Going to jail for clean air?

Feature story - February 3, 2005
In June 2004, protestors climbed a 700-foot smokestack in Pennsylvania to bring attention to the dangers of a dirty coal power plant and US President Bush's polluting energy plan. They took this bold, peaceful action to help keep communities that live in the shadow of dirty power plants safe.

Activists climb a 700-ft coal plant smokestack to denounce Bush's dirty power plan. The activists now face possible jail terms for a peaceful protest.

We believe strongly in our activists taking responsibility for their actions and bearing fair consequences for our protests. But in our 34-year history in the US, no Greenpeace activist has ever been convicted of a felony resulting from a protest, because felony charges for peaceful acts are unwarranted and go against free speech.

Felony charges in the US are normally reserved for serious crimes and can result in lenghty jail sentances. The usual charge for public protest is a misdemeanour charge which our activists are prepared to face.

Who's the real criminal?

The Hatfield's Ferry Power Station in Masontown, Pennsylvania was under investigation by the US Justice Department for violating the Clean Air Act - an investigation that was dropped by the Bush administration. Having got off breaking the law, Allegheny Energy, the owner of the Hatsfield's Ferry plant where the protest took place, apparently would rather see peaceful individuals in jail instead of cleaning up the plant that causes 237 premature deaths in Southwestern Pennsylvania each year.

Allegheny seems to be more concerned with fighting activists who are trying to move the US toward a clean and sustainable energy future than they are with the pollution from their plant that is causing acid rain, asthma, and global warming.

Learn why these activists decided to take action:

"I'm here because I cannot stand by and watch the Bush Administration take advantage of the American people anymore. Dirty power like this coal plant is poisoning our planet and our bodies. The American people have the right to know how damaging these plants are and that clean energy is available now."

--Jess

"President Bush allows dirty power plants like Hatfield's Ferry to continue to spew out poison, which pollutes our bodies, our water and air. We need a commitment to clean energy like solar and wind to provide us with safe and secure energy for the future."

--Joshua

"My family lives downwind from a number of coal plants and I'm concerned about their health, especially the health of my two year-old niece. America could be a world leader in reducing emissions and consumption of natural resources if the political will was there. The change over to clean energy could slow global warming and the acidification of the world's oceans. As an avid scuba diver, the continuing destruction of the world's coral reefs is unacceptable, and this direct action expresses my concern."

--Lynn

"In 1972, my friend Chad was buried in coal sludge in a dam break in Buffalo Creek, WV. His mother and older brother were killed by the sludge after tossing baby Chad as far up the valley wall as possible. When he was rescued and the sludge cleared from his throat, he was raised by his father, a coal miner, and became known as the "Buffalo Creek Disaster Miracle Baby." I am here to ensure a future where families such as Chad's never have to face such tragedy due to dirty energy."

--John

I'm doing this because I am tired of President Bush allowing dirty energy to kill my friends and family when there are clean energy alternatives available. When people become informed of just how sick President Bush is making us they will make him stop and admit that clean energy is ready to be widely used."

--Renee

For me, this is an opportunity to combine my concerns with the present conditions of our environment and connect to the political state of affairs with my photography."

--Virginia

Learn more about the protest.

Get all the dirt on Hatfield's Ferry.