Greenpeace Activists Sentenced to Jail – Allegheny Energy Continues to Violate Law

Six Greenpeace activists appeared in court today, and were sentenced to jail terms ranging from four to 30 days for a peaceful protest at the Hatfield's Ferry power plant in June 2004. The six climbed the smokestack at the plant, owned and operated by Allegheny Energy, to protest the dangers to Pennsylvanians' health from coal-fired power plant pollution and the Bush administration's energy plan, which favors dirty energy over clean alternatives like wind and solar power.

The pleas to misdemeanor charges came as the Greene County District Attorney dismissed the felony charges against the protestors. Last June, federal prosecutors filed but then dismissed felony charges against the protestors.

"The prosecutors agreed to drop the unwarranted felony charges, now the state of Pennsylvania has an obligation to hold Allegheny Energy responsible for its continuing violations of the Clean Air Act on behalf of the residents of Greene and Fayette counties," said John Passancantando, executive director of Greenpeace in the United States, in a statement issued after the sentencing. "These peaceful protesters were always prepared to accept responsibility for their action. It is, however, a miscarriage of justice that these men and women have been sentenced to jail for calling attention to the harmful impacts of coal-fired power plants, while Allegheny Energy routinely violates federal and state law with no accountability."

The four women and two men climbed the smokestack and hung a banner reading, "Warning: The Bush Energy Plan Kills: Clean Energy Now," because of the imminent danger to Pennsylvania residents. A 2004 report released by ABT Associates, a consulting firm used by the Bush administration, found that Pennsylvania leads the country in premature deaths from power plant pollution with 1,825 deaths per year. The ABT report concluded that the Hatfield's Ferry plant alone was responsible for 237 premature deaths annually.

"The Hatfield's Ferry power plant is one of the worst polluters in the country, and President Bush's energy policy lets it get away with it," said Renee Blanchard, one of the six defendants, prior to being sentenced. "Dirty power like this coal plant is poisoning children in Southwestern Pennsylvania and around the country, and I'm proud that I took action to tell Allegheny to clean up its act."

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