Cove Point LNG Protest Was Not a ‘Stunt’

Cove-Point-crane-climbed-2-February-3-2015
An activist drops a banner from a crane on Dominion’s construction site.

By Yvonne Micheli, Calvert Recorder

On Feb. 11, The Calvert Recorder published an unsigned editorial [“Protest in a safe, legal and peaceful manner”] calling the nonviolent civil disobedience that took place at Dominion’s Offsite Area A a “stunt” that endangered lives. It claimed the action was unnecessary because there are “other safe, legal avenues to pursue.”

The truth is that we who oppose Dominion’s plans to construct the $3.8 billion gas refinery, liquefaction facility and liquefied natural gas export terminal at its Cove Point facility have pursued many safe and legal channels for a year already. We have legally lobbied and protested and gone to court and appeared at numerous regulatory agencies in an effort to get the proper environmental impact study and quantitative risk assessment completed. We have written volumes of letters to various newspapers, government agencies, scientists and elsewhere. We have gone to Prince Frederick, Annapolis and Washington, D.C. We have made speeches. We have spent considerable money. We have sacrificed time with family and friends. We have appeared before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Maryland’s Public Service Commission and the Calvert County commissioners, and in courts of law.

And what impact have these actions had? Other than educating some people about the extreme dangers of Dominion’s facility, and the extreme disruption it is causing to Lusby’s way of life, our safe and legal actions seem to have had little impact on decision-makers. Even though the company does not yet have all the notices to proceed that it needs from FERC, everyone knows, and Dominion admits, it is already hell-bent to complete this terminal by 2017. It seems intent on letting nothing get in its way. Dominion is engaging in what I feel are deceptive activities, like throwing lots of money around to appear “neighborly,” to make sure it gets its way in Washington, in Annapolis, in Prince Frederick and at The Calvert Recorder.

Those who engage in nonviolent civil disobedience, like Carling Sothoron and Heather Doyle, one of whom climbed a crane Feb. 3 and dropped a banner condemning Dominion, are not engaging in “stunts.” Instead, they are using a courageous and time-honored tradition of protest to bring attention to an injustice that democratic channels have proven ineffective to stop. In 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” as an answer to white clergy who urged King to engage only in legal and safe activities to confront Jim Crow laws. Dr. King argued that when legal channels have been exhausted, other activities become not only justified, but necessary. “We would present our very bodies”, he wrote, “as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and national community.” By climbing the crane, that is what Carling Sothoron and Heather Doyle were doing: presenting their bodies to demonstrate their resolve to end what we believe is a horrifically dangerous injustice.

Just as the racist white clergy of Alabama in 1963 claimed Dr. King was an extremist, The Calvert Recorder seems to be saying that Sothoron’s and Doyle’s actions were too extreme. In his 1963 letter, Dr. King had something important to say about extremism: “Was not Jesus an extremist for love? … Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel? … So the question is not whether we will be extremists. The question is what kind of extremists we will be.” So, while Sothoron’s actions may be viewed by some as “extreme,” they were done to highlight what we feel is a lack of safety in Dominion’s terminal and Dominion’s unconscionable undermining of the democratic rights of our community.

A statement by a former slave and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, seems pertinent here: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

Furthermore, has anyone considered the risks to human lives that Dominion’s plans (“stunts”) will bring? The residents of the Cove Point area are being forced to live next to a ticking time bomb of propane, ethylene, LNG and other explosive and toxic materials. Has the newspaper written an investigative report about those dangers?

We, the extreme and good people of Lusby, stand with Carling Sothoron and Heather Doyle in demanding an end to Dominion’s madness.

Yvonne Micheli of Lusby, MD is a member of Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community.

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