EDF Energy attempts to sue climate change activists for £5 million
Energy giant EDF is looking to bring legal action against a group of 21 activists who shut down its West Burton gas-fired power station for seven days last year by scaling one of its chimneys and occupying it.
The campaigners were arrested after coming down but EDF is now looking to sue the group to the tune of £5 million in damages.
The group, who call themselves No Dash for Gas, were protesting at the construction of a new power station in Nottingham due to the high levels of carbon emissions the plant will produce once operational.
No Dash for Gas claim that once running at full capacity the plant will emit a staggering 4.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year; more than the entire annual emissions of Paraguay.
The campaigners see West Burton as part of a wider problem; a reinvestment in gas energy at a time when the UK is supposed to be cutting emissions to meet government imposed targets.
Energy Minister Ed Davey said: “I want a decarbonised grid in the long term, but we can’t take our foot off the gas for some time yet.”
Legislation introduced by Davey last year saw newly built gas-fired stations, like West Burton, exempt from emissions regulations, which marked a considerable u-turn in policy.
This move has angered climate change campaigners as the Government’s own Climate Change Committee concedes it would not make its emission targets if a new wave of gas-fired power stations are built.
The exorbitant damages fee sought by EDF is seen by campaigners as a move to stifle peaceful protest, as one No Dash for Gas activist said:
“Corporations are increasingly using the law against protestors to basically stop protests in their tracks [and] by deterring activists from taking protest action [in the future]…Not only are they engaging in destructive behaviour in pursuing gas but they’re also attacking democratic demonstrators”.
The £5 million lawsuit, amounting to £300,000 per activist, comes just weeks after EDF announced profits were up 7.5% from last year to £1.7 billion.
At the same time, energy comparison website uSwitch has concluded that the average household energy bill has gone up 63% in the last five years.
“I don’t think this is about the money, I think this is about intimidating us,” concurs one of the activists facing the damages claim.
EDF have already seen a backlash against their legal action with a petition on Change.org, demanding it be dropped, gaining over 45,000 signatures in less than a week.