Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mount Tom Demo

Holyoke, MA, Sunday, March 1: I am happy to say that more than 60 activists gathered at Mount Tom power station today. An earlier version of this post said 30, but Tina Clarke did a head-count and I trust her arithmetic more than I trust my own.

Kudos to David Starr of GREEN Northampton for helping turn us all out. At the same time demonstrations were happening at coal-burning stations in the eastern part of the state, sponsored (like ours) by the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities.

Our mission was to call on the station owners in particular, GDF Suez, and policymakers in general to stop burning coal. Tina Clarke (on the left of the picture) and Rev. Margaret Bullitt Jonas (right) addressed the crowd. A lone officer from the Holyoke Police Department watched us from his cruiser, parked at the entrance to the station. When I went up to introduce myself I noticed he was idling; I let it go, which was wimpy of me, I admit.

But at least the officer was there doing his duty, and that is more than I can say for the mainstream media. ABC News 40 had said they would show up to cover the event but didn't. Nor did any reporters from the two local newspapers, the Daily Hampshire Gazette and the Springfield Repubican, make an appearance. Fortunately Francesca Rheannon from WMUA and a team from Valley Free Radio's Enviro Show were there to do what newspaper reporters used to do back in the day, i.e. find out what's going on and why.

Tina recalled the long struggle to force the station's former owners to reduce SOx and NOx emissions, and noted the current owner's tendency to take credit for simply complying with the law. Margaret, whose ministry centers on the struggle against global warming, described the abuse of the climate as a sin. Then, reminding us that all great movements sing, she led us in song.

Both Margaret and Tina talked about the impact of global warming on people we don't usually think of as our neighbors but who are on the front lines, paying an immediate and unjustifiable price for our consumption of fossil fuels.

For my part, I mentioned the significance of the number 350 and the fact that in the Christian calendar today, March 1, is Saint David's Day.*

Veteran peace and justice activist Frances Crowe announced a one-item wish list for her upcoming 90th birthday: everybody stay home and don't burn gas. On the subject of boosting public transportation, Leo Maley urged us to support the proposal to increase the state gas tax by 19 cents a gallon. Joan Grenier mentioned that Bill McKibben will be in South Hadley soon (details to follow) and Tom Neilson sang us a wonderful song that he wrote for the occasion.

We left Mount Tom at about 2:00 p.m., with snowflakes in the air and joy in our hearts. Several people driving by had honked in solidarity, and we had borne witness to one another (and the officer from Holyoke PD).

But what's next? If that was it -- if today's demo was the beginning and end of our struggle to put an end to coal-burning at Mount Tom -- we won't have achieved anything more than an hour in the outdoors, a sing-along, and a chat with old friends.

So what do you think? What will you commit to doing to stop the burning of coal? While you ponder that, please bear in mind that April 1 is coming up. It's exactly one month away and nowadays, at least as far as some of us are concerned, April 1 is Fossil Fools Day.

*Welsh people will know this already but, for blog readers who were careless enough to have been born outside Wales, I should mention that Saint David's claim to fame was a little out of the ordinary for religious leaders. He didn't slay dragons like St. George or expel snakes like St. Patrick. He just grew leeks. Wales may be the only country whose patron saint was an organic farmer.

1 comment:

D.O. said...

Just found this press release concerning Mt. Tom. Seems rather timely!

A proposal to remove the top few hundred feet of Mt. Tom in Mt. Tom State
Reservation in Holyoke, MA was made public today by the Enviro Show, LLC.
Mr. Glen Ayers, spokesperson for the company stated: "We are not sure
exactly what important geologic materials are buried deep inside of Mt.
Tom, but it could be something that is needed somewhere in the world, and
who ever needs it should not be concerned about the impacts that blowing
off the top of this mountain will have on our local environment."

The proposed operation would remove the top part of the mountain with
explosives to get at the deeper, economically important geologic
materials. Ayers said the Old Growth Forest and the excess overburden from
the blasting could be bull-dozed and dumped into the Whiting Street
Reservoir which is conveniently located down hill, providing plenty of
capacity for spoil materials and any associated toxic wastes that the
mining will generate. The project is seen as a boon to economic
development in the region.

Ayers noted that "Immediately next to the Mt. Tom State Reservation is the
Mt. Tom Power Plant on the banks of the Connecticut River, which gets its
coal from mountain top removal operations in Central Appalachia, burning
1,200 tons every day to generate CO2 and 146 Megawatts of much needed
electricity. That coal is delivered by 80-car long trains, directly from
the mines in places like Rawl, West Virginia". Ayers says that mountain
top removal has become an accepted practice and that it will benefit the
community through the creation of jobs and eventual recreation
opportunities on the leveled area.

"This represents a good business opportunity", says Ayers. "We are
looking for smart investors, and expect the State of Massachusetts and the
Patrick Administration to fully support this important effort to improve
the economy of the Pioneer Valley. Public lands are special places that
should be used to benefit society, industry, and the local economy. Such
uses have a long and proud history in the Valley."

The Enviro Show, LLC, plans for this site include creating a large
flat treeless expanse that will better support future development
opportunities. Some ideas that may be pursued on the reclaimed site
are community or private football and athletic fields, golf courses,
cross-country skiing, community gardens, parkland and open space, and
solar panel arrays, making this proposal a truly "green" opportunity.
Its win-win-win for everyone!


For more information contact Glen Ayers at The Enviro Show, LLC

trick or treat!