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Pipeline ‘Valve Turner’ comes to Capitol Hill for legal defense fundraiser

Michael Foster at Sole Repair Wednesday night (Images: Alex Garland)

In October 2016, Seattle’s Michael Foster traveled to North Dakota to turn valves on the Keystone Pipeline and disrupt the flow of tar sands oil from Canada. One of a handful of Valve Turners, he now faces decades in prison after being convicted of conspiracy to commit criminal mischief, and trespass. Foster came to Capitol Hill this week to help raise funds to defend other Valve Turners.

“A year ago, it was long past time to take emergency action to stop the flow of tar sands oil, to stop coal, to stop not just the expansion in the new pipelines, but the existing flow has to be cut about 10% per year,” Foster said about his decision to take a stand for the environment.

At Sole Repair Wednesday night, a gathering in the donated space raised $6,000 to help defray legal costs for the actions of Foster and Valve Turners in Minnesota, Montana, and here in Washington.

The party was prelude to a more somber event. Following the jury decision to convict him, Foster faces more than 20 years in prison when he is sentenced in January. But the activist and mental health counselor says he stands by his decision to target the pipeline as part of the national act of civil disobedience.

“It has to do with challenging the whole system,” he said.

“Part of our problem is that we’re not talking about this, we’re not addressing it, confronting it, and we’re not confronting the systems that make it completely legal to wipe out life on earth.”

You can learn more about the Climate Disobedience Action Fund here.

UPDATE 2/6/2018: Foster will serve one year in prison. The activist received a three-year sentence Tuesday with two of the years deferred in a Pembina County, North Dakota courtroom. “I’m here today for sentencing. I might be incarcerated in a few minutes, and I might not,” Foster said Tuesday before the judge’s decision was announced. “I made a decision to commit civil disobedience, to defend my family tree and yours.”

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