Anticoal activists block path of freighter
SOMERSET — Activists in a lobster boat flying an American flag blocked the delivery of 40,000 tons of central Appalachian coal to Brayton Point Power Station Wednesday, bobbing for hours in the path of a freighter nearly 690 feet long.
“The climate crisis is real, and it’s staring us in the face, and we’re not doing anything,” said Marla Marcum, the on-land spokeswoman for the activists, who said she was there to bail them out of jail if the need arose.
The activists were not arrested, a Coast Guard spokesman said.
The lobster boat Henry David T. looked almost quaint, and certainly out of place, against the backdrop of the hulking power plant.
The freighter it blocked, more than 20 times its size, sat at the end of a long pier; the anchored lobster boat turned slowly in the current.
“I choose to place my body between the exploding mountain tops of Appalachia and the burning fires of our consumption and greed as a witness to the new way of being in the world that we know is possible,” one of the boat’s captains, Jay O’Hara, 31, wrote on the website coalisstupid.org, where activists live-blogged the protest.
O’Hara, of Bourne, and his cocaptain — Ken Ward, 57, of Jamaica Plain — called for Brayton Point to be shut down immediately for the sake of “planetary survival.”
Ward and O’Hara arrived at Brayton Point around 9 a.m. and dropped anchor, activists said; the freighter, the Energy Enterprise, arrived at about 11:15.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Robert Simpson said the two men cooperated with officials, but when the Coast Guard told them to move their boat, they realized that their anchor was stuck.
The boat left at about 6:30 p.m., according to activists.
A spokeswoman for the station said they planned to unload the freighter Wednesday evening.
Spokeswoman Lisa Lundy Kusinitz called Brayton Point “one of the cleanest electricity generators of its kind” and said that in the past several years, more than $1 billion has been poured into improvements designed to reduce the plant’s impact on air and water.
“We’re thankful no one has been hurt, but today’s action did nothing to lower electricity costs, promote reliability, or protect the environment,” she said.
The station, which is one of New England’s largest fossil-fueled power-generating facilities, according to its website, provides about 8 percent of the region’s electricity, Kusinitz said.
Wednesday’s action marked a departure from other climate protests in the Northeast, which have not been as confrontational.
“We’ve been growing the climate movement, and it’s time to exercise some of that power,” Marcum said.
The protest at Brayton Point, she said, was intended in part to draw attention to a round of actions planned by climate change groups around the country for the summer, including at Brayton Point.
Curious residents arrived at the public overlook off Ripley Street, where activists had stationed themselves to watch the standoff.
“Hate that place. Hate that boat,” said Bruce Correia, 52, staring across the water at the power plant, the freighter, and the mountains of coal sitting uncovered on the shore.
“All that coal, on a windy day like this, we’ll wake up tomorrow and everything will be black,” he said. “They have to power-wash houses. We get free car washes.”
On summer nights, he said, he watches the towers at the plant belch dark brown smoke. When he scoops up handfuls of sand on the beach, he said, it’s black with coal dust.
Others, however, were skeptical.
Joe Almeida, 64, greeted the explanation of the protest with a wry smile.
“I’m all for protecting the environment; however, what right do they have to go against big business?” he said. “I’m a businessman myself, I don’t think it’s fair.”