Hundreds Mobilize to Demand Closure of Brayton Point Power Station; 44 Arrested for Civil Disobedience
Somerset, Massachusetts – July 28, 2013 – 44 people were arrested today at the Brayton Point coal and gas power station in Somerset, Massachusetts after placing model wind turbines and solar panels at the gates in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. Hundreds of supporters joined them for a rally and march to the power plant, which is the largest coal and gas fired power plant in New England. Participants called on Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to close the plant while ensuring an equitable and sustainable transition for workers and the town of Somerset. Handmade banners displayed messages such as “Governor Patrick: Quit Coal!” and “No More Coal, No New Gas” and “Power without Pollution, Energy without Injustice.”
“Climate change affects every aspect of life in New England, bringing dangerous heat waves, storms and floods,” said Adam Greenberg, a spokesperson for the group. “Brayton Point emits millions of tons of carbon dioxide each year. We need to shut Brayton Point down, quit coal, and wean ourselves off gas to have any hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change.”
“The Global Warming Solutions Act gives Governor Patrick the authority to transition Massachusetts beyond coal towards renewables like solar and wind,” explained Craig Altemose, executive director of the Better Future Project. “Our action today ensures that the governor hears our message loud and clear.”
In addition to worries about climate disruption, organizers pointed to severe local health problems as a reason to close the plant. Brayton Point releases 15,000 pounds of dangerous pollutants such as arsenic, lead and mercury every year.
Participants want the governor to close the plant without undue burden on the local community. “I am here to push for real long-term solutions for Somerset residents, solutions that will create a stable economy, not a dying and dirty industry,” said Camilo Viveros, a Somerset native. Job retraining and state financial support to replace lost tax revenues could be part of what organizers referred to as a “just transition” for Somerset. They emphasized that Somerset residents should lead the way in determining the specifics of this transition.
A portion of the energy produced at Brayton Point comes from natural gas, and Energy Capital Partners, the new owner of Brayton Point, has expressed interest in converting it to be an entirely gas-fired plant. Participants in today’s event, however, said hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction – or “fracking” – poses unacceptable threats to air and water quality. They also pointed to high rates of methane leakage from natural gas infrastructure; as a greenhouse gas, methane is far more potent than carbon dioxide. “Running this plant on fracked gas would only hurt communities, delay our transition to clean energy, and further exacerbate climate change,” said Jacklyn Gil, also a spokesperson for the group.
Today’s action is part of “Summer Heat,” a coordinated effort by 350.org and their allies in the national climate movement to draw attention to the rapidly increasing dangers of climate change. Similar actions have happened in Oregon, Maine, Michigan and Washington, DC.
One of those arrested in today’s protest, Sophia Goodfriend, a student at Tufts University, gave the following reason for her actions: “I’m willing to put my body on the line because it’s time for us to build the people power necessary to shift what’s politically possible. We have the technology to transition to clean energy; we just aren’t using it.”
Another arrestee, Turner Bledsoe, 79, of Hingham, MA, said: “This is the most important thing we can do at this time. We’re on the tipping point. Emissions must go down. If we don’t do something about it, we’re in the soup.”
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