Activists Call on Retiring FERC Commissioner to Heed her Better Angels

Live outside FERC

Posted by Beyond Extreme Energy #BXE on Thursday, July 18, 2019

Washington, DC – For the past 30 years FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has voted in favor of 398 out of 400 applications for mostly fracked gas interstate pipelines and related projects. Fracked gas is at least 95% methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is 100 times worse for the climate than carbon dioxide over a 10-year period. Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we have 11 years left to avoid unstoppable climate catastrophe.

These facts are top of mind as FERC commissioners hold their next regular monthly meeting on July 18 – the last meeting for Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, who is stepping down after eight years. Over her tenure she has moved toward considering the climate impacts of these fracked gas projects and has occasionally voted against them. But as recently as April, she voted to approve not one, not two, but three huge liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals, which would super-charge fracking around the country as well as global methane emissions.

Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) and their allies held a press event outside the building at 9:30 AM to call on LaFleur to use her final meeting to stand on the right side of history, to throw aside her convoluted rationales that allow her to both call for consideration of climate impacts and to still approve these projects that will be spewing climate-and community-wrecking emissions for the next 40 years – well past the time the U.S. and the world need to transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy.

BXE will also announced the next steps in our campaign to transform FERC into FREC, the Federal Renewable Energy Commission, as part of future Green New Deal legislation. In support of our call for LaFleur to vote to block new fossil fuel projects and FERC to transform into an agency dedicated to a just transition away from all fossil fuels Statements were read from a variety of impacted communities:

“Twice FERC had all the information necessary to make the correct decision to deny the Jordan Cove Energy Project.” said Deb McGee 350Eugene Volunteer/Director. “The only thing that has changed is that Green House Gasses in our atmosphere have risen to 415ppm, causing more extreme weather, more fires, and making every reason to deny the permit even clearer and more profound. If we are to survive we must build no new fossil fuel infrastructure! Keep it in the Ground!”

“After years of extreme storms, polluted water supplies and devastating fires, FERC has fueled climate change and poisoned our planet,” said Donna Chavis, senior fossil fuel campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “If we want to stop climate change, FERC should commit to a policy of no more fossil fuel infrastructure and put an end to projects like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

“Three and one half years ago we learned that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would cut our property in half with over 3,000 feet of 42 inch pipeline, coming within 600 feet of our home,” said Bill Limpert, who lives with his wife in a retirement home and property in Bath County, Virginia. “We have since learned that the 3M Scotchkote Fusion Bonded Epoxy 6233 coating used on the pipes for the ACP contains carcinogenic, mutagenic, and toxic properties. Manufacturer 3M states that this product degrades and chalks. FERC has said they are investigating this but that is not enough; they should issue a stop work order immediately for the ACP.”

“FERC continues to pillage our community in New York City and global climate health by approving more fracked gas infrastructure by facilitating rather than regulating,” said Kim Fraczek, Director of Sane Energy Project. “We are now facing yet another fracked gas pipeline, the Williams NESE pipeline, approved by FERC against the will of the community, and against our state law, and twice denied by our Department of Environmental Conservation, and without consensus of FERC commissioners, considering Commissioner Richard Glick’s dissent surrounding this pipeline’s approval. We understand that FERC won’t get paid unless they approve pipelines, and today, we are here to insist on a complete revision of an agency that is in charge of interstate energy infrastructure since the DNA of FERC is a captive agency controlled by the very industry its assigned to regulate. There is a national consensus from communities that we can never expect to see justice from FERC in its current form.”

“The State of Oregon and communities impacted by the Jordan Cove LNG export terminal and pipeline are sending a strong message to FERC that they must consider the full climate impacts of a project before approval,” said Allie Rosenbluth, Campaigns Director at Southern Oregon-based community group Rogue Climate. “By standing up against new fracked gas projects and ensuring FERC considers climate before permitting new projects, Commissioner LaFleur has an opportunity to leave a climate legacy at the agency.”

“Not only is the Jordan cove project a thirty five year commitment to fossil fuels hobbling the change to clean energy but after 14 years the project still is terrorizing landowners like us.” said Larry and Sylvia Mangan, North Bend Oregon, landowners along one of the routes of the pacific gas connector. “A Canadian corporation should not be allowed to use eminent domain against US citizens for private gain.”

Last Chance for FERC’s Cheryl LaFleur

We’ve told you a lot about FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. And there’s a good reason: for the past 22 years the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has voted in favor of 522 applications for fracked gas pipelines and infrastructure. It has rejected only two.

Fracked gas is at least 90% methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is 100 times worse for the climate than carbon dioxide over a ten-year period. Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we have 11 years left to avoid catastrophic climate impacts. 

These facts are very relevant as FERC commissioners hold their regular monthly meeting on July 18. This will be the last meeting for Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur who is stepping down after eight years of approving nearly every application.

That’s why I’m headed to Cheryl’s last chance meeting. Can you back us up?

LaFleur is not your typical commissioner. Over her tenure she has repeatedly argued in favor of considering climate impacts and has occasionally voted against projects. While we were disappointed when, as recently as May, she voted to approve not one, not two, but three liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals that would super-charge fracking and global methane emissions. And she did it while I was sitting on her roof asking her not to, that’s just plain rude.

In the meantime, those affected negatively by FERC’s decisions are speaking out – and you’ve been a. big part of that – speaking out against the Jordan Cove Export terminal in Oregon, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and related infrastructure in the southeast and the Williams Pipeline in New York.

That’s whey I wanted you to know that I’ll be at Cheryl LaFleur’s last FERC meeting in DC tomorrow, and will be delivering your comments and concerns alongside allies from Beyond Extreme Energy and other friends. We are calling on all FERC commissioners, but especially Cheryl LaFleur to vote NO on all dockets and to set a record of opposing fossil fuel projects because of their climate impacts that future commissioners can use.

Tomorrow we’ll post the press release, a video from outside the hearing, and other info you can use to keep fighting. Stay tuned!

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.