On Wednesday, eight North Carolina residents locked themselves to bulldozers to stop the construction of Duke Energy’s massive Cliffside coal-fired power plant being built 50 miles west of Charlotte, NC. Two of these protesters were tasered for no apparent reason by police. All eight were arrested.
“The police, whose salaries are paid for by taxpayers, not by Duke Energy, arrested the wrong people. The protesters chained themselves to bulldozers to prevent a crime,” explained Avram Friedman, executive director of the Canary Coalition.
Duke began construction on the plant after the NC Division of Air Quality granted a very questionably legal permit following a flawed hearing process. Eight environmental organizations have filed three separate lawsuits to reverse the permit for the plant that apparently doesn’t meet new federal standards on mercury emissions, among other things. There may also be legal standing to deny the permit for carbon-dioxide emissions, based on recent federal court rulings.
The act of civil disobedience is one of over 100 protests that took place around the world on what climate activists called Fossil Fools Day, a day of protest targeting companies responsible for runaway carbon dioxide emissions. The day of action was organized by the international Rising Tide network and its allies to demand an end to the extraction and burning of fossil fuels and a just, rapid transition to sustainable ways of living. In Nottingham, UK, climate activists blockaded the offices of E-on, a company trying to build a new generation of coal-fired power stations, while another group in Wales halted work at one of the biggest opencast coal mines in Europe.
The new Cliffside plant is currently in legal limbo for being in violation of the Clean Air Act. While Duke CEO Jim Rogers publicly paints Duke as a “green” energy company, he has refused to install the best available pollution controls on the new coal plant, as is required by federal law. The plant would pump 6 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually in addition to toxic heavy metals such as mercury.
“The Fossil Fools in government and industry are playing games with our future: the time for lip service and half-measures is over. Direct actions like this one are necessary to stop people like Jim Rogers, who watch the planet burn while counting the money they make from the fire.” said Charlotte resident Jane Calhoun.
Climate change warning signs abound: countless plant and animal species are being pushed to the brink of extinction by warming temperatures; low-lying islands are evacuating due to rising sea levels; droughts, tornadoes, and floods are on the increase. “Climate change is the greatest threat humans have ever faced. We should be tearing down coal plants, not building new ones,” said Clare Jones of Asheville Rising Tide.
Public opposition to the Cliffside plant, including lawsuits, public protests and acts of civil disobedience, has been growing steadily. “Jim Rogers won’t have to live with the consequences of global warming. Our generation will. We aren’t going anywhere until this plant is canceled!” said Calhoun. A rally this Saturday in Charlotte is expected to draw hundreds of demonstrators.