FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 30, 2008
Federal litigation: Barry Silver, Esq. 561-483-6900; David Reiner, Esq. 305-670-8282
PBCEC: Panagioti Tsolkas 561-588-9666
Everglades Earth First!: Lynne Purvis 561-588-3974
Environmentalists file Emergency Injunction to stop construction on the expansion of the Gulfstream pipeline and FPL power plant adjacent to Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge;
Meanwhile, the battle against expansion construction continues at the ground level and in criminal court
Palm Beach and Martin County, FL– A Motion for Emergency Injunction was filed in Federal Court August 29, 2008 by the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition (PBCEC) in response to an August 21 order to "commence operations" for gas pipeline fueling for the West County Energy Center. Meanwhile activists arrested for their opposition continue to fight charges in Martin and Palm Beach County Court.
In explaining the justification for both the request for Emergency Injection and the need for continued protest, Co-counsel Barry Silver noted, “With the accelerating climate change we have seen in recent years and the horrific and catastrophic changes in our planet's environment as a result of these changes, there is no more time for half-measures in dealing with this crisis. It is the height of irresponsibility for FPL to even consider spending billions of dollars for another fossil fuel power plant, simply to provide energy for people that are not even here and, according to recent demographic changes, perhaps never will be here.”
After more than two years of battle, including 6 administrative legal challenges (five of which are still pending), dozens of demonstrations and more than 30 arrests for multiple civil disobedience actions, the activists are asking Judge Middlebrooks to halt any further damage to regional ecosystems caused by construction while their Federal legal complaint is reviewed. This complaint alleges multiple counts of Federal and State violations, including: NEPA, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, RICO, Sunshine Law, and others. Several of these violations pose immediate risks, necessitating the Motion for an Emergency Temporary Injunction.
A previous press conference in May of this year announcing the filing of this Federal Complaint ended in the arrest of plaintiff and PBCEC co-chair Panagioti Tsolkas on an alleged felony warrant in Martin County for trespassing on Gulfstream Pipeline property. Although the arrest caused hardships and delays for the group’s work, it has solidified their commitment to fighting this project. The charges against Tsolkas, resulting from construction monitoring activities related to the group’s litigation, were dropped by Martin County on August 13, 2008.
"We refuse to be silenced by these energy giants" said Tsolkas. "They are pulling the political strings across the world and driving the planet's remaining human and wildlife habitats into oblivion. No person with a conscience can stand by and watch it happen any longer."
Tsolkas says he expects the court to grant the Injunction and require the permitting process to include a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will review cumulative and secondary risks associated with the segmented project.
"We have a basic, fundamental demand. There is really not any way around it. Projects of this scale need an EIS.” Tsolkas says he is frustrated that Governor Crist (named as a Defendant) could revoke this power plant at anytime for violating the Final Certification approved by Governor Bush's Cabinet in December 2006. “Unfortunately we can't sit and wait for that."
Protests and civil disobedience lawsuits continue
PBCEC plans to continue fighting FPL's Loxahatchee proposal on the community level as well. The group is a key sponsor in a 'Rally for the Everglades' scheduled for September 20, starting at Stormwater Treatment Area 1E, less than a mile east from the WCEC site at Palm Beach Aggregates. It is expected to be one of the largest anti-FPL protests to date.
Another group sponsoring the September 20 event is Everglades Earth First! (EEF!), who was involved in the blockade that stopped construction on February 18 at the WCEC and sparked national media coverage. Several of those arrested are still facing trial, but a significant victory was won by the group and their Public Defenders this week when Judge Cohen ruled against restitution to the Sheriff by the protesters. The group viewed the restitution demand as unconstitutional. A sentencing hearing occurred as well on August 29 for four protesters from the group. Thirty-eight officers with the Palm Beach County Sheriff attended the hearing to testify on behalf of the State Attorney's Office to renew the push for restitution. No resolution is expected until later this month.
According to EEF! Organizer Lynne Purvis, “a goal of taking this criminal case to trial has been to show the public that it is a necessity to stand up for our planet; sometimes civil disobedience is needed and that should not be discouraged by squads of riot police and frivolous restitution claims.”
“Damage is being done right now by construction associated with the FPL WCEC expansion. The impact will be magnified if that plant goes into operation, as millions of gallons of water is sucked from the Everglades and thousands of tons greenhouse gases and ozone are spewed into the air every day. Our ongoing protests and the legal injunction filed today go hand-in-hand. There is an urgent need for people to take action now. Otherwise, it may be a moot point in the near future.”
Copies of the Amended Complaint and Motion for Injunctive Relief are available electronically from Barry Silver; emergency affidavits of experts and plaintiffs will be available on Tuesday, September 2 (BarryBoca@aol.com). For more information on WCEC, Gulfstream and other related issues, see: www.RiverofGas.info