Six Arrested at Montgomery Co., Md., Power Plant Protest

DICKERSON, Md. (AP) -- Six environmentalists were arrested Wednesday as they blocked trucks from entering a Montgomery County power plant, part of a protest that called for reduced emissions from the coal-fired facility.

The six sat in front of the gate of the Dickerson Generating Plant, which is owned by Atlanta-based Mirant Corp. About 20 Montgomery police officers stood in front of the gate and arrested the protesters after about 15 minutes without any incident.

County Councilman George Leventhal, who was not among those arrested, said Mirant needs to do more to reduce emissions of mercury, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide from the plant.

``Mirant is by far the largest polluter in Montgomery County. No one else comes close,'' he said.

The group called for state legislation requiring power plants to use technology that scrubs pollutants from emissions inside smokestacks. The goal would be to reduce nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide and mercury by 80 percent and carbon dioxide by a third.

But Mirant spokesman Steven Arabia said federal regulations will soon require the company to make reductions in emissions, and that a piecemeal approach on the state level is not the best approach.

Mirant already agreed in October to sharply reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from three coal-fired power plants in Maryland and one in northern Virginia. That agreement came out of a lawsuit Virginia filed against the company last year.

``We have a history of working with environmentalists and regulators to achieve compromises that make sense to everybody,'' Arabia said.

Also on the scene were FBI agents from a joint terrorism task force, according to Lucille Baur, spokeswoman for the Montgomery police. The agents were involved because power plants are considered sensitive sites for homeland security, she said.

The protest organizer, Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said two FBI agents also visited his home and office Tuesday to ask questions about the group's intentions. The six people arrested, which included Tidwell, were charged with disorderly conduct and blocking a public right of way, Baur said.