Civil disobedience in Hardanger

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Environmental activists keen on protecting the scenic Hardanger Fjord from what they consider unsightly power lines did their best to block the start of construction on one stretch of the project early Monday. Aided by poor weather, they succeeded.

This map from Statnett shows the route of the proposed power line project through Hardanger. The first phase is shown in green.

Officials for Statnett, the state enterprise responsible for Norway’s power grid, decided to postpone work on the project at least until Tuesday, because of the weather and the demonstrations.

Opponents of the power line project have set up camp in Kvamskogen, near the first phase of the plan to supply more power to Bergen and other west coast communities. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that the demonstrators were actively engaging in their long-threatened civil disobedience by 6am, blocking roads and access to construction equipment.

“We’re doing this to demonstrate that this is the beginning (of protests) to a meaningless construction launch,” Audun Klyve Guldbrandsen of the organization Bevar Hardanger (Protect Hardanger) told NRK.

The project remains subject to results of a new evaluation that may recommend undersea cables instead of the overhead power masts and lines, but Statnett felt it necessary to begin work on the first phase that it claims would be built anyway, regardless of the outcome of the evaluation.

Statnett has announced it intends to fly in equipment for construction of the first three masts, but the activists want to hinder that as well. “There’s no foundation for starting this work now,” said Klyve Guldbrandsen.

Norway’s Oil and Energy Minister Terje Riis-Johansen said on national radio Monday morning that he hopes the demonstrators “understand the consequences” of blocking work on the project.

“I hope they think about the people in Bergen who need more electricity, and hope they understand that they’re taking on a lot of responsibility by hindering a project that was legally approved,” Riis-Johansen said.

A new public opinion poll conducted by TNS Gallup indicates that half of Norway’s electricity customers support construction of new power lines through Hardanger. The demonstrators have had lots of visible support as well, though, including from some high-profile business leaders in Bergen like Johan Fredrik Odfjell. He’s a member of Bevar Hardanger’s board and thinks power can be supplied by updating existing lines along with other measures that don’t include new power masts.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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