April 27, 2010

Five Citizens Arrested at Boulder, Colorado Valmont Coal Power Plant.

Boulder Activists Unfurl Banner, Erect Wind Turbines on Top of Giant Coal Pile.

Boulder, CO – At approximately 12:45 today, four activists climbed onto the massive coal pile in front of the Valmont Power Plant.

A large banner was unfurled down the front of the coal pile, reading “RENEWABLES NOW,” and two fake wind turbines were erected on top of the coal pile. The activists reclaimed the coal pile to display their message for approximately 1.5 hours…before they were taken into custody.

Meanwhile, a rally took place on outside of the Valmont Power Plant.

Bill McKibben, a leading climate change activist and founder of 350.org, who happened to be in Boulder for a speaking event, came to the rally and expressed his support for those on the coal pile.

“Our leaders have been listening to the coal industry instead of the science and now people need to take the lead and that is what they are doing. The action today is great and what is so great about it is that the same thing is happening all around the world. Everywhere people are showing the same kind of courage,” said Mr. McKibben.

The protest, which occurred less than one week after the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, comes as Boulder is considering whether to renew a 20 year franchise agreement with Xcel. Recently, the Boulder City Council and City Manager suggested that Boulder should delay signing a new franchise agreement to allow more time to negotiate with Xcel about implementing a stronger renewable energy plan.

Approximately 90% of Boulder’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels, with only 10% coming from renewable sources. Many local environmentalists and community leaders are calling for electricity generated from renewable sources to increase by 10% each year, reaching 30% renewable by 2012 and 100% renewable by 2020.

“Boulder is ready to move forward with 100% renewable electricity. If Xcel is not willing to partner with the city to make this happen, then Boulder officials and citizens needs to take our energy future into our own hands,” said Tom Weis, a Boulder resident that communicated from atop the coal pile.

While the recent ‘Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act’ will require that Xcel modify three Front Range coal plants by 2017, Xcel is simultaneously planning to open the Comanche 3 coal-fired power plant in Pueblo, which will be the largest coal plant in the state.

Beyond that, three Front Range coal plants are likely to be replaced by natural gas, instead of renewable energy sources. In fact, the legislation may allow Xcel to sign 20 year contracts on natural gas, effectively locking Coloradans to the high cost and environmentally destructive fuel, at a time when renewable energy technology is rapidly advancing.

“There couldn’t be a more important place for these kinds of protests. Boulder has provided more information about the deteriorating climate than any other town and yet there is a mountain of coal behind me. It is pathetic,” said Mr. McKibben.

At the same time, Mr. McKibben believes that Boulder is the right place to change directions: “There is no better place for 100% renewable electricity. Boulder’s combination of wind, sun and brain power makes it uniquely suited for just that kind of progress.”

View the initial media report by the Daily Camera or at Understory.

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