The Fight Against FERC:
Communities Demand An Accountable Government
by Angela Vogel
FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, gas, and oil. FERC also reviews proposals to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and interstate natural gas pipelines as well as licensing hydropower projects. Since 1935 when it first became an independent regulatory agency it has done little to protect citizens from exploitation. Instead, the agency uses its vast powers to facilitate the expansion of dirty and deadly extraction for export to international markets. FERC ensures that toxic energy projects create greater profits for rich developers while leaving poisoned communities with the lie of so-called U.S. energy independence through fossil fuels.
Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE), a frontline and activist network that came together in 2014 to begin fighting FERC’s facilitation of dirty energy projects, has put constant “unprecedented” pressure on this industry-funded agency leading FERC Chair Cheryl LaFleur to say, “We have a situation here.” BXE believes that direct action plays a crucial role in supporting frontline communities to take their battles to FERC’s doorstep and face them in person and in bringing attention to the life and death situation these communities have been fighting for years.
“Here in rural Pennsylvania, there are many families who are facing a horrible fate. FERC would like to approve massive natural gas pipelines that will destroy countless generations-old family farms and homes. For many of these families the option to move elsewhere does not exist due to financial burdens or long-time connections to the land and community,” says Deirdre Lally, a volunteer with Shalefield Organizing Committee.
“Our numbers are small but powerful,” says Maria Kretschmann of anti-fracking group E.D.G.E. (Ending Dirty Gas Exploitation) whose family-owned organic farm is threatened by expanding fracking infrastructure. “Communities must join together because we have enemies with fat pockets, dozens of lawyers on hand and no moral compass. We fight not just for ourselves and our friends but for those who cannot defend themselves or come to D.C.”
BXE is partnering with community-focused groups to echo the frontline fights in D.C. and to present a fully-rounded strategy against the industry-funded, rubber stamping behemoth FERC. This battle must continue escalating to reflect the severe implications of what is at stake, and what is, quite literally, coming down the pipe. The coalition has outlined a nine-point short-term plan for reforming FERC that is posted to their website (http://tinyurl.com/masznzn). However, long-term goals may look a little different. According to Faith Meckley of the frontline group We Are Seneca Lake, “The system is no longer made for the people but for the benefit of the companies. We need to make it really clear that we can no longer be ignored, and it’s time for a new system to be built.”
While it is of the utmost importance that frontline communities, separated by both geography and often culture, come together with support from the broader environmental movement, it’s equally important that the issue of global warming and impending climate chaos not get lost. Since Cornell first released findings in 2011 that high quantities of methane released from fracking makes it more dangerous than coal, the scientific community has found more and more evidence to back this up leaving many to wonder how the industry ever sold us the snake-oil promise of a ‘natural’ bridge-fuel and how we will reach the carbon emission goals necessary for ongoing life on the planet if fracked gas extraction continues to expand with the help of agencies like FERC.
“We are all downstream and downwind,” says Lally, “and we must continue to support each other in this struggle, because eventually we will win, but only if we do it together.”
Join BXE for a week of actions actions at FERC
for details on housing, workshops, & more!