The New Climate Radicals
As it turned out, Ken and Jay were not arrested that day at Brayton Point. Once it was clear the anchor would be removed, the Coast Guard allowed them to motor the Henry David T. out of the inlet the same way they’d come. They had been informed, however, that for obstructing a navigable waterway, they could be vulnerable to a federal fine of $40,000 per day. “We were prepared to go to jail,” Ken told me afterward. “What we weren’t prepared for was bankruptcy.” The authorities have since taken a different tack, serving Jay (as skipper) with a complaint for negligent operation of a vessel and failure to act to avoid collision, and both him and Ken for disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct and conspiracy. Their arraignment is set for July 29 in Fall River. Both could face jail time.
In March, Brayton Point’s owner, Virginia-based Dominion, having recently invested more than $1 billion to modernize the plant, announced that it would be sold to the New Jersey–based private equity firm Energy Capital Partners, which appears to be betting on coal’s future. On the day of their action, Ken and Jay had a letter delivered to the heads of Dominion and ECP, cc’ing Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, calling on them to halt the sale and shutter the plant.
A coalition of environmental groups, Coal Free Massachusetts, has been working to close Brayton Point by 2020. But Ken and Jay are saying that’s not nearly soon enough—and that it’s going to require something more than politics as usual.
When we talked before their action, I asked Ken what he really hoped to achieve with the lobster boat.
“I’d like to shut the plant down,” he said.
Of course, he knew that a single act of civil disobedience, however dramatic, wasn’t likely to accomplish that. Even a powerful and sustained grassroots effort will face a long, uphill fight. Which, to Ken, is precisely the point: the fight. Drawing that bright line.
Ken and Jay want us to understand: as human beings, we can have coal plants, or we can have a livable future. But we can’t have both.
In “Trek West for the Big Picture” (originally on TomDispatch.com), Chip Ward reports on John Davis, one of the founders of a new school of thought called conservation biology, and his advocacy for an unbroken chain of wild lands spanning North America from Mexico to Canada.