Climate Activist Walks to Stop Cove Point

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Charles Chandler is walking 360 miles to meet a court date in Calvert County on Monday.

By John Zangas, Cetology

Back in December, Charles Chandler was arrested for trespass in Southern Maryland while protesting a plant under conversion there to liquefy natural gas and load onto tankers for export to Asia. This facility on the Chesapeake Bay, called Cove Point LNG, could be a major driver of fracking on the East Coast and facilitate the emissions of millions of tons of greenhouse gases.

Chandler decided that walking to his court hearing in Prince Frederick this coming Monday would be appropriate. But he didn’t just resolve to walk a few miles to the courthouse. No, he embarked on a march of 360 miles.

Setting out from Ithaca, New York on January 24, Chandler has walked an average of 13 miles a day for 28 days, and is due to arrive in Lusby today. He is walking this long distance to raise awareness about Cove Point LNG and raise funds to fight it.

Chandler has stayed with families along the way arranged by supporters like 350DC and other groups, but most nights he has camped in fields or forests. He carries an iPhone and a lightweight MacBook, powered by a battery pack he charges at local stops along his route.

Chandler camped out most nights.
Chandler camped out most nights.

A retired mechanical engineer, Chandler, 68, has been an environmentalist since 2011, when he sold his car and started riding a bicycle. He decided to get involved directly in Climate Change actions early last year after hearing that 398 students were arrested at the White House to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

“I heard the story about the college students who got arrested at the White House and felt bad for their generation and wanted to help them,” he said. “It’s going to be their planet.”

He drew on his technical background to educate himself about climate change. What he discovered frightened him. “The average earth temperatures have been increasing and the Jet Stream has moved,” he said. “Extreme weather is the result of climate change.”

His march is meeting up with some of this extreme weather. The Jet Stream dipped south and brought Arctic and even Siberian air  to the Mid-Atlantic.

The gas to be exported at Cove Point will be obtained by fracking. Gas companies seek to lease land for drilling in Pennsylvania.
The gas to be exported at Cove Point will be obtained by fracking. Gas companies seek to lease land for drilling in Pennsylvania.

“I’ve had hosts nine out of twenty-seven nights, and I camped eighteen nights,” he said. Chandler has a 15°-rated sleeping bag and closes himself in it at night to stay warm. He was anticipating his coldest night yet with the temperature expected to dip down to -4° F by morning.

“What worries me is that the low temperature in Anchorage, Alaska will be around 23° F tomorrow morning,” he said. He explained that while it is cold here, the Arctic is experiencing relatively warm weather which is melting the permafrost. This in turn will result in releases of methane gasses that have been trapped under the ice for centuries, further accelerating climate disruption.

Chandler’s concern about climate change prompted him to participate in the Great March for Climate Action last year, walking part way from Ohio to Washington, D.C. Also in 2014, he rode his bicycle from Fort Bragg, CA to Richmond, VA, fundraising for 350.org and ClimateRide.org.

He was arrested in Solomons, Maryland on December 1 at a protest at a Cove Point LNG construction site, and two weeks later was arrested at Seneca Lake during an action to protect the lake from a planned natural gas storage facility.

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Chandler was on the road despite the weather.

“He is an amazing human being,” said Dr. Margaret Flowers, who was also arrested during protests at Cove Point late last year. “He is walking to Cove Point because he and nineteen others are going to trial on Monday for our actions to save Cove Point last fall.”

Chandler will face charges of trespassing and failure to obey at a Calvert County court on Monday along with other Cove Point activists.

He says he will plan his next action based on his ability to walk to court—should he be arrested.

Anne Meador contributed to this article.

[Correction: Previously, this article said that the date of Chandler’s arrival in Lusby, Maryland was February 21, but after a schedule change, he is walking the last 20 miles today.]

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