Activists lock themselves to equipment at Eugene biomass plant

EUGENE, Ore. - Earth First! activists locked themselves to equipment at the Seneca Jones biomass plant in north Eugene on Monday while other protesters deployed a banner on one of the plant's towers.

Other people stood outside with an assortment of signs.

Workers at the plant reported the situation to law enforcement shortly before 11 a.m.

A reporter at the scene counted over 30 police and fire department vehicles. The reporter counted over 70 protesters. Law enforcement estimated the crowd at 100.

Several people managed to gain access to the sawmill. One person strapped himself to logging equipment, and another person strapped himself to a conveyor belt.

"One person was chained up like with bicycle chain, cable chain lock device," Lt. Byron Trapp said, "and then the other person had some pvc pipe that they had secured their arms in."

"Our friends and allies had locked themselves to a truck lift that essentially picks up giant semis that empties woody biomass," said Cordelia Finley with Cascadia Forest Defenders.

Protesters blocked the road and the entrances into the business, the sheriff's office said.

Deputies cleared protesters from the road with the help of Eugene and state police.

The local activist group Cascadia Forest Defenders said they took part in the action with other activists from across the country after taking part in the Earth First! Round River Rendezvous in southern Oregon.

The group said on its website that three people were taken into custody by police. Law enforcement officials confirmed that number and identified the three arrested as Eugene men.

Deputies arrested Richard Denton Hayley, 21, and Benjamin Pinkney Jones, 23, on charges of Burglary 2, Criminal Trespass 2, and Disorderly Conduct 2.

Chad Alan Kemp, 22, was arrested on charges of Criminal Trespass 2, Criminal Mischief 2 and Disorderly Conduct 2.

The group said it is trying to call attention to the company's plans to log in the Elliot State Forest, as well as emissions from the biomass plant.

"We have an assortment of tactics at our disposal. We will use all of them and more if that's what it takes to keep the Elliot standing," Finley said.

The group was critical of the emission from the plant. The Lane Regional Air Protection Agency said the plant is currently operating within its permited limits.