JMU students arrested in Dominion Power protest

Brent Finnegan -- July 2nd, 2008

I don’t know how I missed this story yesterday (it was reported on WSVA). 12 protesters, including several JMU students, were arrested in Richmond Monday for blockading Dominion Power’s corporate headquarters in protest of their plans to build a coal-fired power plant in Southwest Virginia.

The Times-Dispatch has the story, as well as video of JMU student, Marley Green dangling from a bridge.

WSVA reported:

JMU students Bethany Spitzer, Alyssa Barrett Alissa Walsh and Holly Garrett were charged with misdemeanor counts of impeding traffic. JMU senior Marley Green was charged with the same, but had to post a higher bond after climbing a footbridge and lowering himself into the middle of the street using a climber’s harness.

Marley Green has been mentioned on hburgnews before, in this story about JMU’s Eco Symposium, as well as this one about Earth First.

Some of the same students (including Green) were involved in a previous protest at Dominion‘s headquarters in Richmond in April.

27 Responses to “JMU students arrested in Dominion Power protest”

  1. Karl says:

    Some of the initial names given by police have proven to be wrong. I can now only confirm that Holly Garrett, Alissa Walsh (originally listed Alyssa Barrett) and Green are JMU students. They’ll be tried July 29th. Great follow up in the RTD today about the possible prosecution of those arrested.

  2. finnegan says:

    I updated the post to reflect that info.

    I assume you’re referring to this story, in which they refer to the arrestees as “The Tredegar 12”

    “We didn’t mean to cause any harm to the city,” said Marley Green, a 22-year-old college student from Harrisonburg, in statement released by the group. “We felt the action was a necessary step that had to take place.”

    Green was the most visible player in the protest, which began by surprise Monday at 7 a.m. He dangled in a climber’s harness from the pedestrian footbridge to Belle Isle for more than two hours, while four other protesters blocked the street with their hands locked into containers of hardened cement.

    He was the only defendant who did not qualify for a court-appointed attorney at a preliminary hearing yesterday before Richmond General District Judge Thomas O. Jones. However, Blue Ridge Earth First! spokeswoman Hannah Morgan said yesterday that an attorney has volunteered to represent Green without charge […]

    Each of the protesters could face up to 12 months in jail on the obstruction charge and up to six months on the charge of interfering with a rescue vehicle, as well as penalties up to $2,500 and $1,000 respectively.

    Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring said yesterday that he will seek jail time for the protesters and said he wants to send the right message with the prosecution.

    “There has to be a proper balance between the constitutional rights of expression on one hand, and public order and property on the other,” he said. “If a stay at the hot, uncomfortable city jail isn’t a deterrent, I don’t know that other penalties may be, either.”

    I also believe Nottingham Parks (listed as an arrestee in the article) is a Harrisonburg resident.

  3. Del says:

    Laura Von Dohlen is a JMU grad and lived in Harrisonburg as of April.

  4. Bubby says:

    If, if the Bush Administration had honored it’s duty to regulate greenhouse gas as a pollutant (per it’s own EPA and the Supreme Court), would Dominion have decided that it was in it’s and the shareholder’s interest to build this coal powered powerplant?

    Was there ever any doubt that Dominion, and the electric utility lobby would get this plant built in Virginia?

    Message to DA Mike Herring: You better hope these folks don’t ask for a jury of their peers – you know the same peers that just watched the SCC give Dominion a permit to raise rates 18%.

  5. eso says:

    What a bunch of wackos. Coal is cheap and is abundant in the US – National Security. We need to build more coal plants and r&d the technology even more.

  6. Karl says:

    Interesting conversation at my house last night about the odds Mr. Herring has of actually getting what he wants. I argue that a jury (there won’t be one) would be more apt than a judge to hand out jail time in this case. Think about a panel made up of Richmond residents that are faced with a group that appears to be mostly from out of the area that caused a traffic tie-up. It may seem petty, but a jury is made up of humans and traffic is generally a hot button issue.

    BTW, Thanks for the additional info and the link to the old DNR story.

  7. Bubby says:

    And, if you don’t like that 18% rate increase that Dominion just got, wait until they bill the rate payers for the cost of this Wise County power plant. $1.8 Billion for a power plant that produces less than 600 megawatts!

    The price of coal has doubled this year, and when the existing contracts expire we’ll see another boost in electric rates.

    The next President will have to regulate CO2 as a pollutant and nothing spews CO2 more than a coal power plant – ratepayers will pay again as Dominion struggles to upgrade…or more likely to buy carbon credits – passing the bill onto ratepayers.

    Don’t like those prices? Too bad, Dominion can sell all the coal electricity they can make up north while they convince our compliant legislature to have us host their mines and powerplants.

  8. Frank J Witt says:

    Bubby, if you insist on trashing coal, at least put forward what YOU think we should do…realistically…please.

    As for the rest of you, here are some things being done about “spew”ing of CO2 by coal plants…

  9. Brooke says:

    Frank, I checked out your link and found this:

    “CCS has not yet been applied to large scale electricity generation, although a number of proposed projects will achieve this.”

    So, in other words, while they’re working on the technology (Great! Well, except for the reliance on a non-renewable energy source problem, of course) and it is being used on a smaller scale in some applications, it is *not* currently able to be used on large scale – including power plants like this one.

    Until it is, the point remains that burning coal will, in fact, will result in releasing quite a bit of C02 into the atmosphere.

  10. Frank J Witt says:

    Yeah, I read the post before I put it here. So, what are YOUR answers? Any that could be put to use today or in the near future?

    At least coal is TRYING.

  11. Frank J Witt says:

    I grew up in Hazleton, one of many small NE towns that look like bombing sited for the military due to extensive mining thru the ages. One HUGE problem now is that the town and with some help from the remaining coal companies, they are reclaiming the areas so they can be used by communities for good uses, but they face large obstacles from the environmentalists claiming that it is causing more damage. Well, you CAN’T have it both ways. I prefer the use of land for parks and the like but the “do-gooders” think it should be left to rot the way it is.

    IS doing nothing better than trying to improve ?

  12. Bubby says:

    Frank: You won’t find any more immediate relief than Conservation which should have been key part of Virginia’s electric utility regulation. The concept of Decoupling. In a nutshell, utilities get compensated for promoting energy conservation by being guaranteed a rate of return on their utility investments. We haven’t begun to wring out the waste in our electricity consumption.

    I like the idea of carbon sequestration for fossil fuel power plants but it is years away from being commercially viable – so the costs are equally vague.

    The crying shame is that our SCC, Legislature, and Governor are all allowing our monopolistic electric utilties to take on way too much debt, and regulatory risk, while allowing them to pass it off to the rate payers. We are a few bad bumps short of sky-high electricity in the middle of a recession, with no money to upgrade our energy-hog lifestyles. It is just one more move toward a lower standard of living for the folks on the bottom.

  13. Brooke says:

    Huh? Where did I say anything about re-purposing old mining areas – either in favor or opposition? I’m not sure that’s truly relevant to the discussion at hand.

    We’re not discussion or debating what to do with old mines. We’re discussing and debating whether a coal burning power plant is a good idea or a horrible idea.

    My point was that, while it’s great that they are working on ways to make coal burning cleaner, at the end of the day, they are still ways off from making that a reality for large-scale operations, like this power plant, and even if we can get there one day, the fact remains it’s still not a renewable energy source and is extremely dangerous to mine, not to mention the devastating effect these mines can have on towns when if and when they catch fire and or begin collapsing. Entire towns are having to be abandoned due to this problem.

    The hard reality is that any move away from non-renewable energy sources is going to be expensive, and it’s going to take time. There are no easy answers. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth pursuing. It makes a lot more sense to pour our time, money and resources into investigating and developing alternative energy sources, than pouring money and resources into discovering how to better use fuels that will run out and are dangerous to produce in the first place – dangerous to people and the environment.

  14. Brooke says:

    (we cross posted, Bubby – that response was intended for Frank)

  15. Frank J Witt says:

    I agree with you both but what are your solutions you want and how far off are they?

  16. Frank J Witt says:

    Did I just hear the weather woman on HSV correct? “Turn on your ac units…it’s going to be 70 tonight”

    I hope she is joking, 70 is far from uncomfortable. Nothing like telling HEC…”Hey guys, you’ll be making it big tonight, I just TOLD everyone to turn on the AC”…


  17. Emmy says:

    Well 70 is warm enough for me to have my AC on at night. Sorry, I’m a weenie!

  18. Frank J Witt says:

    Emmy, I didn’t mean to insult anyone (HA HA) I just thought it odd for a weatherperson to encourage use of an appliance for mere comfort. Dr. Heidi on the weather channel may visit this young lady on HSV and might just beat her up..then you WILL need the air on… Plus what would I know anyway, I sleep on the lower level of our house where it is usually 8-12 degrees cooler becuase the house is partially built underground.

  19. Brooke says:

    I’m with you Frank – our summertime thermostat setting is 78. Winter it’s 68 (and we throw on a sweater and/or slippers if we feel chilly). And even then, I’m sure that there are other ways we could be more efficient in our energy usage.

    But this is America. We want what we want, how we want it, when we want it, as much as we want it. We like our vehicles and houses big and our climates perfectly controlled. Problem is that’s never been a sustainable lifestyle.

    Certainly I don’t mean to in any way indicate that it’s somehow immoral or a crime to set your thermostat where you like it, all the same, I think Frank’s post underscores the fact that people have gotten accustomed to having things exactly the way they want them, down to the temperature of our houses and, regardless of whether you think the answer is coal, nuclear, oil, solar or wind, we’re heading for a time where the line between luxury and necessity is going to become painfully obvious for many more people.

    I don’t have the answers. I’m not an expert in this realm. There aren’t any easy or quick answers, that’s for sure, and I’m as frustrated over all of this as the next person. But I find it really hard to believe the *best* answer, even in the short term, is a coal burning power plant, of all things.

  20. Emmy says:

    To be honest, I could probably deal but I have two of the most warm bodied little kids on the planet. It could be 40 in their room and they’d be sweating! I’ve been much more aware of my thermostat settings this year than in years past though. I’m getting ready to leave for the beach and the AC’s getting cut off so I’ll save a little energy!

  21. Frank J Witt says:

    Make sure to blast the AC at the beach…although you won’t see the “bill” it still is you nickel that pays for the luxury!

    Have a safe holiday all…I’ll be at work…………..

  22. David Miller says:

    One topic that has been brushed over is why people like this protest. Is it because they are stupid? Are they mis-informed? Are they anarchistic when convenient? Is it possible that they are frustrated with a system that has no room for their voice. Do they live in a state where government responds to their voices and hears their concerns or is something else that causes their “social disobedience”?

  23. David Miller says:

    ““There has to be a proper balance between the constitutional rights of expression on one hand, and public order and property on the other,” he said. “If a stay at the hot, uncomfortable city jail isn’t a deterrent, I don’t know that other penalties may be, either.””

    This prosecutor obviously doesn’t understand their mentality. I would bet good money that they knew exactly what the end game would be, prior to their “expression”.

  24. Brooke says:

    Dave, I’m sure that answer is as varied as the people who participate in protests, and the issues addressed. I don’t know about “stupid” but I’m sure there are those that just like to make a scene and get the attention. Some might be suffering from a marytr complex. Some are just dyed in the wool idealists, who truly believe in the cause and believe this will bring needed exposure to the issue/cause. Some maybe completely delusional. Could be some combination of all of the above.

    Unfortunately I think one risk is that no matter how noble or worthy the cause, the message can very easily gets lost in the method. Instead of listening and thinking about the issue, some will just shake their heads and say, “Those crazy [insert organization of your choice] members”, write off the message, and instead focus on the disruption destruction and inconvenience that can result in these protests.

    But perhaps for at least a few, like those of us discussing this right now, it will hopefully be a catalyst for constructive discussions about what viable alternatives there are, or even just exploring the idea further. I know a lot of people are talking about energy, but how many of us would have really taken that much notice of the addition of this power plant if not for the protest? I really hadn’t heard there was going to be a new coal fired power plant until I read about the protest, so I guess you could say their protest raised my own personal awareness.

  25. David Miller says:

    Brooke, very good points. I didn’t mean for anyone to believe that I buy into those summary judgments. I just wanted to pose the questions and hear your interpretations. Also wanted to state that one technique used in marginalization is to focus upon the act within the media and law enforcement instead of the reason for the act.

  26. Brooke says:

    Thanks, David.

    I would have been surprised if you were actually promoting those points you brought up, but thanks for confirming I was right and you were speaking rhetorically!

    Unfortunately, the RTD article is a pretty clear example of your last point.

  27. eso says:

    The talk about AC is interesting …. The free magazine 81 had an article about Nancy Jones about life before AC. If I recall, she said you didn’t say women sweated, they perspired. And of more refined ladies, you would say they “glowed”.

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