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Activists blockade entrace to coal plant in Bow

Activists lock arms at the entrance of the Bow plant in a direct action Sunday. (Photo: 350 New Hampshire Action)

'Tear It Down': Climate Campaigners Arrested Outside New England's Last Coal Plant

"We came to shut this coal plant down and build a better future!"

Andrea Germanos

Activists with 350 New Hampshire and the No Coal No Gas campaign on Sunday blockaded the entrance to New England's only remaining coal plant without a shutdown date, where they declared that they'll "do what must be done to close Bow and stop the climate crisis."

Video and photos shared on social media of the event outside the Merrimack Station in Bow, New Hampshire show a row of seated protesters with their arms locked together and standing demonstrators holding a banner that read, "Tear it down." Between those groups were two activists with pickaxes breaking up the pavement where the group subsequently planted flowers.

Sixteen protesters were arrested following a dispersal order from the Bow  Police Department, the Concord Monitor reported. Troopers with the New Hampshire State Police, outfitted in riot gear, were also on the scene.

"Absurd response from the NH State Police to an entirely peaceful protest. They’ve got on riot gear to deal with people with… flowers," tweeted Jamie Henn, a climate activist and director of Fossil Free Media.

"The length the police go to protect fossil fuels never ceases to amaze," he added.

In addition to the blockade, organizers with the groups amplified their demands for the power plant's closure with a "Rally to End Coal" and paddle down the neighboring Merrimack River.

Though the plant—which has previously been targeted by climate campaigners' direct actions—now "only operates during peak electrical demand," the No Coal No Gas campaign explains on its website, the fact that it operates at all is "unacceptable."

From the campaign:

When operating at full capacity, the Merrimack plant generates as much carbon in one hour as 26 years of the total carbon emissions for an average American.

In addition to being morally unacceptable, this coal plant also costs electrical customers and the town of Bow millions of dollars. The recent installation of scrubbers cost ratepayers $500 million and barely touched the plant's climate emissions. Eversource (the owner after PSNH - Public Service of New Hampshire) sued the Town of Bow over the generator’s tax valuation, and the state supreme court ordered the taxpayers of Bow to reimburse Eversource $10 million. Meanwhile, the health risks of breathing polluted air and environmental harms to the Merrimack river remain in Bow residents’ backyards.

After being forced to sell in 2018, the Merrimack station is now owned by a joint venture company called “Granite Shore Power, LLC” which is in turn owned by two investment firms based in Connecticut:Atlas Holdingsand Castleton Commodities International. The station’s continued operation is supported by millions of dollars of subsidies that go to Granite Shore Power (called “Forward Capacity Payments”) from electricity rate payers across New England. Over188 million dollars were earmarked for subsidies to Bow between 2018 and 2023.

"Environmental justice isn’t just about pollution," tweeted 350 NH Action.

"We are in Bow," the group added, "because it is time to shut down the coal plant. It is time for a future of renewable energy and community over polluters and profits."

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