Friday, June 20, 2008

FPL Protestors Prepare for Mass Trial

June 16, 2008; West Palm Beach, FL - Jury trial will begin on June 17 at the Palm Beach County Courthouse for 20 environmental activists with the Everglades Earth First! movement who were arrested on February 18 while protesting at the entrance to the construction site of FPL's West County Energy Center (WCEC). The trial will take place in Judge Barry Cohen's Palm Beach County courtroom 9F, around 9am. The trial is expected to last 3 to 4 days. There will be a press conference, Tuesday at 8:15am, on the steps, eastside in front of the courthouse.

The protest centered around growing resistance to 3800 megawatts of gas-and-diesel-fired power generation, located on site of the scandal-ridden Palm Beach Aggregates.The WCEC is 1000 feet north from the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge which serves as the functional headwater of the remaining southern Everglades ecosystem. The facility includes pipeline directly adjacent to the L-8 canal and neighbors the massive reservoir which is intended to improve water flow in the Loxahatchee Basin, as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).

"When someone stands up to defend the environment, they are treated as criminals; a corporation threatens to pollute and destroy the environment, they are awarded with permits. It makes no sense." says one Earth First! arrestee. "They have the wrong people on trial here."

The protest was also supported by the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition (PBCEC), who have filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop construction until a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is completed for WCEC'ss fuel source, the Gulfstream Pipeline. An EIS requires that all cumulative and secondary impacts must be assessed. The PBCEC challenge claims that the plant, presently under construction, is in violation of Federal and State laws, including: NEPA, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, RICO, and others. The PBCEC also has three open cases at the administrative level alleging faulty permits issued under the Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

According the the PBCEC: the completed project will consume over 6.5 billion gallons of water and emit 12.3 million tons of climate-changing CO2 annually; 18.9 million gallons of diesel fuel will be stored on-site; Up to 21 million gallons of industrial waste water could be deep well injected on site per day; It would provide the power to invite over a million new homes worth of sprawl into the region.

The activists contend that power use could be met through conservation, efficiency, and renewable options immediately, if only greed and corruption wasn't standing in the way. "We believe the jury will find our actions justifiable, and that they will condemn the actions of FPL and this system of runaway development that promises to destroy Florida," states another Earth First! arrestee.

Following the February protest, the Everglades Earth First! group began an ongoing effort to monitor construction and document immediate impacts to wildlife and public health.

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