May 12, 2022

Over the last week, ‘Coffee’ and Dr Diana Warner have been charged in relation to obstructing trains packed with wood pellets heading to Drax Power Station. Coffee is facing charges with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Today, Diana Warner attends York Magistrates Court to plead not-guilty to obstructing a train on December 12th.

Dr Warner is a retired GP from Bristol. She has marched, emailed her MP, written letters, signed petitions, become active in organisations working for peace and for climate. She has even stood for election for the local council and as an MP candidate in Filton and Bradley Stoke. In her words, “none of these things have been effective for change”.

Drax power station is the largest carbon emitter in the UK, while masquerading as a source of green electricity. Drax chews up wood pellets by the mega train load, and is responsible for destruction of natural forests and wildlife. At the same time it’s not profitable, needing 800 million pounds in subsidies from the taxpayer last year alone.

As a doctor, I am very concerned about people’s health. We know the dangers of carbon emissions causing climate change. As well as this danger, dust from the wood pellets themselves are making people working at Drax ill, causing cancer and respiratory problems. In the vicinity of factories abroad that provide the wood pellets, people are suffering from the effects of toxic chemicals as well as the wood smoke pollution.

On the one hand we subsidise the company and on the other hand the state, through the health and safety executive, are taking them to court for not protecting the health of workers. It doesn’t make sense.

Today I am in York magistrates court, on a charge of obstructing a train. I was trying to protect the workers at Drax, and all our children. I will be saying to the people in the courtroom: it’s time for the justice system to do a proper job and protect us.

  • Dr Diana Warner, in court today at York Magistrates’ Court.

Axe Drax is calling on the government to:

  1. Tell the Truth: Governments and corporations must be honest: biomass causes irreparable damage to the health of people and our life support systems. It is not a clean source of fuel, it is time to stop the greenwashing.
  2. Defund Biomass: Remove the £billions in subsidies given to Drax and other biomass power stations around the UK. This money is used to fund death and destruction around the world, harming POC and poorer communities the most whilst corporations profit. If we stop the money we stop the train of destruction.
  3. Fund Community Solutions: The £billions given to biomass should be used to fund a just transition: furlough, retrain and transfer workers in the biomass industry; invest in education, affordable housing and health; fund genuine renewable energy; develop a plan of degrowth moving away from profit motives fuelling the climate crisis towards community based solutions.

This comes less than a fortnight after two Axe Drax members were arrested for dousing the department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy with orange paint with a modified fire extinguisher, to protest the billions of pounds they give to Drax and biomass. [12]

Drax is the UK’s single largest carbon emitter [1], yet received £832 million in renewable subsidies last year [2] which is more than £2 million per day. In the last year they were removed from the Green Energy Index [3], despite this, they continue to receive huge amounts of renewable subsidies. Biomass is one of the most carbon intensive forms of biofuel [4], yet this is ignored by politicians so Drax can be called the main supplier of ‘renewable energy’ in the UK [11].

Per unit of energy generated, biomass is worse than coal [5], producing 40-60% more carbon than modern coal stations. We cannot allow this inefficient and destructive form of fuel to continue being classed as renewable. Their pellet production site in Amite, Mississippi, was fined $2.5 million in 2021 [6] for violating environmental regulations, receiving the largest known fine a biomass company has ever had. This pellet production plant was emitting over 3x the legally allowed amount of VOCs [7] (volatile organic compounds). VOCs are linked to ground level ozone and smog, impairing lung function, triggering asthma and put children, elderly and those with existing respiratory conditions at risk.

Axe Drax and many other groups have been peacefully campaigning against biomass for years. We have signed petitions, written letters, held protests, lobbied decision makers, but this destructive industry is being allowed to continue funded by public money. Harm is being felt right now by the Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) people on the front lines of Drax’s business of destruction. Our climate is on the brink of tipping points that would put every society at risk of collapse, with those in the global south already feeling disastrous, irreparable loss of and damage to life, home, stability and knowledge.