 for shutting the emergency valve on the Spectra Energy Express tar sands pipeline in Coal Banks Landing, Montana.

Annette Klapstein – A retired attorney facing felony charges of criminal damage and criminal trespass, and aiding and abetting both, for shutting the emergency valve on the Enbridge tar sands pipeline together with Emily Johnston in Leonard, Minnesota. The charges carry up to 22 years in jail and fines of up to $46,000.

Emily Johnston – A poet and co-founder of 350 Seattle who shut off the emergency valve on the Enbridge line with Annette Klapstein in Leonard, Minnesota. She also faces felony charges carrying up to 22 years in jail and fines of up to $46,000. In a legal twist in October 2017, a Minnesota judge allowed Klapstein and Johnston to use the necessity defense, which enabled the two valve turners to present evidence that their actions in turning off the pipeline was justified to stop a crucial threat to the environment. 

Ken Ward – A climate activist who stood trial twice, because of a hung jury, on felony charges for shutting off a safety valve on the TransMountain pipeline in Skagit County, Washington. He was technically convicted of second-degree burglary, but sentenced to no jail time.

Foster has 30 days to decide if he will appeal, and one of his lawyers recommends an appeal on the two felony convictions. He was convicted and sentenced on felony criminal mischief, felony conspiracy to commit criminal mischief, and criminal trespass, a misdemeanor. The state also asked for $10,000 in restitution, a fine that would be dropped if Foster won on an appeal. Foster’s co-defendant was sentenced to two years, deferred, with probation. 

Recently in:

MOORHEAD – While Justin Critt and his defense lawyer began arguing innocence to the murder of a Moorhead woman Monday morning, the mother of a missing Indigenous woman sat two rows behind, silent, but screaming with…

Culture

​The DCP wants YOU!

by John Showalter

By John Showalter and Sabrina HornungWe had a chance to chat with McKaila Ruud, the Events Coordinator for the Downtown Community Partnership (DCP) and she let us in on a few new and exciting tricks that the DCP has up their…

Sunday, May 20, 6 p.m.Plains Art Museum, 704 1st Ave N, FargoLadies and gentlemen start your engines... the votes are in. Erik Block will be the master of ceremonies while DJ Dextrious keeps the tunes rolling. Come celebrate our…

Time and aging is weird. It flies, it fleets, it stands still and all too often it passes us by. I lose track of time too easily and it seems like when the years meld themselves together I’m reminded how much has gone by once I…

We Aren’t Out of The Trees Yet!Ever since we climbed out of trees and walked on two legs we have been faced with a whole bucket of troubles: sex, greed, political power, race, and religion. In the 21st Century we are still…

FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…

Once Andrew and Maddie Johnson left Fargo they moved to Andrew’s hometown.“We worked at the restaurant in Lisbon for a couple of months,” Maddie said. “We’re not about opening stuff in bags and pulling stuff from…

Nikki Lane is a trailblazer. Her unique voice could be described as a cross between Wanda Jackson’s grit and Neko Case’s hauntingly smoky vocals. It’s classic and it’s fresh. In 2017 she won an Ameripolitan award in the…

Earning a limited theatrical release following a successful run of festival appearances and a streaming deal with Shudder, writer-director Coralie Fargeat’s “Revenge” simultaneously embraces and subverts many tropes of the…

Arts

​Civility is for the Birds

by HPR Contributor

By Tayler Klimektklimek@cord.eduTucked in the back of Roberts Street Studio, if you follow the “yellow brick road” (a funny story, if you get the chance to ask her), you are likely to find local artist Mackenzie Kouba working…

Theater B is giving away seven tickets to go see “The Moors” by Jen Silverman, from April 26 until May 12. Described as part Brontë, part Twilight Zone, “The Moors” is a dark comedy set on a bleak and unforgiving…

Fargo has its share of people who are passionate about stand-up comedy, even if the success of clubs devoted to it has been mixed. Despite the fact we have seen places like Courtney’s Comedy Club and Level 2 Comedy Club close…

I consider myself an avid wine drinker, but I recently found out there are more than 10,000 varieties of grapes, and about 1,500 of those are used to make commercial wines. I don’t know about you, but I could probably name about…

I was amid some of the worst anxiety I have experienced in my life. I was worried about money, moving and multiple other things. My chest felt heavy and was dominated by a feeling of constriction and restriction; to both my life…

By Melissa Martin melissamartincounselor@live.com “I’m sorry” are two vital words to be used in relationships because human beings are imperfect people living in imperfect environments. Ask yourself the following…

By Ty Danksty.danks@ndsu.eduWith “Fake News” and “Alternative Facts” becoming a large and influential topic since the 2016 presidential election, many people have become more aware and concerned with the spread of…