Up in the air to stop the pipelines

This morning, I got up early, climbed a ladder 35 feet up, and perched on top of the front door of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with a banner that reads “FERC NO, Federal Renewable Energy Commission YES!”

It’s not a 100% safe, or legal way to make a point. But I thought it was important enough, and that this is a critical moment in which to make this point. 

Let me explain:

The Federal Renewable Energy Commission (FERC) is the agency in DC responsible for regulation of our interconnected electricity grids, as well as review, permitting and (almost always) approval of natural gas infrastructure in the United States. It’s already a powerful agency that oversees billions of dollars in infrastructure and is empowered to act on matters that can affect your monthly utility bill, and even seize your house or land and evict you through a process called eminent domain. Allies of the fossil fuel industry in DC have fought for years to expand those powers – so that FERC would oversee oil pipelines too, and would have stronger and more expedited powers to force through fossil fuel infrastructure.

For years we’ve battled against FERC and those who want to expand its powersWe’ve fought FERC orders to expedite fracking and new pipelines and LNG terminals. And we’ve been arrested and protested at multiple Senate hearings on FERC and opposed legislation to expand its powers.

But all along we’ve maintained it doesn’t have to be this way. FERC has a clear set of responsibilities that could be really helpful in fighting climate change – they could direct utilities to price renewable electricity more favorably than fossil fuels. They could also stop approving every new fossil fuel project that is proposed to them – especially big new fracked gas pipelines and export terminals, which will lock us into dangerous methane – a climate pollutant 86x more powerful than CO2 – for 30 years or more. 

Hence – FREC, the Federal Renewable Energy Commission. Our vision is that as part of a Green New Deal, Congress would re-make FERC into an agency that prioritizes the climate crisis and acts to implement the renewable energy future we wall want.

It was even starting to work – In the last 12-24 months we’ve seen cracks between the FERC commissioners, with the two Democrats dissenting on many votes and deadlocking – effectively blocking – approval of new pipelines and gas export terminals. When asked why they are saying no, Democrats at FERC say they hear from the courts, the public, and from scientists that they need to do a better job measuring and addressing the impacts these projects have on climate change.

And then, last week, Donald Trump poured gasoline and methane all over that raging fire of a debate:

In a series of Executive Orders, Trump made plain he intends to use the Department of Energy (which oversees FERC), EPA and other federal agencies as a cudgel to ram through new oil and gas pipelines. Taken together with a series of state-level laws that ban protest at pipeline construction sites, Trump’s fossil-nationalism says this: 

  1. Fossil fuel companies should be paid more than any other energy sector. If ratepayers disagree, or the market simply moves in a different direction since the fuel for renewable energy is free, the Government will subsidize fossil fuel companies and force you to pay more money for dirtier energy.
  2. If fossil fuel companies want to build a pipeline through your town, put a compressor station on your front yard, or an export terminal where you fish, they can do so. Their wish is your command and they can take your land, your tribe’s land, or your town/state’s land to do it. If you think that’s unfair, you don’t want a pipeline in your front yard or sacred places, even if you take the time to convince your city council, tribal council, governor, mayor or other elected officials to join you in opposing the project, they will all be overruled. What’s yours, what’s sacred, what belongs to all of us in common – none of it matters. The fossil fuel industry gets what it wants, and you -as a ratepayer and a taxpayer – will pay them for it whether you like it or not.
  3. If you’re a shareholder, an investor, or a capitalist of any kind that believe climate change is a real, urgent threat – companies are ordered by the FEC to ignore you, and your right to talk about climate chaos, fossil fuels and investment strategy that does not burn the planet down is blocked. If you try and speak out anyway, your status as a licensed investor can be challenged and you can be removed from public exchanges. Fossil fuels are the only way to make money, and any dissent will be punished.
  4. Oh and if you resist, if you lay down in front of the machinery of destruction and put your body on the line to stop this madness – you will be arrested, probably by heavily armed federal agents, and put in jail. In an increasing number of states, simply praying for peace in the path of a pipeline could get you locked up for a decade or longer.

Which is why I’m up here. We have a clear plan for how FERC can stop being part of the problem, and transform into FREC – a part of the solution. Trump and Co. are clearly not going to help implement that vision, but Congress might – and you can help! Here’s how:

  1. Check out the livestream and photos from our partners in action at BXE above
  2. If you’re interested in supporting our work, click here to chip in – we have more actions planned this spring at Shareholder meetings and corporate gatherings!
  3. Call Chuck Schumer at 202-224-6542 and Nancy Pelosi at 202-225-4965 to urge them to support legislation to replace FERC with FREC.

What happened at FERC last week

FERC doesn’t work. but they’re back at work in a big way – clearing the more than $13 billion in back-logged projects sitting on their desk by rubber stamping every pipeline, compressor station, export terminal and bad fossil-fueled idea they can lay their hands on.

To those who showed up — online or in person — on September 20th for the rally, action, and lobbying at FERC and Congress, thank you so much for giving your precious time and energy to this important effort!

We started the day early – 6:30am early for those of us who stayed at a local church the night before to plan, make signs, and put together the petition signatures for delivery. A short walk later, we met up with dozens more friends, nearly a hundred activists and one VERY LARGE puppet of the FERC commissioners dancing to the tune of big Fracked Gas money.

A rally and speakers took turns from 8:30-9:30, including powerful testimony from numerous frontline communities and also Rev. Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus. The Rev. as usual, brought the fire to our proceedings declaiming that it was “so disappointing we have to be here… [FERC] shouldn’t have to be told [about the climate impacts of fracked gas]. They just need to check the weather!”

At the end of his comments, the Rev. led us all in a verse or two of We Shall Overcome. And then it was, in the words of one activist “Into the lion’s den” as dozens of activists filed patiently through security lines for the chance to enter FERC, where decisions about our home and planet are made every day.

As we’ve reported before, the great irony of FERC’s ‘public meetings’ is that there is no space for the public to actually comment. Decisions are made for us, about us, OVER us and without any opportunity for any man, woman, child or advocate to stand up and simply say “stop, you’re killing us.” Instead, as has been the case at every FERC commissioners meeting for more than 18 months, we were compelled to take matters into our own hands and chose (in the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, who Rev. Yearwood sited out front) the “positive peace which is the presence of justice,” as opposed to “a negative peace which is the absence of tension.”

Choosing that tense, positive peace, activists stood in unison inside the meeting and sang “We Shall Overcome” while others shouted, were hauled away and served with  arrest warrants. Hundreds of you supported from home by calling FERC – jamming the phone lines for over an hour and blowing up the twitter feed with your #FERCabuses messages. None of our in-person protestors will be allowed back into FERC meetings again, but it was a small price to pay to show the newly restored quorum that our communities will NOT be overcome — we will continue to resist, by speaking out, fighting in the courts, and generally fighting all of FERC’s rubber stamping ways!

After the intervention and protest at FERC, we headed up to Capitol Hill a few blocks away, where (after a short training and orientation) folks headed into the Senate buildings to deliver letters and comments from more than 30,000 citizens opposing FERC, Fracking, and the remaining two nominees.

The day was a great success and carried forward the unceasing resolve of so many not only to stop FERC from destroying communities and the climate, but also to replace it with an agency dedicated to a just transition off fossil fuels.

Take a look at some of the press hits from the day below!

But our campaign isn’t over: Trump’s final two nominations to FERC still need to be confirmed by the full Senate. If you’re looking for further actions to take consider one of the following:

  • Donate to support the ongoing campaign with Beyond Extreme Energy. BXE paid for most of the logistics for this action – from food and housing for activists, to transportation for the giant puppet and much more. 198 supporters have already donated more than $500 to support the work (go team!). If you haven’t had a chance to donate yet, or want to make sure BXE is funded to keep going back to the monthly FERC commissioners meetings to do more, it’s not to late to chip in here.
  • Call your Senators at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to “vote no on those two FERC Nominees — Democrat Richard Glick and Republican Kevin McIntyre.” Unlike the previous two, Republicans Neil Chatterjee and Robert F. Powelson, not one single Senator voted against these two nominations in committee — probably because one is a Democrat and no Republican has yet voted against Trump’s FERC nominees.
  • In addition to calling your senators to tell them to vote no on these appointments, if you’re interested in coming to DC to attend the Senate vote, which hasn’t been scheduled yet, Beyond Extreme Energy has 20 available tickets. We’re looking for people who want to either fill the room or participate in a sing-in. If you’re interested, email info@beyondextremeenergy.org and let them know.
  • Last – spread the news: Share this post and share all the news items below on your social networks – it really makes a difference for a lot of different people to share news and updates becaue even if we don’t make the top-trending list on twitter, we DO generate a lot more attention and discussion about these issues.

Gas pipeline protesters turn up heat on FERC: Activists disrupted the federal agency’s first open meeting since January, saying regulators disregard environmental risks and facilitate land grabs by pipeline companies

FERC Has Quorum Once Again, But Not Much NatGas on Meeting Agenda

FERC picks up where it left off, tackles backlog

Anti-pipeline protestors sing ‘We shall overcome’ at FERC meeting

Pipeline protesters return to FERC energized by recent wins, Trump backlash

WASHINGTON POST: The Energy 202: FERC is up and running again. That means Trump gets more of the pipelines he wants

En EEUU otorgan permisos para destruir el medio ambiente

FERC Is Back in Business and Oblivious as Ever

Pipeline protesters disrupt FERC’s first meeting with new Trump commissioners