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Find out more from the Center for Biological Diversity:
350 or Bust
Energy and Global Warming
USA Today, March 3, 2009

Thousands gather in D.C. cold for rally about global warming
By Nicole Gaudiano, Gannett Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — More than 2,000 clean-energy activists converged at a coal-fired power plant on Capitol Hill on Monday for a protest they billed as the largest display of civil disobedience on the climate crisis in U.S. history.

Willing to be arrested for their cause, they encircled and blocked entrances to the plant, which powers the U.S. Capitol and House and Senate office buildings.

But this particular plant may be the least of the protesters' worries.

Less than a week before the rally, congressional leaders requested the plant's full conversion to natural gas. Organizers were taking credit.

"There are no gifts in this world," said Vermont author and environmentalist Bill McKibben told a cheering crowd. "There is only organizing and movements and people doing what it takes to make change happen and that's what we're doing."

Organized by Capitol Climate Action, the protest to fight climate change came with the inopportune backdrop of the city's worst snowstorm this year and below-freezing temperatures. But that may highlight the interest in the campaign, according to Glenn Hurowitz, spokesman for Green Peace.

"The fact that so many people are willing to come out and keep winter cold shows how much passion and dedication people have on this issue," Hurowitz said.

The protesters came prepared with green hard hats and signs that said "power past coal" and "coal hurts mountains."

They chanted, "Climate change. What's the solution? A green jobs revolution."

Police held shields outside one of the plants entrances but there were no incidents or arrests, according to U.S. Capitol Police.

The rally prompted a mini-counterprotest across the street from the plant. Holding a "celebrate coal" sign, Myron Ebell said he wanted the plant to continue burning coal.

"As a taxpayer, it's in my interest because if they stop burning coal the price they will be paying for fuel to run the Capitol will go up significantly," said Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy for the Competitive Enterprise Institute. "Coal is the cheapest source of electricity in this country."

While purchasing additional natural gas will be more expensive, the investment would reduce pollution and the cost of storing and transporting coal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wrote on Thursday in a letter to the acting architect of the Capitol.

Previous attempts to remove coal entirely have been blocked by senators from coal-producing states.

McKibben, an early advocate of the rally, told the crowd that was just one down.

"We've got 600 of these things left around the country that we've got to take care of and we've got to take care of fast," he said. "This is the most dangerous thing on Earth. A coal-fired power plant operating just the way it's supposed to operate destroys this planet. Nothing has to go wrong with it. It is wrong to begin with."

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton