Activists put Governor Baker under “citizen’s arrest” for climate and environmental justice crimes

Activists put Governor Baker under “citizen’s arrest” for climate and environmental justice crimes

BOSTON, MA — A group of climate justice activists blocked Governor Charlie Baker’s driveway with a 27-foot bright pink sailboat reading “Climate Emergency.” The activists are putting Governor Baker under a “citizen’s arrest” for his repeated crimes against environmental justice communities and his climate inaction. They say the damage fossil fuel infrastructure projects have done to the health of communities is criminal and he must be held responsible.

State Troopers ordered the climate activists to stop blocking the street. When they refused and continued blocking traffic, Troopers cut the devices holding the protesters to the boat and took them into custody. Eight activists were arrested and transported to a State Police barracks for booking while the boat was removed from the road.

"Governor Baker has hidden from his poor energy decisions for the duration of his tenure. He has hidden from Weymouth, West Roxbury, Sandisfield, and East Boston. It is time for him to stop hiding and start acting as if our planet depended on it. Because it does," said Alice Arena, community organizer with Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS).

The boat was unhitched in front of Baker’s driveway at 7:20 am. Six activists locked their arms into metal tubes to prevent the boat from being towed away. They intend to keep Baker blocked into his home for as long as possible. The boat is a symbol of Baker’s inaction on the climate crisis, and his failure to take care of the communities that are most vulnerable to rising sea levels, food shortages, flooding, and heat waves.

“We call upon Massachusetts to be a leader in protecting the land, water, air and all life living there, and to implement true climate solutions,” stated Mahtowin Munro, an activist from United American Indians of New England (UAINE). “A first step in this should be listening to Native American tribes and Communities of Color in the state. Environmental racism is rampant in Massachusetts. It continues to be a major factor in deciding to green light projects such as the electrical substation slated for East Boston in an area already overburdened. The state needs to seek and heed the advice of Native American tribes about development that will impact their lands and ancestral waters, such as the clear cutting of precious Pine Barrens in the southeastern part of the state.”

“There is no environmental justice without Indigenous people,” said Jean-Luc Pierite, Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, president of North American Indian Center of Boston, “We remain committed as Massachusetts oldest urban Indian center to uplift the demands and experiences of our host tribes, as well as all our relations across Indian Country.”

Activists are standing with the following Massachusetts communities that are being burdened by Baker’s decisions to move forward with developing dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure: East Boston, Indigenous communities across the state, Weymouth, and Peabody.

  1. East Boston - In East Boston, a community that is predominantly low-income people of color, the Baker administration has approved Eversource’s electrical substation to be built in an area at risk of flooding and near a playground. The public hearing process failed to provide adequate translation for the Spanish-speaking community.(1) Acting Mayor of Boston Kim Janey said, “From what I have seen, the substation plan is based on flawed projections and flawed priorities.” (2)
  2. Indigenous Communities - In Indigenous communities across the state, land is often taken without consent from the Indigenous people who live and rely on it. Since 75% of the world’s remaining biodiversity remains in Indigenous territories (3), the forced development of Indigenous lands is an egregious example of environmental racism.
  3. Weymouth - In Weymouth, a natural gas compressor station was constructed in late 2020. It has had 6 large failures already, leaking tens of thousands of cubic feet of pressurized gas into the air. (4) Despite these failures, the Baker administration is refusing stop the compressor station’s operation.
  4. Peabody - In Peabody, a brand-new natural gas plant is being constructed despite a lack of an environmental impact study and health assessment. Gas pipelines around the state have been leaking with over 30,000 leaks in 2018. (5) The community will bear 30% of the cost and is concerned the plant’s emissions and leaks will kill people.(6)

“Baker keeps approving fossil fuel infrastructure projects to be built in low income and vulnerable communities – even when public hearings are flooded with comments in opposition to the projects,” said John Walkey, the Waterfront Initiative Coordinator with GreenRoots in East Boston.

The activists demand that the Baker administration:

  1. Move the East Boston Substation to Logan Airport to protect local residents.
  2. Sign the full Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda into law and commit to statewide reparations for Black residents. Divest Massachusetts completely from fossil fuels and invest in BIPOC communities.
  3. Shut down the Weymouth Compressor Station due to repeated failures.
  4. Conduct an environmental impact report (E) and a Community Health Impact Assessment (CHIA) to ensure the Peabody Peaker Plant isn’t doing excessive damage.

“Baker claims to be leading on environmental issues, but these projects clearly show that he is not. He talks a big game but what has he really done in his 7 years in office? Nothing that wasn’t mandated by the legislature. Now we only have 7 years left for climate action. His corporate ties are more important than public health and safety,” said Allen McGonagill, an activist with Extinction Rebellion who locked onto the boat.

The Baker administration has a questionable relationship with utility companies – particularly Eversource. Massachusetts residents have questioned whether regular campaign donations from Eversource executives caused Baker to allow Eversource to rebuild after the disastrous Merrimack County natural gas explosions. (7) Eversource won the multi-billion dollar energy procurement proposal because members of Eversource comprised the selection committee. (8) These relationships may explain why Baker acts with utility interests rather than with indigenous and environmental justice communities.

On top of burdening local communities, Baker’s inaction on the climate crisis puts the entire global population at risk. The International Energy Agency has warned that to limit warming in accordance with the Paris Climate Agreement, we cannot build any more coal, oil, or natural gas infrastructure. (9) And these goals are considered insufficient by many scientists, who are concerned that we may trigger tipping points that would result in uncontrolled, runaway heating.

  1. Miriam Wasser. 2021. “As Final Vote On Electrical Substation Nears, East Boston Residents Say State's Approval Process Has Left Them Out”
  2. City of Boston. 2021. “Mayor Janey Calls on Eversource to Cancel the Proposed Substation in East Boston”
  3. Honor The Earth. 2016.
  4. Caren Solomon and Philip Landrigan. 2021. “Enough Is Enough. It's Time To Shut Down The Weymouth Compressor”
  5. Lisa Kashinsky. 2020. “Thousands of gas leaks plagued Massachusetts in 2018, new DPU report says”
  6. Erin Nolan. 2021. “Push for Peabody 'peaker' plant to resume”
  7. NBC 10 Boston. 2018. “Eversource Defends Donations to Gov. Charlie Baker's Campaign”
  8. Bruce Mohl. 2018. “Baker goes with Eversource’s Northern Pass”
  9. Daniel Grossman. 2021. “A bombshell report from closely followed International Energy Agency”

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