In January, Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise coasted into Wilmington, North Carolina for the first stop of the Coal Free Future ship tour. While in town, we brought attention to dirty coal used by Progress Energy’s Sutton plant, and dirty coal that would be used by the proposed Titan America cement plant.
It was a thrill for me to return to Wilmington, where I lived and organized in the community before joining Greenpeace on staff. I was very happy to see that the fight against Titan is still going strong. Titan plans to build one of the largest cement plants in the nation right on the banks of the biodiverse Cape Fear River. For almost three years, Wilmington residents have fought the proposed plant, which will burn 150,000 tons of dirty coal each year and spew out particulates, heavy metals, and other toxins. 8,500 school children are within a five-mile radius of the proposed plant, where most of the pollutants will fall.
Over the years, Titan has tried, in vain, to assure the Wilmington community that they’ll be a good neighbor, they’ll follow the strictest environmental regulations, and that Titan is a positive choice for the community. Even if Titan does follow the strictest environmental regulations, it’s not enough because those standards are not protective of human health and the environment. Many Wilmington residents don’t believe Titan’s promises. When I lived in town, I certainly didn’t buy it and I don’t buy it today.
People are pissed off and community members are getting organized. They are collecting thousands of petitions, holding rallies, fundraisers, and massive lobby days, attending county commissioner meetings, and calling local elected officials and on Governor Bev Purdue to stop Titan.
Well whatever is a poor, heartbroken multi-billion dollar international corporation to do, except attack people’s freedom of speech?
Well guess what? The other week Titan had its legal team to bring a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) of over $75,000 in damages for comments two medical professionals made at a New Hanover County Commissioners meeting on February 1, 2010. Kayne Darrell, a mother and radiographer, and Dr. David Hill, a pediatrician – one of over 200 Wilmington physicians opposed to the plant, are being sued for alleged slander, which requires falsity; however, there is factual basis for their statements. Nevertheless, two concerned citizens are being sued after their tireless work in the community to educate their neighbors about the health impacts of the proposed cement plant.
Just like many others in the Wilmington community, I was shocked that Titan would stoop so incredibly low, to use their financial prowess to intimidate concerned citizens and attempt to silence the truth. Lucky for Wilmington and our planet, Titan’s plan to strike fear in the hearts of its opposition has backfired.
Upon hearing the news, several letters to the editor, an op-ed, and calls into local radio shows demonstrated widespread concern and anger about what appears to be a frivolous lawsuit. In fact, 25 states have enacted Anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation), but North Carolina is not one of them.
Now the community is fired up, and there is no sign of folks quieting down. On Saturday, 200 people attended a solidarity rally supporting Kayne and Dr. Hill. Children, mothers, fathers, doctors, students, senior citizens – many concerned voices joined in unison chanting in this video, “Titan: you can’t silence us!”
Brinkley Hutchings, a UNCW student and Greenpeace activist, helped organize Saturday’s event. She was overwhelmed by the support and vowed to continue organizing in the community to stop Titan. Kayne Darrell burst into tears during the rally. She was so moved with the outpouring of support from people whom she had never met, but who felt compelled to join the rally because they are outraged by Titan’s attacks on these honest, concerned citizens.
A legal fund has been set up for Kayne and Dr. Hill's fees. To donate, click here. To support Wilmington in opposing the Titan cement plant, sign this petition here.
I wish that I could be in Wilmington helping and standing by Kayne and Dr. Hill’s side. Make no mistake: this is Wilmington's moment. This is the moment where Stop Titan as a movement can say enough of this nonsense. It is WRONG that Kayne and Dr. Hill are being sued. And it is UNJUST if Titan gets away with it, or if North Carolina decision makers are not urged to stand up for citizens’ rights, and the health of the Wilmington community.
Mahatma Gandhi, who led the nonviolent movement for a free India, said this: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Titan is certainly fighting right now. I urge everyone in Wilmington to keep up the pressure, keep up the fight. Stand up to Titan’s Goliath tactics, like lawsuits, with fearless resolve.
My heart goes out to Kayne, Dr. Hill, and every single community member in Wilmington fighting for a better future. Onward toward clean air and water in Wilmington, North Carolina!
The World War II battle of Iwo Jima ended with an epic photograph of US forces raising the American flag atop Mount Suribachi, known as “Raising the Flag.” This photograph represented the end of a battle and signified the struggle and triumph of that battle with Japan. Over the years, this image has been recreated again and again. Years later, the Energy Action Coalition replaced the American flag with a wind turbine to symbolize the peaceful struggle and the much-needed triumph we can achieve with a clean, renewable energy future. This is ONLY energy future we can accept if we want to stop destroying our people, planet, and climate for dirty energy.
This week in the snow-covered, frigid land of East Lansing, Michigan State University students brought a call to action, recreating this iconic image all across campus. Why? Because in a far off corner of south campus at Michigan State lurks the LARGEST campus coal-fired steam plant in the nation, burning 250,000 tons of dirty, dangerous coal every year. A dirty coal plant that was fined last year for violating emissions standards set by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment - awesome, right?
Not exactly. That's why students sprung to action!
MSU Greenpeace joined forces with MSU Beyond Coal and MSU Eco, calling for an end to all dirty energy on campus and to usher in a clean, renewable energy future with sources like wind and solar power. “Raising the Turbine” has taken campus by storm! This week of action has brought students and campus community members out to participate in raising the turbine, calling on Michigan State’s President Lou Anna K. Simon and Board of Trustees to heed the call of students and switch to 100 percent renewable energy.
"MSU has the opportunity to commit to such a transition and truly lead the green movement - the clean energy revolution," said MSU Greenpeace President Tabitha Skervin, speaking while the turbine was erected at Brody Square on Tuesday. "There is no question that this movement will happen, and MSU has the unique opportunity to be at the forefront of this movement!"
While raising the turbine, students have also raised a question to the Michigan State administration. Will MSU transition from dirty energy to renewable energy? Will President Simon and the Board of Trustees agree that 31 deaths per year in the Lansing area due to coal are unacceptable? That over 500,000 asthma attacks, up to 36,000 deaths each year, 12,000 heart attacks each year, and nearly half a trillion dollars per year in hidden costs due to coal is downright immoral. Will Michigan State answer the students' calls for change and demonstrate the leadership needed to spark an energy revolution?
While Tabitha, MSU Greenpeace, and other environmental groups call for Michigan State to lead the nation in transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy, Power Shift fever has also swept campus by storm.
Wednesday night, MSU Eco, MSU Beyond Coal, and MSU Greenpeace hosted Michigan State’s first of many Power Shift 2011 registration kickoff parties! Dozens of students registered, and are committing to join the movement for a clean, renewable energy future.
Michigan State is Raising the Turbine (RSVP here) for the only future we can afford. The only future with no more deaths or destruction from dirty coal, or any dirty energy source.
How will you Raise the Turbine at your school?
Join Tabitha, MSU Greenpeace, and 10,000 others this April at Power Shift 2011. Register RIGHT NOW before the Sunday, February 27th deadline.
WE are the clean energy future. WE have no planet B.
MSU Greenpeace started a year and a half ago with just one student, Max Johnson. Max had a vision for bringing Greenpeace to campus to fight the University’s dirty, dangerous on-campus coal plant – which consumes 250,000 tons of coal PER YEAR! Today, MSU Greenpeace is a movement on campus. Organizing protests at Board of Trustees meetings, leading marches, mobilizing the students and community, and now that their call for 100 percent renewable energy on campus is being heard!
Just weeks ago, MSU Greenpeace and MSU Beyond Coal teamed up to support a student government resolution calling on the University to switch to renewable energy! The resolution passed unanimously, mainly due to the overwhelming support from students, who, like you and me know that dirty fossil fuels are poisoning our air, water, cooking our planet, and incredibly expensive – now confirmed by a Harvard study. As students continue to raise their voices, the administration is starting to listen.
Yesterday, MSU Greenpeace members met with Michigan State President Lou Anna K. Simon to discuss their concerns about the campus coal plant. Four student leaders in the group met with President Simon: Tabitha Skervin, Adam Liter, Justine Becker, and Stephen Riccardi.
During their meeting MSU Greenpeace thanked President Simon for her recent steps toward a renewable energy future. Justine asked President Simon what her views were on renewable energy. President Simon agreed that coal and natural gas are NOT the solution Michigan State needs, but she explained that wind and solar are not an option because the campus is so large. She is open to renewable energy as more opportunities arise.
While that’s fantastic news, students are wondering why President Simon doesn’t simply create energy solutions by investing heavily in wind and solar energy research at Michigan State. The University is looking into an anaerobic digestion for powering its farms; however, it needs to think bigger. Create a space race mentality to secure millions in funding from statewide grants, renewable energy firms, and alumni donations. Not only will this create the solutions needed for campus, it will put Michigan State on the map internationally for its pioneering efforts and provide students with the experience and knowledge needed to compete in the burgeoning renewable energy job market.
The students were surprised to learn that President Simon is considering nuclear as an energy solution for Michigan State. Nuclear is a dangerous form of energy that has no place on a college campus.
While students were pleased to have the meeting, they want President Simon to lead the charge developing solutions to shut down the campus coal plant and replace it with 100 percent renewable energy. Not in 20 years, but today. Here’s Justine she said:
I love attending Michigan State, but with the university relying on the burning of coal as it's energy source, I can't help but feel like I am negatively contributing to the environment just by taking classes here. If MSU transitioned to 100% renewable energy, the students wouldn't have to be guilty because of the University's dirty habits and would instead get to be a part of the clean energy revolution.
The administration is walking in the right direction, but now it needs to sprint toward a renewable energy future.
Next week, MSU Greenpeace is teaming up with MSU Beyond Coal and MSU Eco to host a week of action: Raising the Turbine! They will reenact the famous scene of Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, but instead of an American flag they're raising a large wind turbine. RSVP here to help Raise the Turbine. This week of action is gearing up for two important events next week:
- A massive Power Shift 2011 registration party Wednesday, Febraury 23rd at 8pm in 305 Bessey Hall on MSU's campus. RSVP here.
- Michigan State’s first ever Energy Steering Committee meeting on Friday, February 25th.
Next week, students will continue to rally support for 100 percent renewable energy, mobilizing students to attend Power Shift 2011 and set the stage for the Energy Steering Committee to move the University away from dirty energy and toward the clean, renewable energy future students and our planet deserve. Thanks for starting this movement Max. Onward and upward we go!
Yesterday, President Obama visited Penn State to tour campus research facilities and talk about his plan for renewable energy that he plugged in last week’s State of the Union Address. The President told students in his speech that the “future of the country depends on you.” While it is great that President Obama plans to stop subsidizing big oil companies and he talked about training a new “green energy” workforce, he continues to support false energy solutions. Fracked natural gas, carbon capture and sequestration, and nuclear are not clean energy sources and will endanger our communities, people’s health, and our climate.
Braden Crooks and several Eco-Action members who helped organize the Rolling Sunlight event on Wednesday were inside listening to the President’s speech. Outside, Tina Robinson a Penn State graduate who was very active in Eco-Action and now heads an environmental group called Cultural REcyclists, led the protests calling for President Obama and Penn State to “step it up” and switch to clean, renewable energy like wind and solar. Tina called on President Obama to not include “dirty, finite energy sources such a coal and natural gas in his ‘clean’ energy policy.” Chris Stevens who joined the event with his coalition organization United Students Against Sweatshops said President Obama’s speech was disappointing; that the President spoke more about football than energy.
While students and Pennsylvania community members are continuing to sound the alarm about Penn State’s missed opportunity to switch from coal to renewable energy, ranking officials at Penn State are becoming even more vocal about their support for natural gas from fracking. Michael Arthur and Terry Engelder, two professors of geosciences at Penn State are slamming the documentary “Gasland” after it was nominated for an Oscar. According to Michael Arthur the potential for groundwater contamination from fracking “does not exist in Pennsylvania [.]” Professor Arthur: please visit Dimock, PA where residents can light their drinking water on fire, please visit impacted Pennsylvania residents like Cindy Kalbach in Tioga County, and tell her fracking is safe. Professor Arthur, please look Pennsylvania residents straight in their eyes and tell them that disasters like last month’s well blowout in Tioga County are not a problem. I’m sure 21,000 gallons of fracturing fluids and sand that spilled onto the well site is good for the planet and all part of “clean” natural gas.
The industry connections and pro-natural gas sentiments run deep at Penn State. Michael Arthur, co-director of Penn State's Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, is outspoken and opposed to Philadelphia's unanimous City Council vote to ban gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin. Professor Terry Engelder has previously worked for Texaco, received funding from Texaco for research, and worked previously on projects with Saudi Aramco and Royal Dutch Shell.
To me, it is not surprising that these Penn State professors are opposed to a documentary highlighting the dangers of natural gas drilling. Are you suprised? Didn't think so.
I know this truth is abundantly clear. If President Obama and Penn State are serious about clean, renewable energy, the only way forward is with renewable energy that does not poison people’s water, their air, communities, or contribute to climate change. What does that renewable energy future look like? An Energy Revolution including wind and solar. When do we want it: NOW!
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