- by Josh Schlossberg
An attorney for the Seattle Steam Company sent a letter to biomass opponent Duff Badgley of Seattle, Wash. forbidding him from making certain public statements—including use of the term “incinerator”—in reference to air pollution threats from the company’s existing downtown biomass incinerator and another proposed natural gas facility.
“The language you have used publicly is a commercial disparagement of Seattle Steam’s legitimate business and will cause it harm,” reads the letter from Edward W. Pettigrew of Graham and Dunn law firm to Badgley, coordinator for No Biomass Burn and a member of Occupy Seattle. The letter warns that “having advised you of the falsity of your statements, your continued use of them will render you liable for defamation and commercial disparagement.”
“This is a national story about toxic incinerators and freedom of speech and the right to protest—anywhere,” wrote Badgley via email.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to “incinerate” is to “cause to burn to ashes.” “Incinerator” is defined as “a furnace or a container for incinerating waste materials.”
“Approximately 10 to 12 truckloads of clean urban waste wood will be delivered to the site daily. Seattle Steam will use approximately 250 tons per day,” reads a “Frequently Asked Questions” link on Seattle Steam’s official website under the heading “Where does Seattle Steam get the wood it burns and how much will it use?”
Seattle Steam’s letter also takes issue with a statement allegedly made by Badgley that the existing biomass incinerator emitted particulate matter at levels so “lethal it can kill ‘on the very day’ of exposure.” An American Lung Association report State of the Air: 2008 claims “First and foremost, short-term exposure to particle pollution can kill. Deaths can occur on the very day that particle levels are high…”
Particulate Matter can cause decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis, irregular heartbeat, nonfatal heart attacks, and premature death in people with heart or lung disease, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Air pollution control permits have documented that significantly higher levels of particulate matter are emitted from biomass incinerators than from even facilities that burn coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels.
In response to the letter, Occupy Seattle is asking Seattle residents to file a complaint with the Washington State Bar Association against Seattle Steam’s attorney, Edward Pettigrew. The complaint reads that the letter sent to Badgley “contains knowingly false statements of facts, violates the constitutional rights of free speech of Mr. Badgley and Occupy Seattle, maliciously seeks to curb lawful protest by Mr. Badgley and Occupy Seattle, and constitutes harassment of both Mr. Badgley and Occupy Seattle.”
Seattle Steam did not respond to a phone call asking for comment.