Good riddance to 2017 – I like our chances next month

It’s the last few days of 2017. And good riddance, I say, because we’ve got big plans for January 2018.

It’s been a busy and mostly brutal year as the Trump team attacks one of our communities after the other. We end the year much as we began it – worried about deportations, awash in climate chaos, resolute in our desire to show up when and where we can to speak out and shut down fossil fuel projects and the political patsies that approve them.

But in the face of all that, there is also hope: Major new divestments from big banks (and even the WORLD bank), opportunities to challenge the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)’s new leadership, and convergences and gatherings that will consolidate the strength of our movement to shut things down and renew your spirit to open new ideas up.

Rebellions are built on hope, and two stories are giving me hope this week:

A recent article in Reuters details how Canadian Tar Sands, the dirtiest oil on earth, are having a tough time getting to export markets — driving up prices and costing Big Oil companies billions of dollars in the process. One of the big reasons the oil can’t get out is that a bunch of new pipelines are being delayed by our resistance. One of them – the Energy East, which was to be the “largest tar sands pipeline in the world” – was flat out canceled earlier this year. This makes it clear that our strategy of delaying big fossil fuel projects can work, but only if 2 things are true:

  1. We have to physically get in the way and obstruct these projects. No pipeline has ever been stopped by a court action or environmental impact statement alone (those things are are also important). In fact, more often than not, even when pipelines are found to have violated the law or their government-issued permits, they just pay a fine, revise the plan and keep right on going. If we want to stop the construction, we need to actually STOP the construction.
  2. Local governments like cities, states and counties can make a huge difference. That Energy East pipeline in Canada faltered not on federal rules, but mostly on the opposition of sovereign indigenous nations and the province of Quebec, which asked for a serious climate test on the project. Here in the US, the laws are different, and mostly stacked in favor of federal regulators like FERC and the Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE). But our best results have come in states like New York, where the Governor stood up to gas pipelines, or in cities like Vancouver, which voted to block an oil train terminal and set off a chain reaction that’s shutting the industry down across the state of Washington.

The second big piece of news is this new Finnish study out that confirms what many of us already know in our hearts: A planet earth powered by 100% renewable energy isn’t just possible: it’s cheaper, more just, more efficient, and better for jobs too. That research builds on the existing plans for 100% Renewable energy in 139 countries, and detailed, state-by-state plans for the U.S. that show the same thing.

So, the solutions are coming – if we can just hold off the poison of fossil fuels long enough. And in particular if we can oil the dastardly plans of Trump and team to build an entire new generation of fossil fuel pipelines, export terminals and more that will lock-in another 30 years of global warming pollution both here and abroad, which millions of people simply cannot survive.

The even-better news is that we have some great opportunities in the next 4 weeks to make real progress. BUT, we need you support to fund the travel, logistics and technology we need to make that happen. We’ve have a goal of raising $10,000 by the end of the year, in part because changes in the Republican Tax Bill may make it less likely people will donate to groups like us in 2018. So far we’re $3,800 short of the goal. Can you chip in to support our work and help us start 2018 off right?

Here’s our plan for the next few weeks, custom designed to take advantage of the crisi-tunities above:

  1. In terms of stoking local resistance, the best opportunities in the next few weeks are the inaugurations of new (Democratic) Governor’s in Virginia and New Jersey. VA Governor Northam’s inauguration is on January 14 and could present some interesting opportunities. Northam is for the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines. But the Virginia Water Control Board has split recently: requiring additional review of the ACP, and voting to approve MVP with no such condition. With one pipeline approved, one on the way, and the governor not yet on-board: it’s time to start planning accountability and disruption actions. But we only have a few weeks to do it, and we need your support.
  2. In our survey, by far the most popular action people were willing to take (93%) was signing petitions and sending letters online. Two great opportunities to do that will come early in 2018 as FERC rules on the disastrous proposal from Rick Perry & Donald Trump to subsidize coal and nuclear power by raising electricity rates across the Northeast and midwest. A second opportunity may present itself as FERC considers new rules on when and how they approve pipelines. But given that they’re literally paid by the industry and have only opposed 1 or 2 pipelines out of more than 400 applications – color us skeptical. Either way, FERC dockets are notoriously hard to comment on or access for the public (at their monthly “public” meeting, for example, you get thrown out of the room if you try and speak. Unless you’re paid by the industry.) We use online tools to make it one-click simple for anyone to comment, and hand-deliver your messages at protests and media events that the Commission can’t ignore. But we need your support to keep these tools free and easy to access.
  3. The second most popular activity according to our survey is calling and lobbying your elected officials in person or by phone. And boy-howdy is there a show-down coming in January. You might remember that right after they brazenly voted to loot the middle class and strip mine the Arctic with their Tax Bill, the GOP voted to kick the can on a major spending bill until January 19. At stake are two huge issues: whether or not the government will shut down and whether or not thousands of undocumented young people (the Dreamers) will be deported. Two weeks ago, at the last critical moment, several Senate Democrats blinked and voted to allow thousands of Dreamers to face deportation over the holidays. It’s hard to overstate what a betrayal that is, or how eerily similar it was (both in who voted, and in who ducked the issue) to recent sell-outs on climate change like Democrats not objecting to (or even defending) Trump’s FERC nominees. We need to get ready to show up and show down with our allies in the Dreamer and immigration rights communities, and we need to make sure the climate movement doesn’t get completely forgotten (again) by the politicians who claim to speak for us.
  4. Last, there’s all the work we don’t know will happen (or exactly when) in January. This includes a plan for a series of webinars and conference calls with the team behind the People Vs Oil and Gas Summit. And keeping an eye on the #NoBBP and #NoKXl movements – which thousands of us have pledged to show up and support if called. If you’re interested in making a tax deductible gift that will keep us operating all month, then a monthly donation of $1.98 is the best, most efficient way to do so.

Thanks,

Two pipelines a week

Last week the Army Corps of Engineers gave preliminary approval to the Bayou Bridge Pipeline (BBP). A few days earlier, the Virginia Water Control Board (VaWCB) voted 4-3 to approve the fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), but required a final review of several environmental studies. That second one is actually considered a partial victory, since the week before the VaWCB had voted to approve the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) — another, shorter, fracked gas pipeline — with no such condition.

This not to mention the FCC ripping apart #NetNeutrality and the Republican Congress poised to ram through a tax bill that will steal our healthcare, deport our neighbors and drop a depth charge on the middle class from a luxury yacht. So, yeah, the last week wasn’t great.

But here’s the thing, in moments of crisis this climate justice movement rises to the occasion in ways that never fail to startle and inspire me. So, short version – Can you chip in to support what we’re doing? Even $1.98 helps a lot, and there’s a ton of other (including non-monetary) stuff you can do to help that we’re supporting or participating in below.

Ok – how to help. First, if you haven’t already, you need to sign up to show up. Both the #NoBBP and the #NoKXl movement have launched “pledge to protect” campaigns that encourage you ti sign up to show up – when asked, that’s really important – to support thee campaigned with civil disobedience and direct aid.

If we stop the pipelines, and lose the economy, our democracy, and all our immigrant neighbors though, it wont count for much. So we also need to sign up to show up and stop congress this week. Some of the best organizing going right now is to stop the tax bill, or derail it by forcing a big fight about the DREAM act. All week long, brave young dreamers, people who rely on the Affordable Care Act have been showing up in force. If you can get to D.C. or a local rally and support them you should.

Coincidentally, putting pressure on the Senate might also be the best way to save #NetNeutrality, which some 8,822 (yes we keep count), of you signed up to protect. The FCC voted to shred net Neutrality last week, but the short version is that we can fix it — IF two bulwarks hold:

  1. The lawsuits already introduced in New York, Massachusetts and a bunch of states to overrule the FCC decision because the comment process was to flawed;
  2. Congress votes (in accordance with some 70% of their constituents wishes) to overrule them with a powerful tool called the Congressional Review Act. The CRA gives Congress 60 legislative days to overturn a rule issued by a federal agency with a “resolution of disapproval,”  and it is NOT subject to a filibuster, so it can pass the Senate with just 51 votes.

Last, I want to talk about California, and all the places recently ravaged by climate-fueled super-storms. The fires, now among the largest in California history, are being driven by strong winds and new evacuation orders were issued in the last 24 hoursOne firefighter, Cory Iverson, 32, has been confirmed dead. And like Puerto Rico, we expect the actual toll to be much much worse than the public account.

Some friends have been strategizing about Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and I think there’s potential fir us to help. But to do so we’ll need a lot of logistics. Training, supplies, some sort of micro-grid on wheels. We need to get ready, and the climate chaos isn’t waiting.

If you chip in now, we’ll put 100% of the funds towards staging actions, protests and relief efforts where they matter. Even better, 100% of your gift is now tax-deductible as we apply for charitable status from the IRS. But I don’t know what the next few weeks will bring — whether there will be another disaster to respond to, another pipeline permitted, or whether the Trump team will order the IRS to disregard all new applications towards protecting the environment the way they told the CDC to stop using words like “fetus” and “science-based” last week.

What I do know is that, together, we can make a difference. But only if we show up however we can. Click any of the links in this email to get connected and show up to say #NoKXL, #NoBBP, #StopGOPTaxScam, clean #DreamActNow, or do stand in solidarity with the victims of #ThomasFire and ALL the #ClimateChanged disasters of the last few months.

Or, click here to chip in and help us fight back.

Photo Credit: Brandon Wu

Call now to stop the Dirty Tax Bill

You’ve probably heard about the Republican Tax Bill being debated in the Senate this week. There is a lot to DIS-like in the bill — from the way it raises taxes on the middle class to give tax breaks to the super-rich and corporations;1 to the way it’s being rushed through with no hearings or due-process;2 to the fact that it undercuts renewable energy, opens new land to oil and gas drilling and threatens our climate.3

It’s a seriously dirty, dangerous, and ugly piece of work. And it’s about to get a final vote in the Senate. Mitch McConnell says he has the votes to pass the bill.4 But it’s incredibly close. So close that the Vice President is standing by to break a tie if even ONE Senator changes his or her mind.

Can you make a quick call to tell your Senators to vote no? Click here for the number and some help on what to say.


There’s still a chance to stop this bill today. And that’s why we should all call now. But even if they DO vote to pass it by a slim margin today, we shouldn’t give up hope. The Senate bill is very different from the house version passed last month.

Most of what the House and Senate bills disagree on is just how, and how much, to hurt our communities and our planet. BUT as long as they don’t agree, they can’t pass a final bill (called reconciliation) before the end of this year.

Like so many things these days, this is a fight to delay even worse things from happening, just long enough that we can build something better to replace them. And the key to delay in this case is to flood every Senator’s line with calls telling them to Vote now. If enough of us call, Democrats will be emboldened to filibuster the bill, Republicans may re-think their support, and staff will be so busy talking to us, that they won’t be able to put out talking points and claim victory.

Click here to make a call and tell us how it went.

Thanks,

Drew and the 198 methods crew.

1 – https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2017/12/01/the-trump-tax-plan-just-hit-another-snag-the-real-problem-math-and-gop-lies/
2 – https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/11/30/im-a-depression-historian-the-gop-tax-bill-is-straight-out-of-1929/?utm_term=.15cca96bb73b
3 – http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/11/the-republican-tax-plan-is-an-assault-on-renewable-energy/
4 – https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/01/us/politics/senate-tax-bill-debate-vote.html

Stop Trump’s Dirty Energy Agenda from home!

Hey! Are you stuck at home or work on September 20 and looking for an easy way to take action along with more than 30,000 other people to stop the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) from implementing Trump’s Dirty Energy Agenda? You’re in the right place!

Use this page to call in, tweet along, and keep up with the latest from our campaign!

What to do
Follow along
What’s next

What to Do

  1. Call FERC at 202-502-6088 and tell them you support the efforts of national and frontline groups rallying on their doorstep this morning. Make sure to mention that you support the letter we’re delivering that calls for FERC & Congress to:
    1. Enact a moratorium on new fracked gas pipelines and infrastructure until there are hearings into FERC’s abuses in permitting pipelines and reforms put in place that give communities a real voice in FERC’s permitting process;
    2. Vote AGAINST the Dirty Energy bill (S1460), and any other legislation that would increase FERC’s authority and perversely speed up the approval process for fracked gas infrastructure. Communities and property owners nationwide need to have a say over all infrastructure projects.
    3. Support new legislation (such as H.R. 3671, Rep. Gabbard’s ‘OFF ACT’, or the Senate ‘100 by 50’ act) and a federal permitting process that puts us on a path to 100% clean energy to create high paying jobs, a stable climate, and livable communities.
  2. Call your Senators and Member of Congress at (202) 224-3121 and tell them you support the coalition of groups delivering letters to the House and Senate today that demand that they:
    1. Enact a moratorium on new fracked gas pipelines and infrastructure until there are hearings into FERC’s abuses in permitting pipelines and reforms put in place that give communities a real voice in FERC’s permitting process;
    2. Vote AGAINST the Dirty Energy bill (S1460), and any other legislation that would increase FERC’s authority and perversely speed up the approval process for fracked gas infrastructure. Communities and property owners nationwide need to have a say over all infrastructure projects.
    3. Support new legislation (such as H.R. 3671, Rep. Gabbard’s ‘OFF ACT’, or the Senate ‘100 by 50’ act) and a federal permitting process that puts us on a path to 100% clean energy to create high paying jobs, a stable climate, and livable communities.
  3. Tweet along with us! Use the hashtags #FERCabuses and tag @FERC and your Senators &  Member of Congress in your message. Click here if you need helping finding your elected Representatives on Twitter (they’re all there)!

Follow along!



What’s next?

Stay tuned for more ways to share and spread the word after our action wraps up. For now, try these!

Join us in DC To Stop Trump’s Dirty Energy Agenda!

September 20, 2017
8:30 AM
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First St, NE, Washington, DC 20426

Afternoon lobbying on the hill to begin around 11:30, starting with a lunch time gathering in the Lower Senate park next to the Russell Senate Office Building, the corner of D St. and Delaware Ave NE.

Agenda
How to Participate!
Housing Food & other logistics

Day’s Agenda

  • 8:30am: Gather and Rally from 8:30 until 9:30 am
  • 10:00am: Attendees encouraged to attend FERC’s open public meeting which begins at 10 am
  • 11:00 am (or thereabouts): At 11 am folks will be invited to grab a bag lunch and join together to drop in on Congressional offices to deliver the Stop Trump’s Dirty Energy Agenda sign on letters.
  • 11:30am: Over lunch at the park outside the Senate office buildings we will talk about the message and how to effectively drop in and drop off materials.
  • 12:30pm: Head into congressional buildings to drop materials and ask for drop in meetings
  • 2:45 pm: reconvene in the park outside Senate building to share your experience of the day
  • 3:30 pm: head home feeling good that you have been part of delivering a powerful message of opposition to FERC, Trump’s Dirty Energy Agenda, and advocating for reform and change.

Those who cannot rally or go into the FERC meeting but just want to lobby in the afternoon are welcome to simply meet us at the park at 11:30

People are also encouraged to set up meetings with their own House members and/or Senators. Contact Bridget at bridget@delawareriverkeeper.org for materials that can be left with those you meet with.

How to Participate!

Organizations can endorse our action here.

And can sign on to the letter to be delivered to congress here.

Individuals can sign up to attend the rally, other actions, and housing here.

Keep up to date at the Facebook event page.

Housing

There is low-cost housing at Trinity Lutheran Church (309 E St. NW, Washington, DC) about a 10 minute walk from FERC the nights of September 19th and 20th. You will be asked to pay $27 for this, the cost to us, though no one will be turned away who needs housing. Mattresses on the floor are available, there are showers and there will be food for dinner on the 19th and for breakfast on the 20th. There are also linens upon request for the night of the 19th. Be sure to fill out this form to reserve a spot:

Food

Food will be available the early evening of September 19th at the church and the early morning of the 20th. There will be bag lunches distributed to people in front of FERC before we walk over the Capitol Hill.

Art Build

We will make art for the event at Trinity Lutheran Church (309 E St. NW, Washington, DC) from 4pm to 6pm on September 19th. Please join us!

Strategy Meeting

Beyond Extreme Energy: BXE is organizing a strategy meeting the evening of the 20th from 7-9 pm and the morning of the 21st from 9 am -1 pm. If you are interested contact Ted Glick at indpol@igc.org for more information.

Supporters of this Day of Action

Delaware Riverkeeper Network
Berks Gas Truth
Beyond Extreme Energy
Green America
OVEC—Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
Safe Energy Rights Group, Inc.
Coalition for Responsible Siting of LNG Facilities
River Healer
Wild Virginia
Agape Community
Center for Health, Environment and Justice
198 methods
The Enviro Show
No Fracked Gas in Mass
Lancaster Against Pipelines
Resist Spectra
Safe Energy Rights Group
Bold Alliance
ECHO Action NH
PAUSE—People of Albany United for Safe Energy
350 NYC
Resist the Pipeline
SCRAM
Center for Biological Diversity
Stop NED
Alliance to Protect Our People and the Places We Love
Food and Water Watch
Toxics Action Center
Sullivan Area Citizens for Responsible Energy Development
Berkshire Environmental Action Team
The Shalom Center
North Jersey Pipeline Walkers
Damascus Citizens for Sustainability
Pa. Alliance for Clean Water and Air
Interreligious Eco-Justice Network
Northern NJ Chapter, National Organization for Women
Earthworks
The Essene Church of Peace
Global Coalition for Peace
Gas Free Seneca
Seneca Lake Guardian, a Waterkeeper Alliance
Sullivan Area Citizens for Responsible Energy Development (SACRED)
Christians for the Mountains
Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community
Athens County (Ohio) Fracking Action Network
STOP (Sandisfield Taxpayers Opposing the Pipelines)
Frack Free Genesee
Interreligious Eco-Justice Network
Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy
Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development
NJ Industrial Union Council
Oil Change International
Interfaith Moral Action on Climate
350 NJ
350 Central Mass
350 CT
Aytzim: Ecological Judaism
Potomac Riverkeeper Network
Green Education and Legal Fund
350 Fairfax
Pay It Forward Global Foundation
Greenbrier River Association
New Hampshire Pipeline Awareness
New Progressive Alliance
AMP Creeks Council
Lebanon Pipeline Awareness
Norfolk Catholic Worker
OgreOgress Productions
Interfaith Power & Light (DC.MD.NoVa)
New Mexico Story Power
New Hampshire Pipeline Resistance
Catskill Mountainkeeper
Bucks County Environmental Action
Schuylkill Pipeline Awareness
Mason Pipeline Committee
Local Authority Western Pa.
Grassroots Environmental Education
Philadelphia PSR
Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion
100 Grannies for a Livable Future
LEPOCO Peace Center
New Haven Climate Movement
Coalition to Protect New York
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Green Party of Santa Clara County
Organic Consumers Association
People Demanding Action
Rachel Carson Council
Sierra Club New York City Group
Earth Echoes…Stories for a Small Planet
Greenpeace
Amistad Catholic Worker
350 Loudoun
Fractivist.orh
Peace Action of Staten Island
Preserve Roanoke/Bent Mountain
Hilltown Community Rights
Concerned Citizens of Lebanon County

Stop Trump’s Dirty Energy Agenda

For months, we successfully held up $13 billion in pipeline and gas-export projects by denying the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) a quorum. Last month, on the last day before a 3 week vacation, Senator Lisa Murkowski successfully broke the bureaucratic logjam by herself. Using a unanimous consent motion mere moments before the Senate Adjourned for recess, she rammed through two radical Republican nominees and restored FERC’s quorum.

Now FERC is set to reconvene on September 20th with Trump’s Senate-approved commissioners Robert Powelson and Neil Chatterjee eager to use their newly minted rubber stamps.

Our best chance to stop them is with a big wave of citizen pressure right now, as they try and get back to work. That’s why we’re asking you to sign this petition, which we’ll deliver at a big rally and lobby day on September 20 that aims to shut down FERC’s first “public” meeting in months

and keep it shut down by order of Congress. Sign here if you agree we need Congress to:

  1. Enact a moratorium on new fracked gas pipelines and infrastructure until there are hearings into FERC’s abuses in permitting pipelines and reforms put in place that give communities a real voice in FERC’s permitting process;
  2. Vote AGAINST the Dirty Energy bill (S1460), and any other legislation that would increase FERC’s authority and perversely speed up the approval process for fracked gas infrastructure. Communities and property owners nationwide need to have a say over all infrastructure projects.
  3. Support new legislation (such as H.R.2242, Rep. Gabbard’s ‘OFF ACT’, or the Senate ‘100 by 50’ act) and a federal permitting process that puts us on a path to 100% clean energy to create high paying jobs, a stable climate, and livable communities.

It’s urgent that we raise our voices to stop this. Trump’s made big promises about “Energy Dominance”  and rebuilding infrastructure (including pipelines). But he’s proven utterly impotent at moving those ideas (or any others) in Congress. That means that FERC is Trump’s best option to ram through a disastrous, fossil-fuel dependent energy infrastructure plan that would wreck our climate, clean water, and communities.

Against that vision of fossil fueled fascism, a huge list of pipeline fighters and activists have been rising up to fight Trump’s dirty energy agenda — and winning some surprise victories in the last few months: A crew of Southeastern activists fighting the Sabal trail pipeline won a major battle in Court against FERC. While in New York, local regulators rejected FERC’s approval and stopped a pipeline using a local water permit — while sighting global climate change as a primary motivation. And just today local landowners announced a new lawsuit against FERC by dumping a pile of dirt in their Driveway.

But while we’re fighting and winning big victories to stop the rubber stamping of pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, the Senate and House are moving bills that would expand FERC’s authority. A House bill recently passed would strips the president of the border crossing authority used to stop Keystone XL and gives it to FERC. While the so-called Dirty Energy Bill (S. 1460) expands FERC’s authority by requiring other agencies to “give deference” to FERC and it limiting review of fracked gas export facilities to 45 days. But there’s also signs that we’re breaking through, as in recent months (thanks mostly to intense citizen pressure and lobbying) some members of the house and Senate have begun to question FERC’s pipeline approvals, at least on a specific case-by-horrible-case basis.

Rushed approvals, refusal to consider climate impacts, approvals with insufficient information. And Congress wants to expand FERC’s authority? No way! Unacceptable!

Sign here to help us send that message to FERC and Congress which we’ll deliver on September 20th

Tune in with us Thursday – Stop Trump’s Dirty Energy Agenda at FERC

For the last few months, at least 17 fracked gas projects worth an estimated $13 billion have been stalled at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). But now that FERC’s quorum has been restored, what’s next for the Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley, NEXUS Gas, PennEast, WB Express, Delfin LNG, and many other projects?

That’s the topic of our Thursday night Webinar: Stop Trump’s Dirty Energy Agenda; the change starts here! Join us Thursday, September 7, 2017 at 6:30 pm ET / 3:30 pm PT

All of this is happening as the Senate and House are moving bills that would expand FERC’s authority. One of the House bills actually strips the president of the border crossing authority used to stop Keystone XL and gives it to FERC. But the worst of the bills is the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017, S. 1460. It expands FERC’s authority by requiring other permitting agencies to “give deference” to FERC and it limits FERC’s review of LNG facilities to 45 days. Plus, new court decisions are both strengthening and weakening our ability to battle pipelines.

Get up to speed on the latest with FERC and the Courts and then learn about what you can do to help push back.

SCHEDULE

6:30 Introduction
6:35 Roundup on recent court decisions and what they mean for battling pipelines
6:45 Overview of dirty energy bills moving through Congress and what they mean for FERC authority
6:55 FERC update, where things stand with the commissioners, what pipelines are right now in the FERC balance, and highlights of major actions on the ground.
7:05 What is happening September 20th in Washington DC and how you can get involved. Rally, FERC’s meeting, talking to Congress on the hill
7:15 Q&A

RSVP here to join us Thursday, September 7, 2017 at 6:30 pm ET / 3:30 pm PT

New Yorkers Arrested at Senator Schumer’s Office as Trump’s FERC Nominee Advances

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.

Reportback – day of action on FERC nominees

This week, as part of our ongoing campaign to stop fracked gas pipelines and export terminals by keeping the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) shut down, we visited the US Senate to deliver thousands of your letters, signatures and messages.

Big Props to the Delaware River Keeper Network, who organized a lot of the logistics and set up dozens of meetings for our team on capitol hill. And special thanks (as always) to our besties at Beyond Extreme Energy and Berks Gas Truth who showed up to walk the halls, lobby legislators and work the press with us.

Here’s a short video recap from our friends (I’m the one in the grey suit) and a written reportback follows:

Our pipeline fighters were on the hill today to talk about FERC, and the #DirtyEnergyBill. I sat in on a meeting with Sen. Sanders staff that was predictably amicable. In fact, within hours of our catching up, Bernie had put out a statement opposed to the energy bill, and re-iterated his opposition to Trump’s extreme FERC nominees. But he is, frustratingly, the ONLY Senator to have raised objections so far.

The other meetings I sat in on, with staff for Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-PA) were less encouraging. Cartwright’s staff were sympathetic, he’s got major gas pipelines proposed for his district and says he hears about it all the time from constituents. he’s mad at FERC for rubber stamping these projects without adequate community review, and conversant in the need to invest in renewable energy (not just gas). Even more important, the day before our meeting Cartwright had voted NO (the right vote) on legislation to dramatically expand FERC’s powers, including giving them oversight of international oil pipelines like Keystone XL.

But Cartwright’s staffer was also pretty down-beat on our chances: he said several times that as the minority party in the house, Democrats just don’t have much power to fight or stop bad energy legislation. That’s true, as far as it goes procedurally, but it’s not exactly the kind of leadership we’re looking for to inspire the resistance or unite the supposedly bi-partisan movement of Congress that wants to #ActOnClimate.

The Warner meeting was, if anything, more frustrating. The staffer was courteous and knew what we were about. He (like most Democrats) said that the Senator cares about climate change, and wants to invest in renewable energy. He also allowed as how he hears a lot from constituents, especially in the western part of the state, about how FERC’s trampling local property rights and the environment by fast tracking the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. But when we put the tough questions to him – whether he’d vote against FERC nominees, demand hearings on their abuses of power, and vote against the #DirtyEnergyBill – it was clear Warner wanted to #ActOnClimate only insofar as it didn’t actually require him to vote on anything. He plans to vote YES on the Dirty Energy Bill, and while he hasn’t committed one way or another, it seems like he’d vote to approve the FERC commissioners too.

Elsewhere, our team was walking the halls making sure everyone knew about FERC and fracking and the need for action. They bumped into Senator Hirono in the halls, one of only three Democrats (Sanders and Wyden are the other two) to vote against the FERC nominees in committee. After confusing her with an un-woke Senator, our team thanked her profusely, and later got to meet with her staff and thank them again. I get the sense that Markey is probably get-able, but I didn’t meet with his staff. Ditto on Merkley and Warren – I didn’t talk directly to anyone on their staff but based on other conversations, and their Climate Hawks scores, they probably lean no.

We also ran into Sen Al Franken in the hall, and chatted with him for a few. We didn’t talk long enough to pin his vote down, but my guess is that he’s a yes until persuaded — he also voted for FERC nominees out of committee, just as an example of when he’s followed Cantwell and Murkowski’s lead in recent weeks. Those votes are surprising mostly because Franken has been making funny new videos for the internet and writing books about how he’s a badass climate warrior speaking truth to power. It’s hard to believe that, though, when he’s voting for Trump’s nominees, to approve more pipelines, and expedite the construction of new fracked gas infrastructure. I couldn’t resist a little snark for the former SNL performer, so we made a quick video mocking that contradiction too.

I tried to pitch the idea to anyone who would listen, but especially Warner (who’s a member of Democratic leadership in the Senate) that if the Democrats are serious about building a different energy future than Trump and the Republicans (see also, Paris, Climate Agreement, The) then they really can’t be voting for an energy bill co-sponsored by Murkowski and fast-tracked by McConnell. If they vote for this, all Democrats will be doing is giving McConnell and team a pop of good press and “look how clever and bipartisan Republicans can be when the President doesn’t tweet”.

But it seems clear that nobody in Democratic leadership is buying that line, yet. Their new “better deal” plan includes exactly 0 references to climate change or a just transition to a clean energy future — despite the fact that rebuilding our energy economy could be the biggest jobs program (public or private) since the WPA. And for some reason they’re still not making the connection that fracked gas is a fossil fuel. It’s a bridge to nowhere and any vote that expands, fast-tracks, expedites or exports gas is a vote against the climate. Too many of them are possessed by what I sometimes call “Booker’s Myopia” — named for fantastic frontman and terrible negotiator Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ). Booker’s Myopia is characterized by an inability to see past the value of bi-partisanship, a sort of myopia that focusses on how brave and reasonable one looks “reaching across the aisle” while missing the point that looking reasonable while negotiating with an authoritarian regime hell bent on destroying the planet is not actually a good thing.

Booker became the name-sake of this illness (which presents disproportionally in Democrats from safe seats in the Senate. Check your Senators regularly by asking “so, will you vote against legislation that causes climate change, even if it has a bi-partisan co-sponsors?”) when he cheerfully negotiated an end to the us ban on crude oil exports DURING the paris climate talks. It was a perfect storm of blindness – Booker’s own constituents (local oil refineries in NJ) hated the plan, as did nearly every environmental group and Climate Justice campaign. The only people for it were the big oil companies. But there was Booker, parading around the paris COP talks like a hero while giving ExxonMobil exactly what it wanted for Christmas. That sort of thing would make most of us blind, but Booker’s immune due to the Myopia.

Anyway, we’re not done yet in the fight to stop FERC and the #DirtyEnergyBill. The Senate is due to take up Health Care next, and that will buy us at least a few more days, maybe a week or two, to round up the votes we need in opposition. As a reminder, the Dirty Energy Bill will need 60 votes, and there are all kinds of procedural ways to slow down or block a FERC nominee. So if even a handfull of Senators are willing to stand up and fight for our climate, we can mount a serious challenge.

You can chip in to keep us fighting here, and stay tuned for further updates and actions.