Greenpeace, Texas prosecutor settle charges in 2019 climate protest

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FILE PHOTO: Greenpeace USA climbers form a blockade on the Fred Hartman Bridge, near Baytown

HOUSTON (Reuters) -Environmental activists who shut the largest U.S. energy export port for a day to protest climate change agreed to pay police, fire and court costs to settle state criminal charges, officials said on Friday.

Greenpeace members halted shipping in September 2019 by dangling on ropes from a bridge https://www.reuters.com/article/us-houstonshipchannel-closure-idINKCN1VY1EX over the Houston Ship Channel, an effort to pressure political leaders during a presidential debate in the city.

Mike Herbert, 36-year-old protester who took part in the demonstration, previously told Reuters that the group wanted to "force the hand of the political hopefuls to address the elephant in the room: climate change."

Felony charges of disrupting critical energy infrastructure were later dismissed https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/news/grand-jury-refuses-felonies-for-greenpeace-activists-and-others-charged-in-houston-oil-industry-protest by a Houston grand jury. The state pursued lesser charges of obstructing a highway against 25 Greenpeace members involved in the protest.

The agreement calls for charges to be dismissed against the 25 in six months if there are no further violations. Members of the group also agreed to pay $250 in court costs to settle the state highway obstruction charges.

Settlement talks on separate federal charges of blocking a waterway levied against the activists are underway, a Greenpeace spokesperson said. "We are very optimistic about its resolution in the near future," said spokesperson Valentina Stackl.

The U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of Texas did not reply to requests for comment.

Greenpeace paid $58,450 in restitution to local police and fire departments that retrieved the protesters and their banners from the bridge.

"They wasted the time of police officers and firefighters, who potentially could have been used to respond to real emergencies,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said.

The protesters accepted the state's pre-trial intervention agreement without entering a guilty plea, and the organization was not charged, Stackl said.

(Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by David Gregorio and Aurora Ellis)

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