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Pepco is apparent target of Greenwash Guerrillas' hoax

By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 1, 2010; 6:42 PM

Fake letters that appeared to show Pepco swearing off coal from "mountaintop removal" mines were left last night at about 3,000 homes in the District and Maryland, apparently part of a hoax from an environmental group.

The letters were written on Pepco letterhead, and appeared to be signed by Joseph M. Rigby, chief executive of Pepco's parent company, Pepco Holdings. They announced that "Pepco is going green," and laid out what seemed to be significant policy changes by the electric utility.

First, the letter said, the utility aimed to provide 100 percent of local electric power from wind and solar energy by 2020. Then, the letter said Pepco would negotiate with the power plants it buys electricity from, asking them not to burn coal from mountaintop removal mines.

The letter directed customers to http://www.pepco-green.com, a Web site that carried similar messages.

This morning, Pepco put out a statement saying that the letter and the Web site were fake.

"We have been alerted that a bogus Web site and other false communications posing as Pepco were issued today. This bogus Web site is not secure and does not represent Pepco," Pepco said on its Web site.

"Some folks really did a good job," Pepco spokesman Clay Anderson said this morning. "But it ain't us."

It is difficult to trace exactly which sources a particular customer -- or even a particular city -- gets its electricity from, because power is shared across inter-state grids. But federal data show that many local power plants buy portions of their coal from areas of West Virginia and Kentucky where mountaintop removal mining (also called "mountaintop mining") is prevalent.

At these mines, entire Appalachian peaks are sheared off with explosives and earth-moving equipment to reach coal seams inside them. Afterward, excess rubble is often pushed into nearby valleys, burying them to the brim.

A group called the Greenwash Guerrillas claimed responsibility for the hoax. Lacy MacAuley, a spokeswoman for the group, said the group has about 40 members and is a year old.

MacAuley said that the group had placed about 3,000 letters around Washington and suburban Maryland. She called it "greenwash guerrilla warfare," against people identified as "perpetrators," promoting policies that worsen climate change.

"We hit many residential areas. . . . We targeted areas that we thought may contain energy professionals," MacAuley said in a telephone interview.

How did they know where these "energy professionals" lived?

"I'm not at liberty to go into details," MacAuley said.

She said the group would be holding a "Fossil-fuel-free dance party" at 8 p.m. Thursday at 18th and Belmont streets NW.

The dance, presumably, is not a hoax.

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