WBUR

Protesters Arrested At Brayton Point Power Plant

SOMERSET, Mass. — Forty-four people face trespassing charges after being arrested Sunday at a protest in Somerset, during which they called for the shutdown of New England’s largest power plant.

On a soggy Sunday morning, 300 to 400 demonstrators began gathering at 9 a.m. at a baseball field in the shadow of Brayton Point Power Station‘s two massive cooling towers.

They came from as far away as Vermont and New Hampshire to this quiet coastal town on the south coast of Massachusetts to protest the coal-fired power plant and to demand cleaner energy sources.

“In a global sense, there’s such an urgent need to cut fossil fuels that I feel it needs to be shut down and we need to start making plans about it right now,” said Eben Bein, who took the commuter rail down from Somerville.

For 90 minutes, demonstrators listened to environmentalists, coal miners and union activists, like Peter Knowlton, the president of the United Electrical Workers Union Northeast Region.

“We know now that the production and the dumping of these toxins was directed by corporate executives who felt it was worth the risk for cheap electrical transmission,” Knowlton said. “But when you work on the suite on the top floor you aren’t exposed to the toxins. We are on the ground floor.”

Brayton Point’s owner, Dominion Energy, wouldn’t agree to talk on tape. But, in a statement, it said that it has invested more than a billion dollars to reduce the plant’s environmental impact and that the plant is necessary to ensure energy reliability and to keep prices down.

Among the Somerset community, feelings about the plant are mixed. There are those who side with the protesters and who wish they had been there when Brayton Point was built half a century ago.

Others say the plant is key to the local economy.

Bob Clark, president of the utility workers union at Brayton Point, called the demonstrators naive.

“There’s no simple answers,” Clark said. “We want electricity. We want all these iPads and iPhones and ThinkPads and Kindles and all this and that. Well, they all take power.”

After a quarter-mile walk to the power plant, protesters in red shirts held hands as they crossed a no trespassing sign in groups of five, as the crowd cheered. They had attended an informal training session the day before and had come with the intention of getting arrested.

The arrests themselves were orderly. Somerset police said the protesters had communicated with police throughout the planning process to ensure everyone’s safety, and on the whole had been cooperative.

Dominion is actually in the process of getting out of the coal-energy business. In March, it said it was selling Brayton Point to a private equity firm based in California and New Jersey.

Correction: This post has been updated to reflect the correct number of protesters facing trespassing charges. The correct number is 44, not 45, as reported earlier.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on wbur.org.
  • John Schultz

    Very good 350MA.org and all the other organizations that stood
    up to Fossil Fuel use today! It is time
    to end fossil fuel use!! We have to fight this cause on all levels and you are
    on the front line today!

    • Guest

      J.S.YOUR AN IDIOT!!!

  • Paige

    I live in Brayton Point, we should be the ones protesting .
    What about the peoples jobs? They should have brought there protest to the state house and maybe they would have gotten somewhere, instead of making peoples lives a living hell .

    • dz0

      We are fighting this fight all over the country and all over the world; I am sure there will be actions at the state house too.

      Although you may not realize it now, we were there for your sake, and your community’s sake, as well as our own.

      I’m sorry you feel your life was made a living hell because of one morning of peaceful protesting. Personally my life would be a living hell if I stood by and did nothing while our planet is destroyed by corporate interests. I don’t think I could live with myself.

      As one of the speakers today pointed out, during WWII, we converted our entire economy to a wartime economy in one year. This was a massive undertaking, but we did it for the war effort. We can, and must, convert our economy again, for the sake of continued life on this planet.

      • Walter

        People take offense to the group, I think, because they don’t understand it. Even that’s ok by me. What I take exception with is their unwillingness to hear your side (a lot of them anyway.) Realistically what do you forsee happening to the property when it closes ?(and I’m convinced it WILL close.) It seems to be basic economics. They’re hemoraging money at an unbelievable rate. Despite that they have an apparent buyer! I’m real confused.
        Soon after hearing about your protest, about a month ago, I’ve seen the plant take in what must be a record amount of coal. A Ship pulls in several times a week. They’ve got a mountain over there and you can’t usually keep your car clean for more than a day. Often times it migrates through the houses’ screen doors, making people want to turn on the AC rather than taking in a cool breeze. I was surprised. Then I heard coal is now available for as little as 23 bucks a ton! What are your thoughts on this? (buying so much? selling a failing company?) And I’m pretty sure you’re going to say wind or solar, so how likely do you see that transition happening and how long????

        • dz0

          Walter, I honestly don’t know if a transition to renewables can be made fast enough to avoid the catastrophic effects of unchecked climate change. I believe that the window during which we could have made an orderly, relatively painless transition to renewables has passed. We still have to try our best, though. Every day we wait, the effects of climate change get worse, and the costs of mitigating it get higher. The transition will not be painless. I don’t pretend for a moment that our quality of life in the future will be the same as what we enjoy now. I know that’s scary, but we can’t hide our heads in the sand any more.

          I didn’t know about the mountain of coal. That is puzzling. They knew our protest was going to be happening. If I were a coal plant owner trying to avoid bad publicity, I would have kept that mountain as small as possible on the day of the protest, so that’s a mystery.

          The plant is only operating at 10% capacity; it’s very inefficient. Still, they have a buyer, which can only mean someone thinks they can make it profitable. Maybe they’re hoping to receive government funds? You might know more on that than I do.

          • Walter

            I thought the same thing, regarding keeping the coal pile small to avoid bad PR. Then I realized it’s been a few days, I think since the tanker came in. Maybe they didn’t want a delivery on the day of the protest? But, if coal is really as cheap as I hear it is, I’m certain a little bad PR won’t stop them from making profits.
            One more thing. I’m getting a little annoyed–not by the town’s lack of support, but more so by the general bad attitude toward the protesters. I don’t get it. It’s like they’re saying “How dare you come into our town and try to make the air cleaner!” I’m NOT an environmentalist but I can’t imagine getting angry at a group of people like that. Everyone needs to know the facts–this plant is no longer helping the town financially as it once did. And a coal burning plant that is not financially viable does no good for people or the environment. I even sensed a bit of resentment in the Chief of police’s tone when he remarked on how they wanted to get arrested for the media attention. Where is the outcry on how much money the town spent on controlling what was maybe the most peaceful protest I’ve ever seen! Thousands were spent on police presence. I look at that and think how many computers that would buy for all the schools in Somerset.

          • Guest

            I’ve been to a fair number of protests, and what I’ve concluded is that there’s an undercurrent of animosity, even hatred, towards protestors in general, no matter what the cause. I think people have this gut reaction because protestors are calling attention to things they know are true deep down, but would rather not think about because the implications are too frightening. Recently I went to a march in Boston to protest the erosion of 4th amendment rights. A bystander (pretty sure a tourist) with an American flag shirt glared at us for a minute, then started aggressively yelling “USA! USA!” in our faces. It was such a strange moment, since we were demonstrating in support of constitutional rights, in a constitutionally-protected manner. Possibly the most American activity one could engage in.

            And yes, the arrests were planned to get media attention. When thousands of people come out for an uneventful, peaceful march (for ANY cause), it rarely gets media attention. Or they’ll drastically under-report the number of attendees, to make it look like group of fringe wackos. Arrests get headlines, and the issue of climate change needs to be in the headlines.

          • Walter

            your coment was pretty insightful, and I think it is the case some of the time. However, part of me thinks it’s just plain ignorance a lot of the time. If you mention wanting to support a cause that in any way sounds liberal–you usually find yourself being the lone voice. It’s deeply imbedded in people and it’s origins always come from money (big business is good for the economy, this brings jobs and tax revenue, this will cost the tax payer so much,etc.) It’s a language that I think started in the 80s with Reagan. These people are anti-freedom vs these people who believe in the constitution. There is no reasonable middle ground anymore and unfortunately i think that impedes are ability to make swift, effective progress.

          • dz0

            I’ve been to a fair number of protests, and what I’ve concluded is that there’s an undercurrent of animosity, even hatred, towards protestors in general, no matter what the cause. I think people have this gut reaction because protestors are calling attention to things they know are true deep down, but would
            rather not think about because the implications are too frightening.

            Recently I went to a march in Boston to protest the erosion of 4th amendment rights. A bystander (pretty sure a tourist) with an American flag t-shirt glared at us for a minute, then started aggressively yelling “USA! USA!” in our faces. It was such a strange moment, since we were demonstrating in support of constitutional rights, in a constitutionally-protected manner. Possibly the most American activity one could engage in.

            And yes, the arrests were planned to get media attention. Even when thousands of people come out for an uneventful, peaceful march (for ANY cause), it rarely gets media attention. Or they’ll drastically under-report the number of attendees, to make it look like group of fringe wackos. Arrests get headlines, and the issue of climate change needs to be in the headlines.

    • Robert L. Malin

      There are more jobs, cleaner, healthier ones, converting our energy system to a renewable resource based system.Had you come and listened to the speakers, you would heard about the real living hell that was in Moscow during their record heat wave where11000 people died. Or just look at a map of the western US, from Texas to California, that is burning up again. Emissions from this plant are a major contributor. What about those peoples lives and property? Can they send you your part of the bill?

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        how do you expect them to keep their ACs on?

        • Robert L. Malin

          Evaporative cooling is more efficient than compressors. There are other simple things like super insulation. There are thin film PV collectors that could wrap buildings. But instead Energy monopolies like Dominion invest 1 Billion dollars in non-existent clean coal.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            you ever tried to use a swamp cooler? they suck

      • Walter

        Do you think other nations will follow us into this green future? Because they’re way of life also impacts us.

        • Neil Gundel

          For sure they won’t follow us to a better place if we keep leading in the wrong direction.

    • Walter

      People’s jobs are already in jeopardy. I cant wrap my mind around this financial decline. The annual revenue went from around of 365,000,000 per year to 24,000,000. That means inevitable layoffs and pay cuts. And of course the financial implications in tax revenue are bad for the town. I’m from the area too. For selfish reasons, I’d like to see it removed from the landscape (better view, don’t have to wash car and house frequently, no more loud noises, higher property values, etc.) That’s why I TRY to be objective. I could never paint someone as a villian who’s just trying to give his family a decent quality of life. But, if we’re going to continue to do more harm to the environment, it MUST be worth it. In my opinion, our society isn’t going to be burning fossil fuels forever (actually it’s more of a common sense fact.) Someone IS going to pay for the transition. I’d like to take some of that burden off of my kids or grand kids. The way things are going…they’ll have enough on their plates already! I hear a lot of name calling and untruths. It is possible to come to a resolution, as long as emotions don’t highjack the debates. I think rational, non-partisan minds need to get together and look at the facts. And BTW, I don’t want to be a part of the misinformation going on. Those revenue numbers were delivered by an environmental lawyer. I believe them to be true, but I don’t preach them as gospel. She also said that a large number of coal burning plants were already closed throughout New England (that part was 100% true. In 2012, 3% of NewEngland’s electricity came from coal) and there’s a real good chance that Brayton point will follow. The country is also moving away from it. We’ve gone from 51% to just 37% nation wide since 2003! At some point, rational minds need to say : exactly what way of life are we trying to preserve?

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        it makes your car and house dirty?

        • Walter

          Oh yeah. Ask anyone that lives near the water. The plant will send you car wash vouchers if you request them. I’ve heard some people get them to pay for power washing their houses, but in these tight financial times…I don’t know if they still do

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            damn that would drive me nuts. god bless you

  • Seth Zeren

    Great job everyone. I was at the protest and I was impressed with the organization. The goal is not to eliminate jobs– there will be lots of work in transitioning to a clean energy economy.

    The billion dollars the plant says they spent is actually a great argument for closing the plant–all that money didn’t reduce CO2 one bit. Think about how many solar panels and wind turbines that could have paid for instead!

    • Walter

      Seth, I’m close to being 100% on your side. Actually, I should probably say I have absolutely nothing against you or the protesters. But, I think there’s way to many untruths, name calling, and emotions flooding this issue. Where did you get that info “The billion dollars the plant says they spent is actually a great argument for closing the plant–all that money didn’t reduce CO2 one bit.”??? …Is this really true? And a billion dollars is a lot. Plus it was govt. mandated. What DID the towers do for the environment?
      Also, when you say “transition” does that mean most of the jobs will vanish once it’s up and running? I’ve heard amazing numbers like 70,000 new jobs. How is that possible? and are they all local or are we including the people from the country the equipment was made in? The people who deliver it? The majority of people who aren’t with you won’t easily accept those figures without some serious proof. Has it been done before and how many jobs were created–sustainable and otherwise?

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        don’t forget the windmills breakdown and need to be maintained and lubricated. and some one has to dust off the solar panels and get the snow off in the winter. that 70,000 sounds like as exaggerated a number the # of jobs they said the XL will create

      • Neil Gundel

        Dominion Power’s own web site explains what the $billion was for. None of it actually reduces CO2 emissions, although it was mostly for environmental reasons. Part of it was for an ash recovery system where they have applied for carbon offsets if the ash is used in concrete, but it’s unclear whether the claimed carbon benefit is real.

        https://www.dom.com/about/stations/fossil/brayton-point-power-station.jsp

  • edward j wolfe

    Shutting down an old coal power plant is a positive thing . BUT if you think for one moment that solar /wind power is the answer ,you 100% wrong .
    Locally an environmental group is backing a gas power plant to replace the old coal powered Salem station .
    Now how safe is this hypocritical position? With all the noise about fracking gas you would think they would be holding a protest aganist the new Salem gas plant .

    • Walter

      You’re absolutley right. Coal is dirty, but there’s no way I’d want to have fracking going on anywhere near my home. Though, lots of people are attacking That guy Fox for his docs “gasland” and the newer one he just did. I often wonder about nuclear. From what I know it’s much, much cleaner and they already have the cooling towers. But talk like that might get me crucified. Supposedly solar and wind would be viable if they put the money into it, and future generations WILL if we do not. I think because fracking has turned into a nightmare and mining for coal is almost as bad, if not worse. But, Newengland is already down to 3% coal burning. The nation is down to 37%. So, we’re already well on the way to phasing out coal. I’d like to speak more intelligently on the subject, but honestly until last year the plant was just the way it was. I didn’t really think about it. My problem is all the attacks–you got people calling protesters commies that want us to go back to the stone age. I see this change as inevitable. I just don’t know enough about what a wise time frame would be. Then you’ve got nuts on the far left who don’t want windmills because birds fly into them from time to time!!!Seriously. I think our political differences are so vast that if something satisfying comes from this it will be a miracle.
      One more thing–We share the world and other growing industrial countries probably won’t follow our lead, I’m told. So the environmental impact of removing it may not be as profound as some people think. I doubt those protesters will travel to China and get arrested over there! Again, my opinions are what they are. I’m not claiming tohave solid solutions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    i hope all those who traveled so far all walked there

  • GeorgeMokray

    How many will be at the State House Monday morning for the 10am hearing on greenhouse gas regulations or know that ISO-NE has a plan to close all the old coal and oil-fired plants by 2020?

  • Peggy Benoit

    There is no such thing as clean coal!!!

  • Fred Mertz

    If you don’t believe in coal fired power plants,then go sit in the dark and I hope you freeze your butts off in the winter,50 to 75 yrs ago almost every home in the northeast used coal for heat.And for the global warming theory it is just another way of getting rid of good paying jobs in America.

    • Bart Schoenfeld

      Wake up, Fred Mertz. And how’s Ethel? What makes the actions of 50 – 75 years ago so great? This is the 21st century. I won’t be quite as spiteful in my comments as you seem to be. Global warming is happening, whether or not you wish to keep your head in the sand. I run my house on solar and geothermal, don’t burn coal or oil, and am cozy in the winter and nice and cool in the summer. And I don’t pay planet raping Big Oil anything. You probably could too, if you stopped believing the earth was created 5000 years ago. I kind of doubt that you have children or grandkids, or you might care what kind of world they’re going to live in.

  • Fred Mertz

    How many windmills would it take to supply Pittsburgh with electricity?WAKE UP TREE HUGGERS!!

    • Lee_601

      This is just a quick estimate, based on population and per capita electricity usage, but Cape Wind could provide maybe 2/3 of what Pittsburgh needs and the Alta wind farm in California could provide power for around two Pittsburghs.

Most Popular