Interfaith Direct Action in Maryland for Clean Energy

Charles Lenchner, 2/24/2005

Below, please see sentencing statements by Mike Tidwell, Rabbi David Shneyer, and Michael Tabor, and a press release from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

Sentencing Statement of Mike Tidwell read before Montgomery County District Court Judge Cornelius Vaughey February 11th, 2005

My name is Mike Tidwell, I'm 42, and I live in Takoma Park, Md with my wife Catherine and our 7 year old son Sasha. I'm a lifelong Christian who is very active in the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church. I have lived in Maryland for 16 years and have served my community all those years as an environmental organizer, peace activist, advocate for the homeless, and coach of youth baseball and soccer teams. In my early 20s I served my country as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa, teaching village people how to raise fish.

I am currently director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a grassroots nonprofit with thousands of supporters across this region. Our mission is to promote clean energy resources such as wind and solar power as a way of fighting the accelerating crisis of global climate change.

Which is why I went to the Dickerson coal-burning power plant on November 10 and risked arrest by peacefully refusing to vacate the road leading to the plant. The Dickerson plant and three others like it suburban Maryland and northern Virginia literally encircle the nation's capital and produce most of the electricity consumed here. To do this, the plants burn about 20,000 tons of pulverized coal per day. This combustion emits enough carbon dioxide — the most harmful greenhouse gas — equal to 700,000 Hummers driven completely around the Washington Beltway EVERY DAY! In short, these four power plants are the greatest source of global warming in our region.

But the Atlanta-based Mirant corporation, owner of all four plants, has repeatedly refused to reduce these greenhouse gas emissions and has refused to implement readily available and affordable technology that would reduce lethal mercury and sulfur dioxide emissions from these plants. Beginning in June 2004, a coalition of Maryland faith, student, health, and environmental groups began patiently yet insistently requesting a dialogue with the Mirant company with the hopes of working out a compromise plan to clean up these plants. But after just one meeting in September 2004, the company said it presently had no interest in cleaning up its plants and made it clear there was no reason to meet with our clean energy coalition again.

This coalition then tried repeatedly to interest the media in the story. For example, we held a press conference in October at the Howard University Hospital Emergency Room with West Virginia victims of mountaintop removal coal mining and advocates for D.C. children with asthma. But the media repeatedly failed to cover this and other public events focusing on how coal-fired electricity in the D.C. region is a huge threat to public health, the environment, and the global climate.

Frustrated yet determined to inform the public and elected officials about this paramount problem, I made the decision to risk arrest at the Dickerson plant. I and others had simply tried everything else: dialogue with the company responsible and multiple failed efforts to raise the issue with the media without transgressing the law. Finally, driven entirely by conscience, convinced that my son's future and that of all children and all living things are threatened by runaway global warming, I peacefully and momentarily sacrificed my freedom in order to bear witness to this gathering global threat.

For more information, contact me at

Thank you.

Sentencing Statement of David Shneyer

February 11, 2005
District Court, Rockville, Maryland

My name is David Shneyer. I have been a resident of Montgomery County for 35 years and live with my family in Rockville.

I am a rabbi and serve as the spiritual leader of two congregations, Kehila Chadasha and Am Kolel. Our programs and services reach approximately 4,000 people. Both communities are active members of Community Ministry of Montgomery County and Am Kolel is a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

I went to the Dickerson Power Plant in November to participate in the protest as a citizen of this County and also as a representative of my faith tradition and my faith community. The protest gave me an opportunity to express my concerns about the poisons that are coming out of the smokestacks of this Power Plant. There is scientific evidence that links the air we breathe with an increase in asthma, other respiratory illnesses, and cancer. At a gathering of my community recently I asked how many suffered from asthma. Nearly a quarter of those present raised their hands. My son has asthma.

The teachings from my faith tradition are clear. From Leviticus 19 "Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor..." When someone is in trouble we are obligated to do something. In the same chapter it also teaches: "You shall surely rebuke your neighbor and not bear sin because of him..." When a person, or a corporation, is poisoning our air and causing harm to others, we are obligated to speak out. Judaism teaches that the principle of "pikuakh nefesh," saving life, is the highest value.
I risked arrest because I felt it was a way to bring greater attention to this irresponsible neighbor, this company that threatens our lives and our food. I hoped that my arrest might awaken relunctant legislators and other citizens to be more responsive.

I ask the court to consider the reason for my (our) actions and offer a lenient sentencing.

Sentencing Statement by Michael Tabor, February 11, 2005

My name is Michael Tabor. I've lived and voted in Montgomery County at my present address for 17 years and first lived in the County in 1966. I am a strong advocate of involvement in the local political process and write a monthly column published in area newspapers regarding politics, health and the environment.

I've been a county government employee and worked in the Nixon and Johnson administrations in the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. I am the father of three children, one of which is a Montgomery County school graduate.

Starting in 1972, I started farming with the philosophy of raising healthily grown food and selling it at reasonable prices in mixed income neighborhoods as well as at food co-ops and the Montgomery County school system. I continue to earn my livelihood as a farmer on my farm in Pennsylvania, from spring to fall. I bring my produce to Montgomery County and DC throughout the season which ends Christmas time each year. During the winter I spend a lot of time volunteering. Most of my recent energies have been spent advocating and working with children in area schools around the issue of obesity and the diabetes epidemic. I speak at schools, churches, synagogues, colleges and conferences. I am also a board member of Community Harvest, a food security non- profit in the DC area.

I've always been a strong advocate of social justice. During the 1960's I worked against housing and voter discrimination in Maryland. Sometimes when legislation hasn't functioned in the interest of the population, it's necessary for citizens to speak out and make clear the need for improvement and change.

When I found out about the pollution produced by the Mirant-owned power generating plant in Dickerson, I was moved to want to speak out. Mirant has been allowed to continue with its polluting practices despite objections by members of the County Council, health officials and concerned citizens. Knowing about the relationship between pollution, cancer and community health, I knew it was important to make clear the need for community awareness and hopefully, change.

From my perspective, I wanted to protest directly to Mirant to peacefully show my concern regarding their polluting of our region's air. The police did not allow us to proceed to Mirant property and we were forced to end our protest on a county road.

Those of us who spoke up are not a threat to society. We are responsible folks basically trying to exercise our right to bring this situation to the public's attention. Our _expression of concern in this peaceful manner, I believe, does not warrant punishment, further overburdening the case loads of probation officers. We have lodged our deep concern about the danger of the power plant and respectfully request our case be dismissed. Hopefully, the time will not be too far off when Mirant will stop using coal to generate power and then all of us living in Montgomery County will be able to breathe a lot easier.

Thank you,

Michael Tabor
Takoma Park, MD

November 10, Citizens Protest Coal-fired Power Plant in Montgomery County; Several protesters arrested.


A group of individuals, including Rabbi David Shneyer and veteran Jewish-renewal activist Mike Tabor, students, environmentalists, other faith leaders and farmers protested the negative health impacts and ecological destruction caused by the Dickerson power plant in Montgomery County Wednesday, November 10th at 11 am. David, Michael and several others were arrested blocking the entry to the power plant.

This coal-burning plant, owned by the Atlanta-based Mirant corporation, is a major source of mercury (food contamination), carbon dioxide (global warming), nitrogen oxide (smog) and sulpher dioxide (acid rain) in our region. Indeed, this one plant creates enough carbon dioxide per day as would be created by 300,000 Hummers driven 41 miles each (average U.S. daily drive). But Mirant has steadfastly refused to support a fair and feasible legislative solution in Maryland that would greatly clean up emissions from these smokestacks.

At the protest, there were a series of comments from invited speakers, including George Leventhal of the Montgomery County Council, noted Episcopal priest Sally Bingham, and Bill Price, a West Virginia citizen whose home has been damaged by the impacts of mountaintop removal for coal.

Protesters will be asking the Maryland General Assembly to protect human health and the environment by passing a "Four Pollutant" bill. This bill would require the Mirant corporation and other companies who burn coal in Maryland to fulfill their responsibility to our state's children and precious ecosystems.

For more information, call Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network at 301-920-1633 (w) or 240-460-5838 (mobile) or email him at Media can also contact Dawn Ratcliffe at 301-613-5087 (mobile) or Gary Skulnik at 202-413-8534 (Mobile).