Students confront Progress Energy on dirty coal

by Mary Nicol

February 19, 2010

A couple of months ago, I visited a vibrant Greenpeace student group at UNC-Wilmington.

About two hours after I arrived, I met up with one of the student organizers, Andy, and we went to pick up some supplies for a banner. We found the perfect sized rods to serve as braces and headed to one of Progress Energy’s coal fired power plants for a media event. The plant is less than 10 miles from campus.

We turned on to the main road heading toward the plant and about 20 feet up the road, we saw a security guard, a representative from Progress Energy and a news van. Andy, the savvy campus organizer that he is, had pitched a couple TV stations on the event, and a TV crew showed up! The idea was that this was a publicity event for the screening of "The Age of Stupid" the students were showing the next day on campus. Our banner had STUPID written on it in big bold letters.

We drove in with confidence and headed to the security guard to see why he was there. He responded, "I’ve been hired here by the property owners to keep folks from coming onto the property." I responded, "OK, we need to pull around and talk to the TV crew. We’re just here to get a picture and send a message that we will not let our future be powered by coal." We quickly discussed where we could set up, and were able to carry on as planned.

Andy did an interview with the camera crew, and we provided background support. The reporter did quite the Us versus Them story.

While we were doing the interview, we saw an unmarked car drive by and take photos of our license plates. I asked the Progress Energy representative why this was necessary, and he responded, “It’s a safety precaution.” But, you have to ask yourself, why is an energy company so afraid of a group of students? What are they worried about?

The UNC-Wilmington students, on the other hand, are pretty concerned. They know that it’s their future at stake and they certainly are not going to back down. They know that companies like Progress Energy aren’t transitioning to renewable energy fast enough and are continuing to fuel propaganda by being a part of groups like the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. Young people will keep pushing until they build a future that is not powered by coal, and I look forward to working with them every step of the way.

Mary Nicol

By Mary Nicol

Mary is a Senior Campaigner who supports movement work to defend communities and the climate from extractive industries.

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