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Pollution Protest At Md. Plant Ends in Arrests

By David Snyder
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 11, 2004; Page B02

Police arrested six protesters yesterday and charged them with blocking the entrance to a coal-burning power plant in upper Montgomery County.

The protesters lay down across a road leading to the Dickerson Generating Station, owned by Atlanta-based Mirant Corp. They were charged with disorderly conduct and blocking a public right of way, and they received citations, said Montgomery County police spokeswoman Lucille Baur.

Trisha Benton is arrested at the entrance to the Dickerson Generating Station in upper Montgomery County. Six protesters received citations. (Doug Koontz -- Frederick News-post Via The AP)

The arrests followed a demonstration by activists from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, an anti-global warming group, and others, including Montgomery County Council member George L. Leventhal (D-At Large). Leventhal departed before the arrests.

The group is lobbying the Maryland General Assembly to pass legislation that would require more advanced technology to clean pollutants emitted from power plants. Leventhal said in an interview yesterday that Mirant should work harder to clean pollutants from the Dickerson plant.

"Mirant is the largest polluter in Montgomery County by far," he said. "The county has no authority to require Mirant to do anything, but the state can assert power, so we called on the state to do so."

Referring to the proposed legislation, Steve Arabia, spokesman for Mirant, said it "doesn't make sense to us to do this kind of regulation one state at a time. It makes much more sense from an environmental and from an economic perspective to do it at the federal level." He added that the company is in compliance with existing air-quality laws.

Mirant, which supplies electricity to Pepco, owns four plants in the Washington region: Dickerson, the Chalk Point generating station in Prince George's County, the Morgantown plant in Charles County and the Potomac River plant in Alexandria.

Mirant filed for bankruptcy protection in 2003 and in September announced a settlement with federal and state environmental agencies in which the company agreed to reduce air-polluting emissions substantially in the next six years.

Mike Tidwell, director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network and one of those arrested yesterday, said the group wants Mirant to support the proposed Maryland legislation. "Mirant is not only a major source of harmful pollutants in our area but has shown very little desire to do something about it," Tidwell said.

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