Valve Turners Legal Defense Fund

* The NECESSITY DEFENSE allows defendants to argue that they committed a crime to prevent a greater harm from occurring. It is allowed when a judge recognizes that there may be a situation of such overwhelming urgency that a person must be allowed to respond by breaking the law.

This year, a U.S. trial jury will hear climate activists use the necessity defense and have the chance to be the first to acquit climate activists of their necessary actions. After the jury considers the science, presented by the world's climate experts, that jury may determine that the activists are exonerated because the impacts of climate change are so serious that breaking the law was necessary to avert them. If that happens, the tide may well be turned.

"The whole planet will be inside a single courtroom the day this trial begins" –Bill McKibben  

YOU CAN HELP WIN THIS. This campaign aims to raise $50,000, the estimated funds needed to cover legal fees and expert witness expenses.

On October 11, 2016, a team of climate activists manually turned the valves to shut down five tar sands crude oil pipelines (including Keystone), in four states, owned by four different big oil companies. All five of these activists, known as the Valve Turners, along with two of their support members and documentary filmmakers, were arrested and charged with felony criminal trespass, among other charges.

As expected, the big oil companies were able to restart those pipelines within hours, but the Valve Turners set the stage for an unprecedented use of the legal NECESSITY DEFENSE for climate change action in a U.S. courtroom.

Three of the four trial judges did not allow the use of the necessity defense. The fourth judge, in The State of Minnesota vs. Valve Turners Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein, has allowed the NECESSITY DEFENSE. The prosecutors are contesting the judge's decision, yet it remains likely that it will be allowed. 

The NECESSITY DEFENSE is a huge opportunity to fight back against the dominance of big oil in U.S. energy policy making. The Minnesota case is our chance to set legal precedent. It allows expert witnesses such as James Hansen and Bill McKibben to testify on the scientific basis of climate change, and to argue that because of the egregious nature of tar sands crude and the urgency of the climate crisis, the Valve Turners acted in accordance with higher law.

This is a really big deal. There has not yet been a U.S. case in which the climate necessity defense has been presented in full and allowed to be part of the jury’s deliberations. More than 100 law professors from across the country have signed an amicus brief for this case. A successful presentation of the climate necessity defense means that the public (represented by the jury) agrees civil disobedience is a necessary and justified response to the climate crisis. It would be an indictment of current climate policy, and would signal that there is a massive political shift. This shift is a prerequisite for any livable climate policy, given the status quo in which industry demands dictate policy. Presenting this defense to the jury is a way of democratizing decision-making on an issue that has been taken out of the hands of the people.

The Valve Turners -- Annette, Emily, Ken, Leonard, Michael, along with field supporters Ben and Sam and documentarian Steve -- are seasoned activists willing to face the charges, and the potential penalties of years in prison and tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Learn more about their stories at

Stand with the Valve Turners on their day in court.
DONATE NOW to their Legal Defense Fund.

Donate any amount that suits you. Please share this campaign with everyone you know who cares about this fight. Thank you.

"It's a rare chance to explain precisely why we need to act, and act now. It is reasonable and necessary that people take nonviolent but increasingly firm action to try and address this emergency. Those who have acted will be considered great heroes by future citizens."
Bill McKibben | Climate activist , author

"One cannot recognize the imminent danger without understanding the science. It is my expert opinion that global warming from persistent high fossil fuel emissions is in the danger zone... and that we are likely approaching climate tipping points from which there is no reasonable prospect of return. The defendants... aimed to prevent the urgent and growing danger, and to turn around the government’s failure to date meaningfully to address it."
Dr. James Hansen | Preeminent climate scientist , former head of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

"We put ourselves in legal jeopardy in order to state dramatically and unambiguously that normal methods of political action and protest are simply not working with anywhere near the speed that we need them to. "
Emily Johnston | Writer, defendant, Minnesota Valve Turner

"Allowing the necessity defense is an important step forward in the legal side of the movement to stop fossil fuel extraction. By recognizing the strength of the defendants’ arguments in favor of direct action, the court acknowledged both the scope of the climate crisis and the people’s right to act when their leaders fail them. This decision will make it easier for other courts to follow suit."
Kelsey Skaggs | Climate attorney and Executive Director, Climate Defense Project

The Healdsburg, CA community hosted two events in January at Oakville Grocery and Healdsburg SHED!  Attendees met Valve Turners, watched Valve Turners, a 9-minute documentary, and participated in a moderated discussion. Oakville and SHED donated the space; local farms and wineries -- DAVERO, PRESTON, REEVE and DRY CREEK PEACH -- donated tastings. Would you like to host a Valve Turner Solidarity Event? It's easy for us to update this campaign to add your event! Contact the team at their website: .

Events are fully underwritten by their sponsors.

100% of your donation goes to the Climate Disobedience Action Fund. The Valve Turners established the CDAF as an independent fund for their legal defense. Legal defense funds for individuals are not eligible for 501c3 status. Donations are not tax deductible.

Jonathan (Jay) O'Hara is the co-founder and administrative point person for the Climate Disobedience Center, which is why his name is on this fundraiser. 

If you prefer to send a check:

Climate Disobedience Action Fund
Attn: Jay O'Hara
154 Dutton Road
China, ME 04358

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Organizer and beneficiary

Judy MacDonald Johnston 
Burlington, VT
Jonathan O'Hara 
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