Climate Verdict: Delta 5 Found Not Guilty of Obstructing an Oil Train, Guilty of Trespass– Judge Throws Out Necessity

necessitydefenseToday in Lynnwood, WA, five climate activists who blockaded an oil train in September 2014 were found “not guilty” of obstructing an oil train and “guilty” on a more minor trespass charge. The obstruction charge was the more serious charge and if found guilty the group would have been responsible for possible restitution from BNSF Railroad.

Joined with some of the jurors for the sentencing, Judge Howard told the court he feared more criminal acts and gave the group “two years probation. 90 days in jail, 89 suspended.$1000 fine, 800 suspended + 125 in fees.”

Yesterday, the judge presiding over the case, Judge Anthony Howard, disallowed the idea that the defendants were acting out of what was necessary to save the planet from catastrophic climate change. After two days of expert testimony by researchers and scientists on the perils of climate change and the impact that non-violent direct action has on politicians, corporations and issues at large, the judge told the jury to disregard all that they’d heard. The disallowing of  this strategy was seen as a blow to the Delta 5’s legal defense and the historic nature of a climate trial with the “necessity defense” as its cornerstone.

But the quiet influencer in the trial has been Big Oil and the companies providing infrastructure for our doomsday economy.  Speaking to the media, BNSF Railroad offcial Gus Melonas described the impact that actions like this could have on fossil fuel infrastructure (like his rail company):

“One train can be millions in revenue. “When you have a backup on a system, this impacts yard activity, the ports are impacted from ships, then you have passenger and commuter (traffic) in the corridor. It’s a time-sensitive, very busy terminal area.”

We can’t tolerate it. They can voice their opinion, but we don’t want them on our property. We’re trying to conduct our business.”

Corporations and the government don’t want a climate movement willing to take such risks to stop such abhorrent destruction costing them untold profits.

Meanwhile in New York, another begins with lawyers making the same argument in defense of the Montrose Nine after they blockaded a Spectra facility working on the Algonquin fracked gas pipeline in Montrose, NY.


About Sparki

Scott Parkin is a Senior Campaigner with Rainforest Action Network and organizes with Rising Tide North America. He has worked on a variety of campaigns around climate change, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, mountaintop removal, labor issues and anti-corporate globalization. Originally from Texas, he now lives in San Francisco.
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