Press Hits for September 28th

Tired of Inaction: Climate Activists Descend on Coal Plant in Bow, NH

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

9/28/19

Contact: Rebecca Beaulieu, 350 New Hampshire Action Organizer, rebecca.beaulieu@350.org, 978-491-7511

Tired of Inaction: Climate Activists Descend on Coal Plant in Bow, NH

Nearly 500 people from across New England rally at the last major coal-fired power plant in New England without a shut-down date.

BOW, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- The Merrimack Generating Station has polluted the air, water, and climate in New Hampshire for decades while the plant’s out-of-state owners benefit from millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to keep the plant running. As a part of the week of Climate Action happening around the globe, hundreds of activists from New Hampshire are taking matters into their own hands in an effort to stop the climate crisis and force a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030. The Climate Disobedience Center and 350NH Action are two members of the No Coal No Gas coalition who planned this rally and action. 

Over 60 individuals participating in nonviolent direct action walked into the plant through the train tracks. There was a large police presence at the plant and on the surrounding roads. As soon as they crossed the barricade into the plant property, half the group was arrested. Not long after, police wearing what appeared to be riot gear descended on the group and arrested the rest of them. They were taken out of the plant in four County Sheriff vans and a school bus and escorted to Merrimack County Jail. The latest count was 67 individuals arrested.

While those individuals were being arrested, a rally of over 300 people sang, chanted, and cheered on the action takers from a nearby baseball field. Various speakers and musicians participated, giving their perspective on the need for the Merrimack Generating station to be shut down.

Barbara Peterson, member of Nonviolent Citizen Action, says:

“The fossil fuel industry doesn’t care about clean air, water, and soil.“Their priority is profit. It’s our job to say no to coal and other unsustainable energy sources. If we don’t stand up, put our bodies in the way of them destroying our ability to live on this earth, who will?”

This action sends a message to the owners of the coal plant that it is unacceptable to profit off of the destruction of the climate. Individuals in positions of power have failed to protect the climate and it is now up to ordinary people to make the changes necessary in the time we have left. We hope that people in power will follow our lead and make change in a direct way to stop the climate crisis in its tracks.

Lila Kohrman-Glaser, an organizer with 350NH Action, says:  “Last year ratepayers paid $50 million just to keep this plant open even though it provides only about 1% of our electricity. The out-of-state owners are getting rich off of the destruction of our climate and environment and our elected officials have done nothing to stop them.  We won’t stand for decision makers’ corruption and collusion with the fossil fuel industry anymore.”

“For years I've worked as an organizer trying to stop the climate crisis. It wasn't until taking direct action to shut down Merrimack Station that I saw a shift in our community,” explains Emma Shapiro-Weiss, Organizer with 350NH Action. “Folks on the ground in New Hampshire know the health, environmental and economical impacts that this plant has on our state and we won't stand for it anymore.”

This is just the beginning of the fight to end the use of fossil fuels in New Hampshire. The climate crisis is hurting people here and around the world. Moving forward, the No Coal No Gas coalition will continue to take matters into their own hands if leaders continue to fail to act.

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Quotes

Emma Schoenberg, of the Climate Disobedience Center, stated, “The coal industry and the larger fossil fuel industry have been reaping profits by stealing from our future for generations. Any nonviolent act that prevents fossil fuels from being burned is an act of reclaiming a small piece of the future that is being stolen from us.” She added, “Meanwhile, those occupying positions of political and economic power have consistently refused to act, so regular people are increasingly taking matters in our own hands.”

From Quincy Abramson, resident of Bow, NH: “My baby brother just turned four and he lives in Bow with my dad. I don’t want him to grow up in danger, the way so many people have, with a coal plant right down the road. I want to shut down the plant to ensure a safe and prosperous future for him and for all of us.” 

Bucket By Bucket

350 Vermont Summer Fellow Leif Taranta reflects on their experience of the August 17th action….

“Here we are,” I thought, crouching in the trees as a lookout as my comrades drove their shovels into the coal. It’s a feeling that came in waves throughout the summer; standing outside an ICE facility with my walkie talkie and vest, watching my friends blockade the street. Or kneeling on the floor and looking at the teary smiles and determined eyes of a direct action training. “This is who we’ve got. This is the team.”

I used to write stories about the end of the world. About fascism and concentration camps and rebels who flew hot air balloons and built new worlds in the mountains. Heroes. And I thought there was a magic formula, a perfect scheme or action that could save everything. The right words would convince those in power, perhaps. Or maybe we just needed enough people in the streets. The correct plan would come, a final showdown. And the numbers would calculate victory. 

Instead the Amazon burns, and the Arctic, and Angola and the Congo. Instead kids are dying in cages. This summer, I talked with people who’ve been hit by cars in ICE blockades, seen white supremacists tag our offices and cops push a man to the pavement. I watched coalitions fight and form, ate carrots and fresh baked bread at potlucks. And I’ve sat by campfires as veteran climate activists explain how history repeats itself, read articles about politicians or billionaires or technologies that won’t save us, that aren’t transformative enough. And meanwhile continents of ice plunge into the sea, and ordinary people join hands for miles and sing. And the heroes are not coming. 

Instead of heroes we get buckets. So last weekend a group of New Englanders grabbed white tyvek suits and shovels and went down to the Merrimack Generating Station. It’s the last big coal plant on New England’s power grid, completely unnecessary, and scheduled to keep operating. One hour of use releases more carbon than I have in my entire life, poisons the air, costs taxpayers money, and could be easily replaced with wind and solar energy. Yet, even though coal burning is a death sentence, the plant doesn’t have a shut down date. Instead it has huge heaps of fuel leaching in to the banks of the Merrimack River. So, we decided to take the coal away. 

“Here we are,” I thought, as I watched them dig. The generating station was all steel and looming cement behind them. My friends looked so small, swinging their tiny buckets against the piled carbon. We don’t get the authority to regulate the plant or the money to buy our politicians. But if no one will stop the burning, we’ll do our best. We have hands and shovels and strong backs. We have the messiness pesto potlucks and google docs and flipchart paper diagrams. We have nervous determination and clasped hands. And we can remove our consent from oppressive systems.   


Instead we are real human beings. We are not perfect. This summer, I’ve seen activists crack each other with anger and arguments. I have seen the moments of panicked doubt before an action, the snappishness and exhaustion. The things we are up against are so large, and we must fight them with quiet “are you alright?”s and hugs, and everyone. After all, we’re just humans who decided to block ICE data centers or drop banners. Because someone has to and, here you are- the imperfect people who stand in a circle in a wooden yurt, throwing maps and code words at the walls. Scared people who paint banners or plant permaculture or fire up video calls. Courageous humans who stare down police or fill out spreadsheets or meet with legislators to throw coal dust at their feet.


We used our buckets to take as much fuel from the fire as we could that day. And we’ll just keep coming back. We dropped our coal on the statehouse steps as a promise. Yes, politicians and governments fail to act. But we won’t. We’ll take things into our own hands, and in September, hundreds of people will descend on Bow for a mass action. When the plant is running or refueling, we’ll disrupt. We’ll keep it up until the plant shuts down. Then we’ll move on to the next one. 


It’s terrifying to realize there’s no one coming to save you. There is no political candidate or author or entrepreneur who will save my future, or bring back the people who have died in hurricanes or heat waves or wildfires. Instead there are ordinary, determined people on this Earth. And there are many of us who can sing or plot or strike or walk or shovel or support. This is who we get. Me, and you, and ragtag bunches of people with white tyvek suits. We stand in tiny towns and megacities and state capitals, in forests and farmlands. Just miles from pipelines and corporate headquarters, and coal plants, with gates of destruction hanging open. We have each other. Who needs heroes, when you have love and buckets. When there are teams ready to carry, and coal that can’t be burned. 


Press Release 8.20.19

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 20, 2019

Press contact: Jay O'Hara, 774-313-0881, jay@climatedisobedience.org

CLIMATE ACTIVISTS TAKE PRINCIPLED ACTION TO REMOVE COAL FROM MERRIMACK GENERATING STATION. 

Concord, NH - On Saturday, August 17th 2019, eight determined New Englanders, supported by a team of more than a dozen others, removed over 500lbs of coal from the fuel pile at Merrimack Generating Station in Bow, New Hampshire. This facility is the largest coal-fired power plant in New England without a shutdown date. Says Tim DeChristopher, co-founder of the Climate Disobedience Center: “With the global climate crisis having advanced this far without a dramatic change in US carbon emissions, we have a responsibility to remove this fuel from the fire. Indeed, it is now a necessity to take matters into our own hands and safely shut down this facility.” 

The following Tuesday, supporters from across the region gathered on the State House steps in Concord in solidarity with these actions. They pledged to join the effort to safeguard their futures by physically carrying coal away from the burn pile. Immediately following the media event, the activists proceeded to upend five large buckets of coal onto the steps of the building.  

Emma Schoenberg, also of the Climate Disobedience Center, stated, “The coal industry and the larger fossil fuel industry have been reaping profits by stealing from our future for generations. Any nonviolent act that prevents fossil fuels from being burned is an act of reclaiming a small piece of the future that is being stolen from us.” She added, “Meanwhile, those occupying positions of political and economic power have consistently refused to act, so regular people are increasingly taking matters in our own hands.”

These coal “Diggers” believe that it is immoral to suggest that an economic asset is in any way comparable with the human lives that are lost to coal. 

Twenty-two year old Quincy Abramson, a 2019 UNH graduate and lifelong resident of Bow, “I am so grateful that these people have taken action - Bow doesn’t deserve this, no one and no where does. We’ve seen that we can’t rely on elected leaders to ensure our and our planet’s safety, and so it’s up to us. That is why I ask the people of New England to join me in signing a pledge of resistance to continue the work.”

Lila Korman Glaser of 350 New Hampshire Action - On Saturday September 28th, following a week of climate action around the globe, hundreds of people from across New England will descend on the Merrimack Generating Station to end the burning of coal in NH.”

DeChristopher finished saying, “If a building is on fire and a child is trapped inside, no one would claim that it is immoral to break down the door of that building to save the child, with or without the permission of the property owner. Likewise, it must be understood as a moral act to remove fuel from the fire that is burning our future.”

At the end of the event at the State House, activists dumped five of the buckets of coal that were removed from the Merrimack generating station on the ground, saying they were laying the responsibility for ending coal in New England at the doorstep of the government.

For More information and to sign the pledge of resistance visit http://nocoalnogas.org and following the hashtag #bucketbybucket. 

PHOTOS AND VIDEO AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

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Meet the Diggers

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Andy Marion

Andy Marion is a trans, queer farmer currently living in Rollinsford NH, on occupied Penacook-Wabanaki land. They are plant lover, outdoor enthusiast, traveler, and whole-hearted sci-fi fan. Their first experience with direct action was in West Virginia, taking action to shut down Mountaintop Removal coal mines, and after seeing the devastating effects of these mines on both the land and the people. Despite a persistent itch to travel, New Hampshire is, and likely always will be, their home. They took action at the Merrimack station to shut down this power station for good, send a message that we will not stand for the further use of coal or other non-renewables, and to inspire others to embrace their power and stand with us.

Barbara Peterson

Barbara Peterson is from Stratham, New Hampshire. She learned as a child to question the government after seeing endless faces shown in Life magazine of killed US Vietnam War. I began my activism as a high school student protesting against the Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant. As an undergraduate at UNH, Barbara was inspired to not just learn about injustice, but to work with others in bringing awareness to different forms of oppression, apartheid, and nuclear proliferation. She currently teaches at a local college, publishes articles and other writings on nonviolent action, runs a grassroots group that educates the public to be empowered and effective activists, and does what she can as an activist to help save our earth and protect all persons’ freedom, dignity, and equity.

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Carole Rein

Carole Rein of Beverly, Massachusetts has been happily married for almost 30 years and is happy to be the mother of a middle-aged man. After decades working in the corporate world in information technology management, she became a special educator, teaching algebra and reading to students with dyslexia. A Quaker, she has been active in nonviolent demonstrations for about 50 years, beginning with the Vietnam War. In her activism since retirement, she has focused on White privilege and social justice in both the US and Palestine. Her concern for the environment currently calls her to action.

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Dana Dwinell-Yardley

Dana Dwinell-Yardley is an eighth-generation Vermonter living in Montpelier, VT, with two old-lady cats and one young sprightly dog. The rocky bones and hills of the Green Mountains are the home that hold her, while at the same time she knows that her Vermont pride comes from a history of colonialism and I live on occupied Wabanaki land. The folk community is her extended family — she has been a contradancer for 15 years, and now organizes her local dance, calls contradances, and facilitates a singing circle. She also builds community in her low-income condo association where she serves as board president. She delights in music, mountains, solo living, good food, board games, deep conversations, and building relationships outside the societal box of what love should look like. She is moved to action today by a lifelong love for this place, by a rising panic and grief for the planet, and by a growing knowledge that individualism and consumer choices will not solve the climate crisis, but a group of citizens taking powerful action built on relationship and community just might.

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Emma Shapiro-Weiss

Emma Shapiro-Weiss is from Peterborough New Hampshire where she lives with her partner and cat. She has spent the last few years of life organizing for environmental causes including volunteering for a solarize campaign and joining her local energy committee. She has been a kickboxer for 5 years and loves hiking her local mountains.

 
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Emma Schoenberg

Emma Schoenberg is a Vermont community organizer and trainer. Emma has an enduring commitment to inclusive, equitable, and relational movements - especially in rural communities. As an organizer, Emma has worn different hats within movements spaces, from political organizer to grassroots activist. Her work has touched on group structure and decision making, direct action and civil disobedience, popular education, and facilitation as well as political campaigns and policy. She is also a musician, dancer, and cat-owner. Emma is a member of the core team of the Climate Disobedience Center.

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Jon Hinck

Jon Hinck is a public interest litigator in private law practice. He has served as a City Councilor in Portland, ME and as a Maine State Representative. Previously he worked for the Natural Resources Council of Maine and before that was the Acting Attorney General for the Republic of Palau. Years ago he answered a help wanted ad in Seattle that said "Sell advertising for a good cause." That change his life. Less than a year later he was a co-founder of Greenpeace USA and eventually was put in charge of Greenpeace’s worldwide program. Jon learned about human-induced global warming in the early 80s. By the mid 90s, peer-reviewed science made inescapable the conclusion that our society and civilization would have to change significantly to protect climate systems. Since then, he has seen no higher priority -- it is part of his role as a parent, spouse, neighbor and citizen. He keeps looking for ways to give this unprecedented challenge the urgent response it demands.

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Tim DeChristopher

Tim DeChristopher is originally from West Virginia and now resides in Rhode Island. Tim disrupted an illegitimate Bureau of Land Management oil and gas auction in December of 2008, by outbidding oil companies for parcels around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah. His actions and 21 month imprisonment earned him a national and international media presence, which he has used as a platform to spread the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for bold, confrontational action in order to create a just and healthy world. Tim used his prosecution as an opportunity to organize the climate justice organization Peaceful Uprising in Salt Lake City. Tim is a Co-Founder of the Climate Disobedience Center, and after graduating from Harvard Divinity School, continues the work to defend a livable future.

Violating the Clean Water Act

For years the Merrimack station has been in violation of the Clean Water Act by discharging hot water from the cooling operations of the plant into the Merrimack River, creating an environment that kills local fish and aquatic life and degrades the quality of the river for those who seek to enjoy it. That water heating is compounded by the fact that the river is held back by a dam downstream in Hooksett, creating a more stagnant bathtub.

On March 4, 2019, the Sierra Club and the Conservation Law Foundation announced that they had filed suit in federal court to enforce the Clean Water Act. This is a critical part of the overall effort to close the Merrimack station.

While within the scope of the law, the suit is designed to force Granite Shore Power to build modern cooling tower infrastructure that would ensure that water re-entering the Merrimack doesn’t heat it. But the reality is that building cooling towers would be inordinately expensive. Forcing Granite Shore Power to build them would likely be economically impossible given coal’s existing financial weakness as a source of power.

This makes this summer and fall the perfect opportunity to push harder with a boisterous grassroots movement. Protest and direct action that draw attention and cost the company even more money will make the cost of doing business even more prohibitive. Let’s do it!

What's Gone Before

There have been efforts to organize to close the Merrimack station at multiple points over the years, and strong local efforts to install pollution controls. However, there hasn’t been much grassroots movement of late.

However, in 2017 a group of people of faith, led by Quakers from across New England, walked between the Schiller station in Portsmouth and Bow. Their pilgrimage ended in a 24-hour encampment blockading the tracks that supply the plant with coal.

Their action put the station back in the spotlight again as the last remaining large coal plant in New England without a shutdown date, and gained significant press coverage. You can find more press coverage of the action and pilgrimage on their website: https://climatepilgrimage.org/news/