Activists jailed for protesting Palm Beach County fossil fuel plant

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In West Palm Beach yesterday, two environmentalists were jailed and five others received probation for protesting the construction of a planned new natural gas fired power plant last February.

The protest had involved the activists linking themselves with chicken wire and PVC pipe to protest the negative effects they say the plant will have the environment.

Originally, 27 activists werearrested after the protests at the site Florida Power and Light’s West County Energy Center, but after a series of court hearings, just seven went before a Palm Beach County judge on Monday; they were charged in December with unlawful assembly, trespassing and resisting an officer without violent misdemeanors.

Two of those protestors, Panagioti Tsolkas and Lynne Purvis were ordered jailed for 60 and 30 days, respectively. The other five were sentenced to probation for a maximum of one year. All 7 activists could receive formidable fines.

Assistant State Attorney Danielle Croke told the judge that the defendants should each pay the more than $21,000 in investigative costs the Sheriff’s Office absorbed to handle the protest.

Cara Jennings said she and her fellow activists have been using every legal means possible, including meeting with Gov. Charlie Crist to have a full impact statement done by FP&L on the possible effects of building the power plant, which is 1,000 feet from the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge. But she said it was all to no avail, leading the activists to engage in an act of civil disobedience.

The West County Energy Center is scheduled to come on line in the next couple of months. But activists say they’ll keep up the fight, despite Monday’s jailing of two of their colleagues.

Last month in a separate incident, 17 environmental activists while trying to gain access to FP&L’s Barley Barber Swamp in neighboring Martin County. Activists were seeking to force FPL to reopen the swamp to the public and to protect it from what it says are FPL practices that threaten it.