EDF has pulled the £5m civil claim it lodged against No Dash for Gas, which occupied and shut down one of its power stations for a week last October, saying that it had agreed to “compromise” with the protesters.
Twenty-one activists from the environmental campaign group were faced with bankruptcy, homelessness and prison sentences when the lawsuit was initially filed in February, after they scaled a chimney at the West Burton power plant in Nottinghamshire.
But after mounting pressure, primarily from the 64,000 people that signed an online petition on Change.org, EDF has decided to drop all legal action, and instead impose an injunction on the activists, preventing them from entering its power stations in the future.
“For all their power, for all their access and all their wealth, EDF’s bullying lawsuit has bitten the dust because people power fought back”, said Hannah Davey, a No Dash for Gas activist whose parents set up the Change.org petition.
“They thought they were taking on 21 of us, but they soon faced a movement that stood with us against an energy giant and its lawyers.
“This shows how powerful we are if we all stand together, if we organise and mobilise, if we refuse to back down in the face of the climate crisis.”
She added, “Only a few of us went up that chimney, but 64,000 people came down.”
Earlier this week, a provocative website encouraging EDF customers to switch from the big six suppliers was launched in an effort to help fight No Dash for Gas’ corner. This followed public support for the campaign group from the likes of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and Xena: Warrior Princess star Lucy Lawless.
But while EDF’s civil claim against No Dash for Gas has been dropped, the 21 activists still face criminal charges, and will appear in court next week.
“EDF’s threat of claiming massive damages from climate activists represented a new low in corporate attempts to stifle the democratic right to protest”, said Liz Hutchins, senior political campaigner at environmental group Friends of the Earth.
“Hopefully the public outcry will make other companies think twice before taking similar legal action.
“Friends of the Earth remains concerned at the possibility of disproportionately harsh sentences for the protesters in the criminal court.”
In a statement, EDF said the No Dash for Gas protesters had rightly brought to light the issues of climate change and long-term energy security. It added that it would therefore be inviting representatives of civil society to “discuss how the company can best address these issues and develop protocols which will guide its response to such demonstrations in future”.