'Monday Night Football' protest aimed at stopping Md. natural gas project

Those people hanging from the upper deck on #MondayNightFootball? Protesters against the Cove Point plant.

Police have arrested the activists who rappelled from the upper deck of Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte during "Monday Night Football" to protest the bank's funding of a proposed liquid natural gas plant in Southern Maryland.

The protesters perplexed fans and stadium staff during the nationally televised game between the Carolina Panthers and the Indianapolis Colts with a sign that read "BoA: Dump Dominion."

Bank of America is financing the Richmond-based energy company Dominion, which is seeking federal approval for the natural gas export terminal and liquefaction plant at Cove Point in Lusby.

Four people were arrested in the protest: John Nicholson, 29, of Lewisburg, Pa.; Erica Madrid, 35, of Washington; David Baghdadi, 38, of Hot Springs, N.C.; and Angela Vogel, 35, of Philadelphia.

Each was charged with second-degree trespassing, resisting a public officer and dropping objects at a sporting event, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said. All are misdemeanors.

Bond was set at $1,500 for each, and Madrid and Vogel were released Tuesday, according to the Mecklenburg County sheriff's office. It remained unclear Tuesday how the protesters got the rappelling gear into the stadium.

The group We Are Cove Point said it was "calling on Bank of America and other lending institutions to stop financing Dominion."

The group also released statements from Nicholson and Madrid, the two who hung from the upper deck.

"Bank of America is allowing companies like Dominion to operate without checks and balances," Nicholson said. "They are giving money directly to Dominion with full knowledge of the health and safety risks of building an LNG export facility, and they need to be accountable to that."

"America doesn't need more cheap fuel on the market, and we especially don't need to export those resources overseas," Madrid said. "Dominion is building a facility that would contribute to the economic crisis our country is facing. Bank of America is financing the Cove Point LNG plant, and the surrounding community in Southern Maryland is forced to bear the human cost. This is unacceptable."

Bank of America did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, Dominion said it "respects the right of peaceful protest, but the incident last night in Charlotte jeopardized the safety of people at the game and the emergency responders who were forced to perform the rescue operation. We are thankful that no one was injured."

Dominion has said that exporting LNG through Cove Point would provide $40 million a year in tax revenue for Calvert County and create 75 permanent jobs. The company has said the conversion of the little-used import terminal would support thousands of construction jobs.

The company has said that opponents are misrepresenting facts about the project and has noted that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's staff review found that the liquefaction plant and related export facility "can be built and operated safely with no significant impact to the environment."

A federal appeals court in June refused to halt the plant's construction while it considers a legal challenge by environmental groups.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the opponents had failed to give "strongly compelling" reasons for stopping the project.

Monday night's protest was not the first against the project.

In July, two dozen protesters were arrested in Washington after they conducted a sit-in at the federal commission reviewing the proposed plant with signs calling the agency the "Fracking Expansion Rubberstamp Commission" and warning that the project is "risky business."

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

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