Republished with Permission from Beyond Extreme Energy
Washington, DC— Senate Minority Leader and New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer’s Washington, DC office was rendered inoperable this morning when nearly two dozen people blockaded the office doors, delivering a letter backed by 15,000 supporters demanding that the Senator oppose Trump’s nominations to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017 (S 1460). Hailing from New York, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Virginia, and representing a coalition of over 190 groups pledged to fight Trump’s FERC nominees, seven individuals held up a banner and were arrested for refusing to move. The banner read “Senator Schumer: Don’t Trump Our Future. Vote no on FERC Nominees. Vote No on the Dirty Energy Bill.”
These arrests happened only hours after Trump officially nominated Democrat Richard Glick, an energy aid to Senator Maria Cantwell, to FERC. Richard Glick will now have to pass through the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources before coming up for a confirmation vote by the full Senate. Republican FERC nominees Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson have already made it through the committee and are up for a full Senate vote soon. Powelson and Chatterjee need to be approved before FERC has the quorum it needs to approve fossil fuel infrastructure projects.
Senators on both sides of the aisle have shown little to no opposition to Trump’s FERC nominees. Because FERC has lacked a quorum since February, Bloomberg reports that $14 billion worth of infrastructure projects are being held up, worrying investors. This includes Dominion’s proposed $5.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and the Nexus pipeline, a $2.1 billion joint project from DTE Energy Co. and an Enbridge subsidiary.
Those opposed to Trump’s nominations to FERC point out FERC’s utter disregard for communities and the climate. FERC regulates the electricity market and is responsible for rubber stamping fossil fuel infrastructure such as fracked gas pipelines, compressor stations, and LNG export terminals. Climate protectors, individuals, and groups from around the country are demanding that the Senate reject Trump’s FERC nominees until FERC’s abuses of power and law are investigated, and steps are taken to replace FERC with an agency dedicated to a just transition off fossil fuels.
“Concerned New Yorkers have been focused on Senator Schumer standing up to FERC since 2015 when they approved the Spectra Pipeline adjacent to Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant,” states blockader Kim Fraczek, Director of Sane Energy Project, based in Brooklyn, NY, where Senator Schumer also lives. “We were pleased when the Senator met our demand to request FERC issue a Stop Work Order for the harmful and undemocratic pipeline. FERC denied his request to protect 20 million of his constituents. It’s clear to us that Senator Schumer understands the peril FERC facilitates, and why it is necessary to block Trump’s nominees, Chatterjee and Powelson, whom we expect to fast-track further detriment to our health, safety and democracy.”
“The Democrats seem to enjoy talking about climate change to media and at public events to their constituents. But talk is different than action,” said Jess Rechtschaffer of New York, who was arrested when she refused to stop blocking the office doorway. “Chuck Schumer, along with the majority of the Democratic Party, have been enabling the fossil fuel industry for years, at the expense of public health and safety for decades now.”
Deborah Kushner was also arrested blocking Schumer’s office. Deborah is from Nelson County, Virginia, a battleground between local residents and Dominion Power’s proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline. “Everything is wrong in this scenario,” she said. “Taxpaying property owners faced with eminent domain seizure of their land by a for-profit company, wondering about our home’s proximity to an “incineration zone,” finding huge gaps and incorrect data in FERC’S Environmental Impact Statement, seeing property values plummet before work starts. FERC must be stopped in its tracks and turned 180 degrees around so that we can continue to live and breathe in peace.”
Drew Hudson of South Carolina, an organizer with Beyond Extreme Energy and founder of 198 Methods, said he participated in the blockade because he wanted to “demand Chuck Schumer and other Senators who claim to care about the climate to put up or shut up. You can’t claim to care about the climate and the Paris accords if you vote for FERC, fracking and fossil fuel exports.”
The FERC Vacancies Campaign has been working for months to fight Trump’s FERC nominations. They have sponsored national lobby days, call-in days, district office visits, and disruptions to pressure senators into voting no on Trump’s nominees. They pledge that the resistance will continue to the end, and that there will be political consequences for Schumer and anyone else if they vote in FERC’s favor by approving either Trump’s FERC nominees or the upcoming energy bill.