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Climate Rally for a Coal-free New Hampshire

New Hampshire held a “Climate Rally for a Coal-free New Hampshire” in Market Square, Portsmouth, NH on Saturday, August 10, 2013. The three-hour rally aimed to inform residents and passers-by of the harmful impacts of fossil fuels, particularly coal, on our state, our nation, and the planet.

A petition was circulated, asking Gov. Hassan and the NH legislators to direct the Public Utilities Commission to do everything possible to encourage closing the coal-fired Bow and Schiller power plants.

The fabulous Leftist Marching Band started the rally off with lively music that drew people toward toward the rally as they walked by. They played a variety of tunes, including, “Which side are you on?”

Four speakers addressed the gathering of about 50 people. Doug Whitbeck of 350 New Hampshire provided detailed background information about the costliness of coal-fired plants and the need to shut down the coal plants and develop other sources of energy in the state.

Kim Richards crossed the river from Eliot, Maine, to speak about her work. Through persistence and determination, Kim and other citizens formed “Citizens for Clean Air”, a grassroots group that led a successful petition drive, asking the EPA to investigate the air pollution caused by the Schiller coal-plant. Although the Schiller plant is located in Portsmouth, NH, the prevailing winds often carry the coal dust, smoke and other pollutants across the river to Eliot, ME.

Many in the crowd found inspiration from Jay O’Hara as he spoke about his decision to commit an act of civil disobedience out of his concerns about global warming. In May 2013, Jay and Ken Ward anchored their 32-foot lobster boat in the path of a massive tanker that was scheduled to deliver coal at Brayton Point coal plant in Somerset, Massachusetts. Jay will be appearing in court later in August on charges stemming from his actions. (For more information about Jay, see his website, coal is stupid dot org.

Doug Bogen spoke passionately about the urgent need to wean ourselves from fossil fuels and transition to sustainable, clean energy. He highlighted the potential for building wind turbines in New Hampshire, and gleaning energy from the off-shore winds along the coast. Doug has been an environmental organizer and advocate for more than three decades. He is currently director of Seacoast Anti-Pollution League, promoting renewable power alternatives and watch-dogging the clean up of superfund toxic waste sites at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

350 New Hampshire was grateful for the assistance given by the NH/VT and Maine Climate Summer teams. The two Climate Summer teams each consist of 6 young adults who spent more than a month traveling entirely by bicycle around Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, spreading the message that we need to get off fossil fuels now! Prior to the rally, the Climate Summer teams made posters and other visual aides. They led chants and brought passionate energy to the rally.

A short skit brought a touch of street theater to the rally. “Mr. Coal” (Doug Whitbeck) initially dominated “Mother Earth” (Judy Elliot) and her children (Climate Summer), as their source of energy. However, the “Spirit of the Wind” (Michelle Combe) offered a healthy, sustainable alternative. The coal workers (Climate Summer) expressed concerns about their coal-related jobs. The Spirit of the Wind emphasized the need for a “just transition” from fossil fuel energy sources to sustainable energy sources – a transition that includes worker training for the new jobs.

skit photo 1

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