Eight arrested at N.C. Duke coal plant protest

1/04/2008 - 17:21

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Eight protesters who locked themselves to bulldozers at a Duke Energy Corp coal-fired power plant in North Carolina were arrested on Tuesday, as part of international action day on climate, an environmental group said.

The group was protesting the construction of a new coal unit, which would emit the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

"The world needs to cut greenhouse emissions 90 percent to avoid dangerous climate change, which means we can't build any more fossil-fuel generation," said Liz Veazey, an advocate for alternative energy sources at the Southeast Climate Convergence who attended the hour-long protest.

An umbrella group called Rising Tide organized the protest and many others on Tuesday in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. The event was called Fossil Fools Day, a play on April Fools.

Veazey, one of the roughly 20 protesters, was not arrested.

Many greenhouse gas experts like NASA's James Hansen say the level of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere is already dangerous and that higher temperatures could lead to deadly storms, droughts and floods. The building of new power generation using coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, should be banned, according to Hansen.

Duke spokesman Rick Rhodes said protesters entered company property but did not stop construction of the 800-megawatt Unit 6 at the Cliffside coal plant.

Rhodes said Unit 6 construction began in late January and that as part of the agreement to build it, Duke would retire 800 MW of its less efficient coal-fired generation, some of which was built in the 1940s. "Unit 6 will be carbon-neutral by 2018," he said.

Veazey said the agreement could not be considered a direct offset. She said the new unit would emit more of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide than the old ones because it would run more steadily than the retired units which sometimes functioned as peak units, or ones used mainly when power demand was high.

Rhodes said none of Duke's coal-fired units could be considered peak generation because it takes a while to fire up boilers associated with coal, but said that some of the units scheduled to be retired do not run all day.

Police in North Carolina's Rutherford County did not immediately return phone calls about the arrests.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner, editing by Matthew Lewis)

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