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Sunday, Dec 4, 2022

Hundreds protest New England’s largest coal power plant

<span class="photocreditinline"><a href="">EMMANUEL TAMRAT</a></span><br />Asa Skinder ’22.5 attended the protest against the Merrimack coal plant in Bow, N.H last Saturday.
Asa Skinder ’22.5 attended the protest against the Merrimack coal plant in Bow, N.H last Saturday.

Activists flocked to the Merrimack Generating Station on Saturday, Sept. 28 to protest the station’s continued use of coal fired steam generation. One of the last major power plants in the Northeast to use coal fuel, Merrimack Station has been frequently protested by environmental activists for the last year. Middlebury students in attendance were Asa Skinder-Richardson ’22.5, Cooper Lamb ’22.5, Caleb Green ’19.5,    Malia Armstrong ’22.5 and many others. No Middlebury students were arrested.

Protest organizers included the Climate Disobedience Center (CDC) and 350 New Hampshire, with affiliates like 350 Vermont, Vermont Climate Strike and Middlebury College’s Sunday Night Environmental Group (SNEG).

67 people were arrested on Saturday for criminal trespassing, according a statement from the Bow Police Department. A group of activists were detained after crossing property lines onto the Merrimack Generating Station, one of the last power stations in the Northeast to use coal-fired steam generation.

Among the hundreds of demonstrators present on Saturday, the most significant were a group of activists that trespassed onto the station’s property in an act of civil disobedience. Many of them acted in collaboration with the #BucketbyBucket No Coal No Gas campaign, under which most were suited up in Tyvek suits carrying five gallon buckets with the goal of collecting buckets of coal. In mid-August, activists removed 500 pounds of coal from Merrimack Station and dumped it at the New Hampshire State House to increase political action against the plant.

On Saturday, Bow Police heavily enforced the station’s property boundaries, and 67 participants were consequently arrested for criminal trespassing, according to a Press Release from the Bow Police Department late that afternoon. Arrests were made between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m with no injuries or damages reported.

Around 300 demonstrators gathered at the edge of the Merrimack Station property, engaging in song and speech. They stood in solidarity with those risking arrest on Saturday.In an act of solidarity with activists risking arrest, a group of 300 people gathered by Merrimack Station’s gate. Among the participants were several Middlebury students, including Claire Contreras ’22.5 and Cora Kircher ’20. Both said that the gathering was as much about demonstrating solidarity with those risking arrest as it was about celebrating the movement towards ending the use of fossil fuels.

“A lot of the energy was channeled into making the environment feel supportive for people who were putting themselves at risk in a pretty scary way,” Kircher said. “It was also part of a larger celebration too.”

Contreras felt similarly. “It was pretty inspiring seeing people come from all over the east coast,” she said. “There was a lot of singing and chanting, amazing speakers, [and] a sense of solidarity for the people putting themselves on the line for a cause we all believe in- which is to end the age of fossil fuels.”

Demonstrators, dressed in Tyvek suits and carrying 5-gallon buckets, walked onto the property of Merrimack Generating Station and were subsequently arrested for criminal trespassing.

Protests lasted through mid-afternoon, with riot police present to control those attempting to further trespass. “The images of [the protests] speak for themselves,” Kircher said. “I personally had never seen that big a police force for an action that was nonviolent. It’s mindboggling that they hired two helicopters, a private security force and had state police in riot gear to take down people in white suites protesting injustice.”

In a statement released from Bow Police, Chief of Police Margaret Lougee said: “The Town of Bow would like to thank our local, county, regional and state partners for their assistance in ensuring that safety remained the top priority for our community, and all those who gathered at the Merrimack Station.”

Granite Shore Power, owner of Merrimack Station and four other generating stations in New Hampshire, said in a press release that although they support the views of those demonstrating, Saturday’s trespassing was seen by them as an act to make a scene. Merrimack Station is the largest of all five owned by Granite Shore Power, with full operating power at 482 MegaWatts. Granite Shore Power did not respond to The Campus’ request for a further statement.

Saturday’s protest capped a week of climate striking across the U.S., including climate strikes on Friday, Sept. 20 in Vermont towns and cities such as Brattleboro, Burlington, Lyndon, Middlebury and Montpelier.