Posted by: JohnnyRook | October 17, 2008

Coal and Civil Disobedience: the Dominion 11

A little more than a month ago a United Kingdom court ruled that Greenpeace activists were legally justified in taking action to close down the Kingsnorth coal-fired power plant under the concept of lawful excuse.

According to today’s U.K. Guardian:

Eleven climate change activists are due in court today on criminal charges after they blockaded a planned $1.8bn coal-fired power plant, providing an American echo of the Kingsnorth Six trial.

The activists were arrested last month in rural Wise County, Virginia, at the gates of a power plant being built by Dominion, the No 2 utility in the US. The 11 chained themselves to steel barrels that held aloft a banner, lit by solar panels, challenging the utility to provide cleaner energy for a region ravaged by abusive coal mining.

Wise County residents have been fighting Dominion’s plans since they were first announced 18 months ago. The new Dominion coal-fired power plant, if built would release 5.37 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually.

James Hansen, America’s leading climate-change scientist, whose testimony (PDF) played an important role in the acquittal of the Kingsnorth Six, has expressed his support for the Dominion Eleven. Hansen has already called for the prosecution of energy company executives for crimes against humanity. Although, he’d rather be focusing on science, Hansen, a personally conservative individual, obviously feels that the situation is so grave that he has to lend his support to climate activists who have adopted civil disobedience because government has failed to recognize the need for urgent measures against Climaticide, especially coal.

Pointing out that Dominion has made over a million dollars in local campaign contributions since 1993, including $135,000 to Democratic Governor Tim Kaine, Hansen stated:

“It tells us something about where we are in the United States, where the public education is, the fact that special interests have succeeded in misinforming the public,” Hansen said via e-mail.

“That only emphasizes the fact that the wrong people were on trial in this case. It is the people on the other side of the docket who should be placed on trial. Especially those at the top of the heap.”
[My emphasis-JR]

As the Guardian points out, although similar actions are taking place against proposed coal-fired in Colorado and Georgia,

The Americans have yet to attract the national attention won by their counterparts in the UK. But for Hannah Morgan, a member of the 11, her case is only one chapter in a long battle against the coal industry that has been raging under the general public’s radar.

It is not clear that a defense along the lines of the one employed by the Kingsnorth Six will work in the US. As defendant Morgan puts it:

“It’s hard to say how the courts would react to an argument like that without making it,” Morgan said. “We thought we might be setting a precedent through this legal process, and we might be.”

Wise Up Dominion

Morgan goes on to declare that Al Gore, who has called for young people to engage in civil disobedience at coal-fired power plants, could have a bigger effect if he would actually take a leadership role in the civil disobedience movement.

“If anything, Gore’s behind the times, because American youth have been standing up and taking action,” she said. “We don’t see him out on the front lines.”

Photo credit: It’s Getting Hot in Here: Dispatches from the Youth Climate Movement

Crossposted at Daily Kos


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