COLUMBIA, S.C. - Protesters against coal power attached themselves Monday to a nearly 1 million pound generator part bound for North Carolina for more than an hour before deputies were able to remove them.
Duke Energy said the protest in a South Carolina parking lot shouldn't slow the three-month trip to move the equipment, called a stator, from a port in the southern part of the state to a power generating plant under construction near Cliffside, N.C.
The part had been parked in a lot near Greenville for about a week when four protesters scaled a fence around 8:45 a.m. Monday and climbed to the top of the massive piece of equipment and refused to get down, Greenville County Master Deputy Melissia McKinney said.
The protesters unfurled a banner that said "Stop Cliffside" before two of them were arrested, said Attila Nemecz, spokesman for Asheville Rising Tide, which staged the protest.
Two more were able to lock their arms and sleeves through parts of the machine and stayed on top of it for more than an hour before deputies cut them away and arrested them, Nemecz said.
Rachel Scarano, 21; Catherine MacDougal, 22; Julia Page, 20; and Paul Loomis, 21, were all charged with disorderly conduct, deputies said. They face up to 30 days in jail or a $100 fine if convicted of the misdemeanor.
This isn't the first time the group has protested the new power plant. Several dozen members of Asheville Rising Tide were arrested after an April rally in Charlotte, N.C., Nemecz said.
Members have tried to halt the plant through government action, but had no success, Nemecz said.
"We're tired of waiting. We're going to take serious enough action to stop construction of this global-warming, pollution-causing death machine," Nemecz said.
The protest happened just off U.S. 25 a few miles south of Interstate 85 near Greenville. Duke Energy left the part there for about a week as they finalized its slow trip through one of South Carolina's most populated areas. The journey should start again Monday night, with the part arriving at the plant not far from Boiling Springs, N.C., in mid-December, utility spokesman Andy Thompson said.
"It's just unfortunate the protesters decided to protest in this form," Thompson said. "Certainly, everybody has an opinion and the right to express their opinion. But I think there are much better ways to get a point across as opposed to crossing over private property."
The equipment's trip across South Carolina has been a two-month show. In many small communities, people have sat in their yards on lawn chairs for hours to watch as two trucks pull the trailers carrying the part, which is as long as a football field. Two more trucks push the load, which all together weighs nearly 2 million pounds and can't travel much faster than 15 mph. Crews have raised power lines all along the route, and transportation officials say it is the largest load to ever move across South Carolina.
Thompson said this is the first protest he has heard about as the caravan slowly creeps along.
"It's been very positive," Thompson said. "I think the public - everyday people who have seen it realize it's kind of an interesting spectacle."