by Barbara PetersonPeterson
Santa is not the only one giving out coal this year. Climate activists like Johnny Sanchez and Sonja Birthisel in Portland, Maine, recently sent their utility company an envelope of coal instead of payment towards their electric bill. This symbolic act of defiance, organized by the No Coal No Gas coalition, is part of a broad New England consumer strike against utility payments to protest the continued burning of coal.
The Strike Down Coal campaign launched on Sept. 1 and aims to continue until ISO New England — the system operator responsible for running New England’s energy grid and power system — agrees to stop subsidizing coal. By withholding payments, activists hope to send the utility company a message that burning coal is unnecessary, not to mention financially and morally irresponsible. Fifty people are currently withholding payments, while more than 40 others have participated in orientation sessions, and dozens are acting as volunteer support. Many of the strikers have recorded videos of themselves mailing envelopes of coal to ISO-NE on social media, and some residents are donating their payments to support racial and environmental justice organizations.