Sixteen Greenpeace activists were arrested today after they broke into a Progress Energy power plant complex in Asheville before dawn to protest the destruction and damage caused by coal-burning power plants.
Some of the protesters, equipped with harnesses and climbing gear, scaled equipment and were dangling from nets, according to local news coverage.
They were arrested after unfurling a banner 400 feet above the ground on a smoke stack that read: "Duke Energy: The climate needs real Progress."
"They're all experienced climbers," said Greenpeace spokeswoman Keiller MacDuff. "Non-violent civil disobedience of this type does bear some inherent risk, which is why it's so courageous of these activists to put themselves in these positions."
MacDuff said Greenpeace is highlighting the environmental damage caused by Raleigh-based Progress because the company is in the midst of a corporate merger with Charlotte-based Duke Energy, which will result in the largest electric utility in the country.
Greenpeace, based in Washington, DC, is known for acts of civil disobedience that include trespassing and occupying property and equipment the organization deems destructive to society and the planet. The group posted shots of its Asheville protest here.
"We take this very, very seriously," Progress spokesman Mike Hughes said in an email. "A very dangerous antic that puts lives at risk. We're working with law enforcement."
The protesters strapped themselves to equipment and a coal loader and coal conveyors, while some scaled the plant's 400-foot smoke stack in order to hang up a banner that proclaimed: "Stop destroying mountains." Others displayed banners at the plant's coal ash ponds where the ash is stored.
"All the activists are highly experienced and their safety, as well as the safety of the workers and police is their number one priority," MacDuff said.
Greenpeace said in a press release that plants like the Asheville Power Station promote destructive mining practices such as mountain top removal, pollute the environment through dirty emissions and store toxic coal ash.
As he was rushing to take a flight to Asheville to handle public relations for this event, Progress spokesman Hughes emailed saying the company has pollution controls in place to limit emissions like nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide: "We have invested hundreds of millions in scrubbers and NOx-redution equipment at Asheville. Was the first SO2 scrubber built in the state."