Defending the defenders

Five times in just the last month, sometimes in sub-zero temperatures, groups of environment-defenders have delayed delivery of 10,000 tons of coal shipped from West Virginia to the Merrimack Generation station in Bow.

Protesters came from all over New England, representing groups such as 350-Action and the Extinction Rebellion in efforts coordinated by the Climate Disobedience Center, an organization determined to see the plant shut down.

Why would they do this?

Merrimack Station, built in the 1960s, is the only New England coal-burning plant not scheduled for decommissioning. With a current value of about $10 million, the plant costs New Hampshire residents approximately $37.8 million per year. Generating 482 mega-watt-hours, this is $78.40 per MWH. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a new solar facility would generate energy for around $60 per MWH.

And how dirty is coal energy? When the Merrimack Station operates for one hour, it produces equivalent pollution to an average New Hampshire resident’s production over 26 years!

Consider the additional longer-term costs of greenhouse gas pollution. We’re seeing coastal flooding in hundreds of locations around the world. Increased droughts have decimated huge areas south of the U.S., destroying farmland. Droughts continue to play a major role in California and Australia wildfires. Here in New Hampshire, ticks now decimate our moose population, honeybees cannot survive winters due to mites and new-growth sugar maples has nearly stopped.

Decommissioning the Merrimack Station will not solve all of this. Doing so is a drop in the bucket. But it is a start, and an important start to a movement toward sustainability that New Hampshire could lead.

Our environment-defenders are not criminals. They are informed people whose actions are driven by an understanding that time is running out for us all.