Tell FERC environmental justice isn’t a box to check

For years we’ve told you how the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rubber stamps virtually every fossil fuel project proposed to them. There’s a new FERC Environmental Justice docket open right now, which builds upon their roundtable discussion last March. They’ve also been ordered by President Biden, under a new Executive Order issued for Earth Day, to consider environmental justice impacts.

But so far, FERC hasn’t been willing to consider the one thing that really matters to climate and environmental justice: saying no to a fossil fuel project.

Take Action: Click here to submit a comment in the docket that FERC environmental justice can’t just be a box you check on a form – we need real action and for FERC to say NO to fossil fuel projects.

Here’s the back-story: A few years ago, there was a brief moment of opportunity when then-chair Richard Glick and the other Democratic FERC Commissioners admitted that they were failing to adequately consider cumulative climate and environmental justice impacts, and proposed new FERC rules to finally address environmental and climate justice.

As you may remember, Joe Manchin and fossil fuel fascists like him in Congress would not let that happen. Manchin demanded FERC retract their rule, which they did over our strong objections. And then to make sure it never happened again Manchin refused to confirm a Democratic majority to the Commission – ensuring that any new FERC environmental justice or climate rules can be overruled by the Republican minority. Since then, we’ve been calling it “Manchin’s FERC” because he’s clearly dictating policy, including which projects can be approved and rejected and how they will be considered.

At the end of March, to add insult to injury, the new coward-in-chair at FERC Willie Phillips held a special Environmental Justice roundtable where he heard directly from frontline communities in Texas and beyond, but refused to let them talk about the projects FERC was considering in their communities. The event was such an obvious sham that the Republican commissioners boycotted it, and our allies at the Frontlines to FERC project held their own “people’s hearing” hours later to let frontline leaders set the record straight.

And then a few weeks later Phillips approved both of those massive new fossil fuel export projects in Texas, after checking a box saying that he had “consulted” with FERC impacted environmental justice communities. Commissioner Clements, the only Democrat still talking about climate change or FERC environmental justice, called it “a gobsmacking departure, frankly, from the lessons I took away from the Environmental Justice Roundtable we held just a month ago.”

Later the same day as that FERC meting, Manchin grilled Secretary of Energy Granholm and demanded, among other things, that she apply more pressure to FERC and other Energy agencies to approve fossil fuel projects faster. The very next day Granholm wrote a letter to FERC endorsing the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and asking FERC to approve any and all permits to expedite the project – even though FERC has already given the MVP every permit they possibly can, despite frontline and environmental justice opposition!

The same day Granholm wrote her dishonest, dirty letter endorsing the MVP, she joined environmental justice leaders and President Biden for a special Earth Day celebration of Environmental Justice. At the ceremony, Biden signed a new Executive order on environmental justice and ordered all agencies, including FERC, to consider it in their decisions. Some of the special guests invited to the celebration included our friends from Texas who’d just been to FERC’s EJ Roundtable, and then had environmental in-just projects approved in their communities.

Which brings us up to date. What we take away from all of this is that FERC, and President Biden are content to check a box on a form that says that they “consulted” with environmental justice communities. But they have still, to this day, never once rejected a project because of its impact on environmental justice. Biden clearly intends to keep approving fossil fuel projects, just as he’s done in recent weeks with the Willow Arctic oil project, Alaska LNG (which was previously approved by FERC under the Trump administration), and FERC is as well, as proved by their approval of the Texas LNG, and Rio Grande LNG projects.

Click here to file a comment, which we’ll submit on your behalf to the FERC Docket. Because FERC dockets are (intentionally) hard to comment on or communicate with, we’ll also direct you to some toolkits and materials from frontline FERC fighters like POWHR, Frontlines to FERC, and others.

Finally, if you’re fired up about FERC and have had enough of filing comment after comment which the cowards and commissioners ignore, RSVP here to join Beyond Extreme Energy and frontline leaders at FERC on May 18 to take non violent direct action that shuts down FERC’s environmental justice betrayals.