EDF SUING CLIMATE ACTIVISTS FOR £5 MILLION – PROTESTERS FACE LOSING HOMES

Via: www.nodashforgas.org.uk

PRESS RELEASE: EDF SUING CLIMATE ACTIVISTS FOR £5 MILLION – PROTESTERS FACE LOSING HOMES

Posted Wed 20th Feb 2013, 7:50pm

• EDF suing climate activists for £5million

• Evidence of police/corporate collusion as police serve legal papers on
activists on behalf of EDF, and hand over personal data

• Key CCTV footage at police station may have been deleted

• Counter-Terrorism Command visited activist at home

• Home Secretary Theresa May questioned in Parliament

For more information, photos, film footage and interviews email
press@nodashforgas.org.uk or phone 07447027112. A new short film of two of
the activists speaking about the civil claim can be seen here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kTZgMIn4Go

Following the week-long shut-down and occupation of EDF’s West Burton
gas-fired power station last October by campaign group ‘No Dash for Gas’,
EDF has launched a civil claim for damages against the group and
associated activists for costs the company claims to have incurred – a
figure it puts at £5 million [1].

Should the claim succeed, several of the campaigners face losing their
homes, and all could face bankruptcy or be forced to pay a percentage of
their salaries to EDF for decades to come. The amount of the claim
represents just 0.3% of EDF’s annual UK profits, which rose by 7.5% this
year to £1.7 billion [2].

This is the first time an energy company has attempted such a claim, and
campaigners say it represents the opening of a new front against peaceful
direct action protesters. If successful, it could have a chilling effect
on other groups – such as UK Uncut and Greenpeace – who use civil
disobedience to challenge social and environmental problems.

Aneaka Kelly, one of the No Dash for Gas defendants said: ‘This un-civil
action by EDF is not about money – they know we don’t have this kind of
cash. EDF just want to make sure that anyone who tries to stand up and
challenge their profiteering price hikes, shady government lobbying and
climate-trashing power plants is quickly silenced by the threat of legal
action.”

Sixteen campaigners occupied two chimneys at West Burton for a week in
October 2012, stopping nearly 20,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions [3]. The
activists – 21 in total – were convicted of aggravated trespass at
Mansfield Magistrates Court today. Seventeen are due to be sentenced on
March 20th, and the remaining four on April 2nd.

There is evidence that Nottinghamshire Police colluded with EDF against
‘No Dash for Gas’ by formally serving civil papers on the activists after
their arrest, and by sharing their personal data with the power company.
In one case officers served the papers on the activists’ lawyer, in
another they chased an activist down the street outside the station and
served the papers on him directly, commenting, “I’m doing this as a
courtesy to EDF” [4]. Last week, the Home Secretary was questioned in
Parliament about whether this kind of practice is routine [5].

The campaigners believe that Nottinghamshire Police’s support for the
civil claim is part of a larger strategy to crack down on environmental
protest, as evidenced by the use of extremely onerous bail conditions on
the activists after their arrest. They were not allowed to associate with
each other and most were subject to home curfews from 9pm to 7am. Those
conditions were only lifted once the company had ordered its own civil
legal strategy against the activists. FOI documents obtained by No Dash
for Gas show that a Special Advisor in the Department for Energy was
liaising with the police about those bail conditions before most of the
activists were even arrested. [6]

In another incident, Counter Terrorism Command officers visited an
activist at her home to ‘remind’ her of her bail conditions and caution
her against going within 50 metres of E.ON’s Grain Island Power Station.

Deeply concerned by police involvement in the unprecedented civil claim,
the activists’ lawyer Mike Schwarz of Bindmans wrote to the police asking
to view CCTV footage from inside the station, only to be told it had
probably been deleted as footage was only kept for three months – despite
the fact that this three-month deadline had not yet passed.

Aneaka Kelly from No Dash For Gas said: “The police are meant to be
working in the public interest, not acting as EDF’s private police force.
If I wanted to sue EDF over their pollution or their price hikes, would
you expect the police to deliver the legal papers to EDF on my behalf, or
hand over the names and addresses of their top executives? Somehow, I
don’t think so.”

The protest itself aimed to challenge the Government’s plan to build up to
40 new gas-fired power stations, which would see gas accounting for over
50% of the UK’s power generation over the next three decades. The
Government’s own Committee on Climate Change have said that a new “dash
for gas” would make it impossible for the Government to meet its
legally-binding carbon reduction targets, and thus would push us ever
closer to the brink of unstoppable climate change [7].

The Committee also point out that a greater reliance on gas would increase
household bills by up to six times more than a shift to renewable energy
[8]. These comments were echoed this week by the Chief Executive of Ofgem
Alistair Buchanan, who warned that an increased reliance on gas will lead
to higher prices in the near future [9]. Campaigners blame the lobbying
power of big energy companies like EDF for the Government’s current
pro-gas position [10].

The case is reminiscent of the record-breaking “McLibel” case, when the
fast food chain McDonalds sued two activists from North London from
1990-1997. Ewa Jasiewicz, another No Dash for Gas defendant said: ‘This is
starting to look just like McLibel. It’s a David and Goliath battle
between protesters with nothing but their bodies to put in the way, and
out-of-control Big Energy which has a business plan that will drive up
bills, push millions into fuel poverty and crash our climate targets. We
will be resisting EDF’s claim every step of the way’.

ENDS

Notes for editors

[1] Copies of the legal papers from EDF are available – please email us on
press@nodashforgas.org.uk or phone 07447027112 to see them. The £5 million
figure was presented in court today, in evidence from Graeme Bellingham,
Project Director at West Burton’s, who stated that: ‘Delays to the final
completion of the project has caused total losses to EDF in excess of £5
million’. See also
http://www.channel4.com/news/edf-sues-activists-for-5m-an-attack-on-peaceful-protest

[2]
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/feb/14/edf-profits-rise-following-price-hike

[3] See
http://www.nodashforgas.org.uk/blog/press-release-campaigners-prevent-carbon-emissions-in-longest-ever-power-station-occupation.
The campaigners calculated that they were stopping 2,371 tonnes per day,
and the action lasted for seven days, so that’s 2371 x 7 = 19117 tonnes of
CO2 saved.

[4] See
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/feb/20/activists-police-edf-law-suit

[5] On Friday 8th February, Caroline Lucas (MP for Brighton Pavilion) put
forward the following question in Parliament:

“To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what her policy is
on (a) the provision of
information by the police to private companies that are planning or taking
civil legal action against protesters, where those protesters may be
subject to criminal proceedings, (b) the timing of the provision of such
information and (c) provision of other practical assistance by the police
to companies taking civil proceedings, including service or quasi-service
of court papers; whether her Department has established any formal
procedures or organisations to (i) facilitate the flow of any such
information and (ii) establish compliance with or breach of any such
procedures and policies; and if she will make a statement.”

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmordbk2/130212o01.htm#13_

The Home Secretary has not yet responded.

[6] FOI documents available on request – please email us on
press@nodashforgas.org.uk or phone 07447027112 to see them.

[7]
http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/tories-dash-for-gas-risks-climate-target-8120153.html

[8]
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/dec/13/gas-energy-bills-renewables

[9]
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/9878281/Ofgem-boss-warns-of-higher-energy-prices-in-supply-roller-coaster.html

[10] See for example
http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/reports/dirty_half_dozen.pdf

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About stephenmurphysa

climate activist
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