Monday, December 9, 2019

More Than 20 Arrested in Blockades of Train Delivering Coal to N.H. Power Plant

(SOURCE: Boston Globe) 

Protesters blocked railroad freight tracks in Worcester, Ayer, and Hooksett, N.H., on Saturday and Sunday, trying to keep a train from delivering coal to a New Hampshire power plant.

“In 2019, there’s no reason for us to still be burning coal,” said Marla Marcum, director of the Climate Disobedience Center. “We’re tired of paying for it. We’re tired of paying for the kind of plant that pollutes the river and causes asthma and contributes to climate change.”

The train was delivering coal to Merrimack Station, a power plant in Bow, N.H. The protests were part of an ongoing effort to shut down the coal power plant.

No injuries were reported. Protesters called the train’s dispatchers before they blocked the tracks so as not to take engineers by surprise, Marcum said.

In Worcester on Saturday, protesters were given warnings and left the railroad tracks without being arrested, Marcum said.

In Ayer, police arrested 12 people on charges of trespassing on railroad property Sunday. All were released on personal recognizance and scheduled to appear in Ayer District Court, Ayer Police Deputy Chief Brian Gill said.

Bow Coal Train 1/26/10
Another 12 people were arrested on a railroad bridge in Hooksett, where they had hung an anti-coal banner, said Rebecca Beaulieu, a climate organizer with 350 New Hampshire, a climate advocacy organization.

They were charged with trespassing and are due in court in January.

Coal Protesters Arrested for Blocking Train in Ayer MA

(SOURCE:  Lowell Sun)

AYER — Environmental activists brandishing signs protesting the use of gas and coal were arrested after they blocked the path of an oncoming freight train during the early morning hours Sunday, authorities say.

Between 15 and 20 protesters — bundled in winter gear — were found by police standing on the train tracks at about 3:45 a.m., according to the Ayer Police Department Facebook page. The group held signs that stated, “Stop the coal trains,” and “Coal Kills.”

After the protesters refused to leave the tracks, Ayer Police said they contacted state police and police departments in Groton, Harvard, Littleton and Shirley to assist at the scene.

According to police, 12 protesters were taken into custody and charged with trespassing on railroad property. They will be arraigned in Ayer District Court on Monday.

The names of the protesters facing charges were not immediately available.

An investigation into the protest forced Ayer Police Sgt. John MacDonald to break away from a motor vehicle accident involving a car into a tree, according to the police Facebook post.

MBTA Safety Review Panel Final Report

Want to read more about the December 9, 2019 MBTA Safety Review Panel Final Report?  Try these links:

Damning MBTA Safety Report Released

(SOURCE:  Boston Globe - J. Ellement)

The MBTA’s safety system was examined by three outside experts and their findings were damning at best. What follows is five of the major conclusions outlined in the executive summary based on interviews with T employees at every level of the workforce.

- The T has failed to include safety concerns in its daily operations, routine maintenance schedules or long-term investment and construction plans, according to the report.

“In essence, safety is not the priority at the T, but it must be. To meet the demands of the future, the agency must address its safety culture – it is critical to every aspect of the agency.’’

- Turnover at the top job, the T’s general manager, has eroded the importance of safety issues at the very highest levels of the region’s primary public transit system, the panel found. There have been nine general managers since 2010.

 “Leadership sets the tone for safety ... the recurrent turnover in general managers (GMs) over the past 10 years has been incredibly disruptive and has placed the agency in a vulnerable position. This may be the overarching reason that we see the level of safety deficiency at the agency.”

- T employees don’t talk to one another, and this is especially troubling because safety concerns raised inside the agency rarely reach the right person or office that can then take the needed corrective action, the report found.

“There is a total lack of routine upward or downward communication within the agency. Employees at all levels told the Panel that the T has many siloes and that communication is rarely, if ever, done across departments. Leadership has not identified or attempted to open channels of communication with the workforce.... The only avenue for communication we identified during this review is a ‘safety hotline’ which does not appear to have received the confidence of the workforce in the field.”

- The T does have a stand-alone safety department but it is an organizational orphan with little ability to play a forceful role in workplace safety and other safety concerns facing the agency.

“The safety department, which should be providing day-to-day leadership for safety initiatives, is somewhat debilitated in what they can accomplish, and lacks the ability to guide the agency at large,” the report said. “For example, the staff is absent in the field to support the workforce and champion a safe work environment. On the other hand, the safety department is grossly understaffed, lacks subject matter experts (SMEs) and is currently not in any position to manage the needs of the agency.”

- The experts concluded that the MBTA’s commuter rail system, which is operated by Keolis Commuter Services, has a far better safety environment than the T’s transit system. The experts noted that Keolis operates under the Federal Railroad Administration rules and regulations.

“It is noteworthy to mention that the commuter rail service is performing well and does not face many of the challenges that were identified on the transit side of the house. The Panel attributes this higher level of performance to the structure provided by FRA regulations, which are clearly defined and have fiscal consequences if not complied with.”

John R. Ellement can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.