Twenty people from 2019 Bow power plant protest to face sentencing Thursday

  • A climate activist removes coal from a burn pile at Merrimack Station in Bow on Saturday.

Monitor staff
Published: 1/12/2021 2:30:08 PM

Twenty members of a climate group that wants to shut down the power plant in Bow will be in court Thursday for sentencing, 16 months after their arrest, but plan to ask for a jury trial.

The protesters were arrested September 28, 2019, as part of a campaign by a group called No Coal No Gas that is targeting the Merrimack Generation Station in Bow, the only major coal-fired power plant in New England that has not scheduled a date to shut down.

The group, who are all charged with misdemeanor trespass, are scheduled to appear online before Concord District Court Judge Edwin Kelly on Thursday, between 12:45 and 5 p.m. The group of defendants plan to “declare their intention to  exercise their right to a trial by a jury of their peers,” they said. They argue that court rules give them the right to a Superior Court trial, with the District Court sentence vacated pending appeal.

“In addition to submitting a written statement, each defendant will have five minutes to offer a personal allocution to the judge,” the group noted.

A total of 67 people were arrested at the protest around the front gate of the Bow facility. The others have accepted plea agreements in which they accepted a finding of guilty to trespass but the court cases will be removed from the record next month, according to Jay O’Hara with the Climate Disobedience Center.

Two other cases, one in New Hampshire and one in Massachusetts, are proceeding that involve protests by No Coal No Gas, both for allegedly attempting to block shipments of coal by train to the power plant.

These protests are part of a wider climate action by the group since coal-fired plants are the biggest contributors to greenhouses gases among electricity-producing plants.

Coal once fueled the majority of New England’s electricity but has almost disappeared. Merrimack Station, at 480 megawatts, and Bridgeport Harbor in Connecticut, at 400 megawatts, are the the only major plants left and Bridgeport Harbor is slated to shut this year, to be replaced by a plant that burns natural gas. A megawatt can power between 700 and 1,000 homes.

Merrimack Station, owned by an investment group called Granite Shore Power, has won millions of dollars in capacity auction payments, designed to ensure that enough power plants exist to meet demand during shortages, through 2024.

Three smaller, 50-megawatt power plants in Portsmouth, known as Schiller Station, did not win extended capacity auction payments and appear to have shut permanently, according to the IBEW union. They are also owned by Granite Shore Power.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

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