Protesters arrested outside Rick Boucher's office.

Capitol Police arrested 15 protesters outside the office of Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) on Thursday as the debate over the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill continued.

The protesters, from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, held a sit-in outside Boucher’s office to protest his role in getting more support into the bill for coal. Boucher, who represents a coal-heavy region of southern Virginia, has been a key player in getting billions in incentives for coal into the bill, as well as weakening some of its standards. The protesters blocked the doors to Boucher’s office, holding signs that read “No more coal” and singing a modified version of “We Shall Overcome.”

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CCAN director Mike Tidwell, a Grist contributor, was among those arrested. “This is a climate mugging of the American people,” said Tidwell before his arrest. “Waxman-Markey is becoming a coal industry welfare bill.” (See Grist’s breakdown of where green groups stand on the bill.)

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A spokesperson for the organization said the protest, which comes on the last day of debate of the Waxman-Markey bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee, is not really about the bill itself or the markup process to date.

“It’s really a statement about Boucher and the leadership he has assumed in gutting the bill and giving billions of dollars to polluters,” CCAN communications director Anne Havemann told Grist after the protest.

Boucher has been very open throughout the process about his talks with coal companies about the bill. “In the course of conducting other negotiations, I have had continued conversations with coal companies, both locally and nationally, including the chief executive officers of CONSOL … which operates the largest mine in Southwest Virginia, and Michael Quillen, the chief executive officer of Alpha, which is our region’s largest coal producer,” Boucher said recently. “I have been in discussions with Mike Morris, the chief executive officer of AEP, and Tom Ferrell, who is chief executive officer of Dominion, which is Virginia’s largest electricity supplier.”

But Boucher hasn’t made himself quite so accessible to foes of coal, prompting the sit-in today. “He doesn’t meet with groups like us,” said Havemann. “We’ve tried for months.”

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