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In another effort to shut down Bow coal plant, activists stop train in Massachusetts

Two activists locked themselves to the train tracks after a coal train was stopped.
No Coal No Gas
Two activists locked themselves to the train tracks after a coal train was stopped.

A group of climate change activists stopped a train bringing coal to New Hampshire for more than three hours in Westford, Mass., Thursday.

The effort was part of the No Coal No Gas campaign, which aims to shut down New England’s last running coal-fired power plant in Bow and end the burning of fossil fuels.

Early Thursday morning, the group of activists made sure the train was stopped. Then, two protesters locked themselves to the train tracks.

Nathan Phillips, a professor at Boston University, was one of the people locked down. In a livestream posted to the No Coal No Gas group’s Facebook page, he called on leaders to stop subsidizing coal.

“Business as usual, status quo profiteering, and long-term damage to our climate and frontline communities is no longer acceptable, and is not going to be tolerated by ratepayers, frontline communities, and working people,” he said.

Phillips said the protest was also about the rights of rail workers, who have been calling for better working conditions.

“The people that are subjected to the health harms of burning coal, frontline communities like in Bow and elsewhere, are being subjected to an injustice. But so are the workers. That includes the rail workers, who aren’t being treated fairly,” he said.

Phillips and the other protester locked to the tracks were arrested in Massachusetts, but the charges have already been dropped, he said Thursday afternoon.

A similar demonstration in 2019 blocked a coal train along its route in the Massachusetts towns of Worcester and Ayer, and Hooksett in New Hampshire. No Coal No Gas activists have also protested at the Bow coal plant, calling for its closure.

The coal plant provides backup power for New England’s electricity grid, running on days when extra energy is needed. In the past, the owners of the power plant, Granite Shore Power, have argued that closing the plant would not significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the region.

Coal is one of the most carbon-emitting fossil fuels, and experts say it’s clear that burning it makes climate change worse. The coal plant in Bow emitted 325,997 tons of carbon dioxide in 2021, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that every ton of carbon emissions makes a difference in driving global warming.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.
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