On Monday, Sane Energy joined our allies at Beyond Extreme Energy in Washington D.C. for the Crack FERC Open action where two bamboo 15 foot tall “fracked gas drilling rigs” with protesters locked inside were set up to blockade the entrance in front of the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC) building to prevent business as usual to operate.
It wasn’t the first time we’ve been there.
For years we’ve traveled down to DC with communities being harmed by fracked gas infrastructure to call out FERC for their role in approving infrastructure projects that poison people and exacerbate climate change.
Although FERC is the agency responsible for regulating interstate natural gas pipelines, it is widely criticized as a rubber stamp for the fossil fuel industry, approving almost every single pipeline that comes across their desk due to the distorted process created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, under Dick Cheney’s direction and former president George W. Bush’s approval. FERC actually facilitates the construction of interstate gas infrastructure rather than regulating it.
“We call this action Crack FERC Open,” said BXE organizer Ted Glick. “The reason is that there are cracks appearing in FERC. It’s within FERC in many ways because of what’s happening outside of FERC.”
FERC is governed by 5 commissioners that for years were lock-in-step on approving fracked gas infrastructure, but recently two commissioners, Richard Glick and Cheryl LaFleur, have provided dissenting opinions saying the agency needs to consider climate impacts into their decisions.
FERC employees have also thanked citizens protesting outside their building. BXE and other allies have been a consistent presence at FERC for years now, staging creative protest that tell the stories of those being harmed by FERC’s pipeline approvals.
The message isn’t getting across to all the commissioners though.
In a meeting with New York residents concerned about the impacts of the proposed Williams NESE pipeline, which would transport fracked gas 23 miles across New York Harbor if built, FERC chairman Neil Chatterjee admitted to not even being aware that methane is a potent greenhouse gas.
For the first 20 years it’s in the atmosphere, methane is 86-120 times more potent a warming agent than CO2. If just 3% leaks from extraction to delivery, fracked gas is worse for the climate than coal.
Chatterjee was one the three commissioners who voted against FERC taking into account the climate impacts of the fracked gas pipelines they approve. Another was Commissioner Robert Powelson, who announced his retirement yesterday, meaning fracked gas pipeline approval could be held up with 2-2 votes until a new commissioner is appointed.
It is with mixed emotions that I issue the following statement. It has been an honor to serve this great country. My family and I are deeply appreciative of this opportunity. FERC is a world class organization. Thanks to you, fellow FERCians! pic.twitter.com/vtDQTRxSC9— FERCRPowelson (@FERCRPowelson) June 28, 2018
FERC commissioners are appointed by the president so it’s unlikely Trump will appoint someone who will take climate change into account, but commissioners must be approved by the Senate giving frontline community members a chance to influence their elected officials as they continue to bring their stories to FERC.
Something BXE and their allies plan to do.
"The more poison, the more the white blood cells come forward," said Sane Energy Core Team member JK Canepa. "So we'll keep coming back."