Photos | Protesters block train near Catawba Co. coal plant

Credit: Amy Cowman

The Marshall Steam Plant on May 3, 2012.

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by CALEB TROOP / WCNC.com

WCNC.com

Posted on May 4, 2012 at 9:30 AM

Updated Friday, Nov 1 at 5:37 AM

CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. -- Seven people were taken into custody in Catawba County after blocking the train tracks Duke Energy and Apple use to ship coal.

Four protesters locked themselves to the train tracks near the Marshall Steam Station in Catawba County and two others hung a sign reading "Save Our Mountain Clean The Cloud."  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police and Charlotte Fire Department officials responded around 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

Activists from Greenpeace, Keepers of the Mountains Foundation, Katuah Earth First! and Radical Action for Mountain People's Survival took part in the event.  The protesters branded the train cars with the Apple logo to show that the company's Maiden data center will be powered by more coal as it expands.

"Duke is using datacenter expansion in North Carolina, like Apple’s, to justify reinvesting in old coal-fired power plants and even worse, as an excuse to build new coal and nuclear plants," said Gabe Wisnieweski, Greenpeace USA Coal Campaign Director.  "But if Apple demands renewable energy from Duke Energy to power its iCloud it could help transform both the IT sector’s and North Carolina’s energy economy."

It took about an hour for officials to take down the sign and unlock the four protesters sitting across the tracks.  The protesters will be charged with trespassing, officials said.

The Marshall Steam station is a four-unit facility that generates electricity for about two million homes and has been in use since 1965.

“Apple should be more transparent about its coal problem, and take steps to start solving it, as other tech companies have,” said Casey Harrell, Greenpeace International IT analyst in a statement.

Duke officials say they have no problem with protestors speaking and holding signs, but have a zero-tolerance policy for incidents which cause safety problems.

"The good news is the plants have gotten cleaner and cleaner over the decades.  We've knocked down emissions of the main pollutants by about 70 percent so far,” said Duke Energy spokesperson Tom Williams.  “We’re actually shutting down a lot of our older, most dirty coal plants that don’t have thick scrubbers on them.”

About 50 protesters were in front of Duke Energy headquarters on Thursday morning before the company's shareholder meeting.

On Wednesday protesters scaled Bank of America Stadium to protest coal use as well.

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