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Chemical engineers slam Greenpeace protestors

13 November 2008

A clear majority of chemical engineers say that Greenpeace activists who vandalised a coal-fired power station in a publicity stunt to draw attention to the dangers of climate change were acting without justification. In a survey of 460 chemical engineers, conducted by IChemE (the Institution of Chemical Engineers), 77% said the protestors’ actions were wrong.

Chemical engineers slam Greenpeace protestors
Chemical engineers slam Greenpeace protestors

In October 2007, five activists scaled the 200m high chimney at Eon’s Kingsnorth power plant in Kent, using abseiling equipment before daubing the word ‘Gordon’, referring to Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, in an effort to convince the Government to cancel the planned redevelopment of the coal-fired station. The protestors were accused of causing £30,000 worth of criminal damage.

Greenpeace defended the charges of criminal damage by asserting that by acting to close the power station, they were preventing the harm that coal causes to ecosystems, people and property.
The jury found the activists not-guilty, marking the first case where preventing property damage from climate change has been used as part of a 'lawful excuse' defence in Crown Court.

IChemE’s Director of Policy, Andrew Furlong described the court ruling as ‘disastrous’ and warns that it could discourage new investment in the UK energy market: “Any foreign company looking to construct a plant will take a wide berth of the UK. This court ruling provides a precedent that says ‘It’s okay to break into industrial facilities and vandalise them’.

“There is no single source solution to our future energy needs. This isn’t about renewables or fossil fuels. If we’re going to keep the lights on in, we’ll need renewables and fossil fuels, along with natural gas and nuclear energy,” said Furlong.

Eon UK spokesperson Jonathan Smith agreed with Furlong’s concerns over the court decision. He told ‘The Chemical Engineer’ magazine: “We’re worried the decision is a license to break into power stations. We’re concerned about the decision’s repercussions for safety and security of energy supply.”

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