NEWPORT – The six protesters arrested on Lowell Mountain last December were in court Tuesday for a sentencing hearing.
Judge Martin Maley issued the sentence but delayed execution pending an appeal before the Vermont Supreme Court. If the defense loses the appeal, the sentence will be a $250 fine or 25 hours of community service.
Deputy State’s Attorney Sarah Baker asked for a $250 fine or two to three days on a work crew because it cost the state money to send deputies to Lowell Mountain to arrest the protesters.
Defense attorney Kristina Michelsen asked for the community service instead of a work crew, if the appeal fails, and to not involve the Department of Corrections by imposing probation. She noted that every one of the defendants is an upstanding citizen.
The defendants are Dr. Ron Holland, 68, of Irasburg; Ryan Gillard, 24, of Plainfield; Eric Wallace-Senft, 47, of Wolcott; Suzanna Jones, 51, of Walden; David Rogers, 70, of Craftsbury; and Anne Morse, 49, of Craftsbury.
They were arrested while standing on disputed property where Green Mountain Power was building a wind turbine project. The protesters stood on the crane path and blocked construction workers for more than two hours.
A dispute over ownership of the land on which they stood is in the courts and remains unresolved. Adjacent landowners Don and Shirley Nelson say that the land is theirs; Trip Wileman, the landowner leasing to GMP, says it’s his.
The protesters held a press conference following the sentencing outside the Orleans County Court House. They vowed to keep fighting through the court system, the legislature and via public education for their cause, which they call “an honest energy policy.”
“We are saddened by the fact that a discussion about our state’s energy policy has resulted in conflict and litigation,” Dr. Holland said, reading a prepared statement. “We will serve the sentences we received today as the price for moving the conversation forward. We must take dramatic and effective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – but this project fails to do that. We should be taking control of our energy economy on a community level – but this project fails on that measure as well.
“We should be seeking to reduce our impacts and find solutions that will make our communities and our natural environment stronger. We are gratified that we see signs that more and more people, and even in our state government, are questioning why we are destroying our natural resources for no benefit in the fight against climate change.”
The Vermont Public Service Board has prepared a draft energy report to the legislature, which may be used to create energy policy. The analysis comments on the sale of Renewable Energy Credits (RECS). The draft report by the PSB states: "Under the SPEED program, a utility in another state may, in part, meet its RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard) obligation by purchasing Vermont RECs. As a consequence of such a transaction, the SPEED program will provide no incremental protection or promotion of air and water quality in the state or region through the displacement of polluting fuels."
Holland said this draft report “finally shines a light on one of the hypocrisies that underlies the Lowell project – the sale of the renewable energy credits (RECs) that GMP gets for running the turbines. Selling the credits not only means that GMP cannot claim the energy generated at Lowell to be “green,” it also means that Vermont is enabling pollution elsewhere."
“We stand for a clean energy future that preserves our natural resources while also fighting climate change. We can get there through dialogue and discussion. But as long as Vermont’s policies allow the destruction of natural resources with no benefit to the fight against climate change, we will continue to fight.”
The defendants said what they have been through has been well worth it to draw attention to the issues. They feel it is their obligation as citizens to draw attention to what big corporation do.
Morse said there is an energy and social justice crisis that needs facing. She said big corporation have a disproportionate amount of power, noting that GMP was permitted to blow up the mountain before the land ownership issue was resolved in court.
For more information, visit the Mountain Occupiers blog at: http://lowellmountainsnews.wordpress.com/ .