7 arrested at protest at Marshall power plant in Catawba County

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7 arrested at protest at Marshall power plant in Catawba County

Activists are against the use of coal and its minig in Appalachia

Credit: WSOC TV

Protesters await removal and arrest along the railroad tracks at the Marshall Steam Station while authorities take down a banner that was put up along the tracls.

By: Sharon McBrayer | Hickory Daily Record
Published: May 03, 2012
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TERRELL, NC -- Seven protesters were arrested Thursday after chaining themselves to a railroad track just north of Duke Energy’s Marshall Steam Station.
The protesters wanted to stop a train carrying coal to the steam station, which uses coal in its production of energy.
Train police with Norforlk Southern Railroad made the arrests. The names of the protesters were not available on Thursday. Last Thursday afternoon, the group was still in custody, according to officials at Catawba County jail.
“They did not resist arrest. They were arrested peacefully,” said Robin Chapman, director of public relations for Norfolk Southern.
Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid was on the scene during the protest.
He described the devices the protesters used to attach themselves to the train tracks as a solid steel sleeve with a flattened end that connected to a second sleeve and formed a V shape.
The protesters had their arms in the steel sleeves and refused to be moved. Catawba County deputies were unable to disconnect the sleeves and summoned the local fire department to the scene. The firefighters brought the hydraulic cutting tools they use to cut automotive steel to free people trapped in their vehicles following accidents.
When Reid told the protesters the firefighters had arrived and were going to begin cutting the steel sleeves, their reaction was immediate.
“They pulled their arms out of the things right away – they weren’t locked in there at all,” Reid said.
Those arrested were charged with misdemeanor trespassing on railroad right of way and misdemeanor unlawful impairment of railroad operations, Chapman said.
Chapman said the railroad will pursue federal charges against the protesters.
The train was delayed about four hours due to the actions of the environmental activists, Chapman said.
Officers with Catawba County Sheriff’s Office and North Carolina Highway Patrol also were at the steam station. Reid said his officers left the station Thursday around 2:30 p.m. The protesters were at the tracks starting around 9 a.m. Thursday.
The protesters were from Greenpeace, Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival, Katuah Earth First! and Keepers of the Mountains Foundation, according to a release from Greenpeace. The group strung a banner across the railroad tracks that read, “Save our mountains, clean the cloud.”
The train originated out of Williamson, W.Va., pulling 100 cars of coal, Chapman said. A train car typically holds around 100 tons of coal, he said.
Casey Harrell, senior campaign specialist for Greenpeace, said the group consisted mainly of people from West Virginia and Kentucky where mountaintop mining has polluted the water and air.
According to information on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, mountaintop coal mining is the “removal of mountaintops to expose coal seams, and disposing of the associated mining overburden in adjacent valleys — ‘valley fills.’”
Coal sludge ends up in the water and coal dust pollutes the air in the towns and communities where the mining happens, say environmentalists. And it’s happening in some of the poorest and most polluted communities in the country, Harrell said.
The group knew they would be arrested when they chained themselves to the railroad tracks, Harrell said.
“They did that knowing that’s a pretty serious thing to get arrested,” Harrell said.
Through the protest on the railroad tracks on Thursday, the group’s message to Duke Energy is to stop burning coal that comes from mountaintop mining, said Molly Dorozenski, media director for Greenpeace.
Harrell said the protesters have no interest in trying to stop businesses locating to North Carolina but he thinks by offering “greener” energies, the area could attract even more business. He said Facebook built its newest data center in Sweden because it could be powered nearly 100 percent with “green” energy.
“There’s no reason that a data center has to run on dirty or dangerous fuel,” Harrell said.
Part of Thursday’s protest also was to target Apple, which has the “iCloud” data center in Maiden, and push the company to demand cleaner energy from Duke Energy. Apple is building a solar energy farm at its Maiden data center but that’s not enough, says Greenpeace.
“Apple has made a limited investment in renewable energy to provide a part of the current power for its data center in North Carolina, but as the facility expands and outgrows this supply, more and more electricity will be provided by Duke’s coal-fired power plants,” according to a release from the environmental activist group. “Apple has sought to downplay the amount of electricity it will buy from Duke by saying that its intended capacity for the Maiden data center is only 20 megawatts (MW). However, today Greenpeace uncovered new information that shows that Apple applied for and was granted permits for backup diesel generators that indicate Apple is equipped for a current power demand of 41 MW of electricity for Phase 1 of its Maiden data center.”
Harrell, who said he’s not against Apple and was using an iPhone on Thursday, said people using Apple products and downloading content from iTunes need to make the connection between where and how Apple gets its energy and how it affects the communities where the mountaintop mining occurs.
Erin Culbert, a spokesperson for Duke Energy, said the company has explored reducing the percentage of coal it gets from mountaintop removal mining. She said the company found out it can purchase 8 percent to 10 percent of its needed coal from supplies that are not from mountaintop removal without the cost increasing.
Culbert said Duke Energy is interested in exploring reducing mountaintop coal use but it’s a balancing act. She said the NC Utility Commission charges the company with providing electricity affordably and reliably.
Whether the company could find enough coal needed that doesn’t come from mountaintop removal is not clear, Culbert said.
Culbert argued that coal is an internationally-traded commodity that if not sold in the US, it would be exported overseas.
She said the company spends a lot of money encouraging people to be energy-efficient so it will be longer periods between the need to build another power plant.
At the same time the protest was occurring at the steam station, about 50 protesters were rallying in Charlotte at Duke Energy’s headquarters. Both protests were to coincide with the company’s annual shareholders meeting.
The Charlotte protesters said they showed up despite new city restrictions to control demonstrations

I love how they attach themselves to the train tracks but make sure that they are wearing hardhats for safety. Fucking ponderous.