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ARDEN, NC (AP) — Some Greenpeace protesters have climbed a smokestack that towers over a power plant near Asheville.

Progress Energy spokesman Scott Sutton says a handful of protesters scaled the column at the Asheville Power Plant in Arden on Monday morning.

Sutton says the utility’s highest priority is to safely remove the protesters and protect the 400-megawatt plant that serves Progress customers in western North Carolina.

Greenpeace spokeswoman Keiller MacDuff says activists have secured themselves to devices including the coal loader and conveyer belts. She says the group thinks plants like the one in Asheville that use coal damage the environment.

Sutton says the group has also hung banners around the facility. He says police are working to remove the protesters.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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