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Climate Movement Claims 'Victory' After Direct Action Suit Dropped by Energy Giant

'Only a few of us went up that chimney but 64,000 people came down.'

- Jon Queally, staff writer

In what climate justice activists are calling a "huge" victory, the UK energy giant EDF has dropped its controversial multi-million dollar lawsuit against activists who shut down one of the company's gas-fired power plants in 2012 with a dramatic week-long occupation of the plant's smoke chimney.

A climate protester atop West Burton gas power station on 29 October. (Photograph: @nodashforgas) The lawsuit was withdrawn by EDF following a vibrant online campaign that motivated many of its customers to change, or threaten to change, their energy carriers. More than 64,000 people signed a Change.org petition which called for an end to the legal action against the No Dash for Gas activist group.

In part, the petition read:

England celebrates its right to peaceful protest. The abolition of slavery and women's suffrage are but two issues which have only come about through this means. We should be applauding and rewarding the group for their actions rather than allowing a multi-national organisation to put them in debt, possibly for the rest of their lives for a sum, which to EDF is a mere drop in the ocean, but well over a lifetime's income for them.

And it worked.

"A domineering company with an appalling record of pollution was trying to break the climate movement with a lawsuit they thought would silence opposition, but they failed." - Danielle Paffard, No Dash for Gas activist

"For all their power, for all their access and all their wealth, EDF's bullying lawsuit has bitten the dust because people power fought back," said 35 year-old Hannah Davey, one of the group's members named in the suit. "They thought they were taking on twenty-one of us, but they soon faced a movement that stood with us against an energy giant and its lawyers. This shows how powerful we are if we all stand together, if we organise and mobilise, if we refuse to back down in the face of the climate crisis."

"Only a few of us went up that chimney," she said, "but 64,000 people came down."

As the Guardian's James Ball reports:

EDF had said the action against the campaigners was necessary to ensure that others considering similar campaigns "understand that they may face consequences" for the cost and disruption they cause.

The activists [...] had occupied the site of a gas-fired power plant owned by EDF in West Burton, beginning last October. Several remained strapped to a cooling tower at the site for over a week, the longest such occupation in the UK.

EDF's claim against the activists said this action had caused damage in excess of £5m, a figure that included staff and labour costs, delays to the completion of the station, specialist security and lost carbon emission credits.

But, now that the suit has been dropped, the No Dash for Gas group says their victory is EDF's "embarrassment"—one caused by the company's initial overreach and their subsequent "humiliating climb-down."

26 year-old Danielle Paffard, another No Dash for Gas campaigner, described the dropped suit as an "unmitigated defeat" for EDF.

"A domineering company with an appalling record of pollution was trying to break the climate movement with a lawsuit they thought would silence opposition, but they failed," she said. "Our campaign to expose the lie behind the new dash for gas will continue, with a growing movement and new allies."

Some of the globally recognized activists that came out in support of the activists were championing the news on Wednesday.

Canadian author and climate activist Naomi Klein tweeted:

And Friends of the Earth/UK showed their support with this message:

View the No Dash for Gas twitter profile:

And in this video, two of the No Dash for Gas activists describe why they shut down the EDF plant in the first place and the manner of the lawsuit levied against them:

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