District Attorney Drops Charges Against Climate Change Activists Because It’s Real
— Sarah Moon (@Sarahrmoon) September 8, 2014
Bristol Massachusetts District Attorney Samuel Sutter gave an unusual explanation for dropping charges against two environmental activists who had blocked a shipment of coal to a power plant – he is worried about climate change.
The two activists, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara, blocked a shipment of coal to a Massachusetts power plant as an act of civil disobedience. Ward and O’Hara were planning on using a defense strategy relying on the necessity of stopping climate change to protect people and the planet. The trial resulting from the arrest would have served as a platform for a discussion of climate change with NASA scientist James Hansen and environmental activists Bill McKibben set to offer testimony to support Ward and O’Hara’s case.
All was going to plan until the DA dropped the charges and issued a statement more or less endorsing the protest.
At the courthouse, Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter said that the decision to drop the charges “certainly took into consideration the cost to the taxpayers in Somerset, but was also made with our concerns for their children, and the children of Bristol County and beyond in mind. Climate change is one of the gravest crisis our planet has ever faces. In my humble opinion, the political leadership on this issue has been sorely lacking.”
Ward and O’Hara were going to use the defense of protecting others to justify their blocking the 40,000-ton delivery to the Brayton Point plant in Somerset in May 2013. It was the first time such a defense would have been used in a climate change case in America, activists have said.
Coal is one of the dirtiest energies on the planet and a major culprit in climate change. Though alternatives are available, coal still makes up a large part of America and the world’s energy portfolio. Any program to rein in carbon emissions will have to target coal’s prevalent use.
In a sense the activists won as the DA not only dropped the charges but made a public statement that essentially supported the activists claims. The question now is whether other climate activists will perform similar acts of civil disobedience with similar results or will the defense Ward and O’Hara planned to use have its day in court.