Kingsnorth trial day one: the prosecution

Posted by bex — 1 September 2008 at 8:38pm - Comments

No new coal

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This morning, the Kingsnorth Six - plus a few hangers on like myself - made their way from a rural Kent retreat to Maidstone Crown Court for the start of the Kingsnorth trial.

I've spent the day watching the proceedings from the public gallery. (It's my first time in a Crown Court and I'm pleased to report that it's all true: the court really does all rise, there are curly wigs, and barristers really do look up the finer points of law in thick legal compendia.)

Actually, the whole experience is fascinating; the careful negotiations, the nuances of argument and the hints of theatricality have all left me a little agog. And having a friend's-eye view of the defendants and their motives makes it pretty poignant too.

We've had a lot of interest from supporters and a lot of people signing up for daily updates, and - although I'm restricted in what I can write for legal reasons - I can report what happened in court today:

Today was the prosecution's day. The six defendants are accused of criminal damage. Interestingly, as the prosecution explained, the "defendants accept they caused the damage. What the jury will be asked to decide is whether or not they had a lawful excuse for doing so."

Lawful excuse includes preventing damage to other property; an example, said the prosecution, would be breaking "a window to pull a trapped child from a burning car".

The defendants will claim, he said, that it was "lawful for them to damage the chimney in order to protect other property - other property, you'll hear, in Kent and all around the world, other property said to be at the risk of much more serious damage: threatened by the consequences of climate change which is caused by the substantial increase in what are generally termed as greenhouse gases, to which it is said coal fired power stations make a very large contribution."

Also interesting, the prosecution isn't seeking to dispute the reality of climate change or its impacts: "You'll find, when you return to consider the verdict, that the prosecution have not disputed what is the science behind climate change put by or on behalf of the defendants. So that's not what you'll have to decide.

"Neither is this a prosecution of free speech or legitimate protest. Such protest, be it disruptive or a nuisance, is a cherished part of the political culture in this country but, submit the prosecution, it does not include the right for the means of making a political point for the means of protest, to cause deliberate and substantial damage to property belonging to someone else."

The prosecution read out witness statements from Kingsnorth employees, to present a picture of the events at Kingsnorth of last October. Next, a site manager at Kingsnorth, Chief Superintendant of Kent Police and a Sergeant all gave evidence in person.

Tomorrow, it's the turn of the defence. If you're interested in the case, you can sign up for daily updates - and the case is being reported elsewhere online (see the Press Association and the BBC).

For now, it's back to our retreat to unwind before tomorrow's proceedings.


Sorry, commenting is turned off for legal reasons.

In October 2006, E.ON UK announced plans to build two new 800 megawatt 'supercritical' coal units at the power station at an estimated cost of £1 billion. In its announcement E.ON stated that the new units "could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 1.8m tonnes a year" compared to the existing plants and that they "will operate at an efficiency of 45% and above, compared to the existing units’ efficiency of around 36%."[4] In late 2006 the company has stated that it aimed to begin construction "early in 2008 with the first power being produced late in 2012".[5]

In its environmental impact statement, E.ON UK seek to justify building the proposal on a number of grounds. Firstly, they argue that additional supply side capacity will be needed in the UK "in coming years" as older plants are decommissioned. In particular, it argues that there will a deficit in the South-East of the UK, where Kingsnorth is located. Secondly, it argues that gains from demand side management programs and renewables will be insufficient to avoid the need for new centralised power stations. Finally, it argues against importing electricity as this would make the UK "reliant on other countries", increases transmission losses and that the UK should be "self-sufficient in generation capacity".

The company also argues that, as it will have to decommission 3 gigawatts of existing plant, it's corporate strategy is to build additional coal-fired power stations to "ensure that there is adequate fuel diversity". In a minimalist gesture to concerns about greenhouse gas emissions from new coal plants E.ON states that "they must be more efficient than those they replace and must be capable of being retrofitted with additional clean-up technologies as they become available and proven."[6]

E.ON's willingness to canvass the issue of greenhouse gas emissions in its environmental impact statement is spartan. In it E.ON spends only 54 words addressing the 'climate change' impacts of the proposed plant. "Anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide have been identified as playing a major role in Global Warming. The efficiency of the new units will be greater than the plant efficiency of the existing Kingsnorth power station. Thus the new units will emit less CO2 per GWh of electricity produced than the existing Kingsnorth power station," is all the company's report states.[7] (Ben Stuart, the communications director of Greenpeace, told the BBC that the new plant would emit 8.4 million tonnes of CO2 every year.[8])

While flagging that the plant may, at some future date, be fitted with Carbon Capture and Storage equipment, even this is heavily qualified. In its environmental impact statement, E.ON states that after the demolition of the existing station, the land could be used "to accommodate carbon capture and storage plant together with suitable routes to the North Sea, should a future legislative framework allow and support this".[9]

It further states that CCS "will be considered as an option for GHG emission reduction at the Kingsnorth site by E.ON UK at a later date. This will be subject to the process of CCS being allowed by law and incentivised by a suitable framework and technological hurdles for the process being overcome so that proven technology becomes available for the process of capture and storage. With this in mind the proposed units will be designed "capture ready" to allow retrofit at a later date."[10]

The company's environmental impact statement does not disclose the origin or the qualities of the coal that would be used if the plant is built.

In October 2006, E.ON UK announced plans to build two new 800 megawatt 'supercritical' coal units at the power station at an estimated cost of £1 billion. In its announcement E.ON stated that the new units "could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 1.8m tonnes a year" compared to the existing plants and that they "will operate at an efficiency of 45% and above, compared to the existing units’ efficiency of around 36%."[4] In late 2006 the company has stated that it aimed to begin construction "early in 2008 with the first power being produced late in 2012".[5] In its environmental impact statement, E.ON UK seek to justify building the proposal on a number of grounds. Firstly, they argue that additional supply side capacity will be needed in the UK "in coming years" as older plants are decommissioned. In particular, it argues that there will a deficit in the South-East of the UK, where Kingsnorth is located. Secondly, it argues that gains from demand side management programs and renewables will be insufficient to avoid the need for new centralised power stations. Finally, it argues against importing electricity as this would make the UK "reliant on other countries", increases transmission losses and that the UK should be "self-sufficient in generation capacity". The company also argues that, as it will have to decommission 3 gigawatts of existing plant, it's corporate strategy is to build additional coal-fired power stations to "ensure that there is adequate fuel diversity". In a minimalist gesture to concerns about greenhouse gas emissions from new coal plants E.ON states that "they must be more efficient than those they replace and must be capable of being retrofitted with additional clean-up technologies as they become available and proven."[6] E.ON's willingness to canvass the issue of greenhouse gas emissions in its environmental impact statement is spartan. In it E.ON spends only 54 words addressing the 'climate change' impacts of the proposed plant. "Anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide have been identified as playing a major role in Global Warming. The efficiency of the new units will be greater than the plant efficiency of the existing Kingsnorth power station. Thus the new units will emit less CO2 per GWh of electricity produced than the existing Kingsnorth power station," is all the company's report states.[7] (Ben Stuart, the communications director of Greenpeace, told the BBC that the new plant would emit 8.4 million tonnes of CO2 every year.[8]) While flagging that the plant may, at some future date, be fitted with Carbon Capture and Storage equipment, even this is heavily qualified. In its environmental impact statement, E.ON states that after the demolition of the existing station, the land could be used "to accommodate carbon capture and storage plant together with suitable routes to the North Sea, should a future legislative framework allow and support this".[9] It further states that CCS "will be considered as an option for GHG emission reduction at the Kingsnorth site by E.ON UK at a later date. This will be subject to the process of CCS being allowed by law and incentivised by a suitable framework and technological hurdles for the process being overcome so that proven technology becomes available for the process of capture and storage. With this in mind the proposed units will be designed "capture ready" to allow retrofit at a later date."[10] The company's environmental impact statement does not disclose the origin or the qualities of the coal that would be used if the plant is built.

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