A member of Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) who was arrested inside the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission building in May and charged with illegal entry was declared not guilty last week (Aug. 20) in a bench trial before Judge John F. McCabe Jr. in D.C. Superior Court.
In acquitting Laura Gubisch, a resident of the District, Judge McCabe chastised the government for how it handled the situation of people wanting to access the main room where commissioners meet, which in the past has been the site of verbal disruptions by members of BXE opposed to FERC’s approval of virtually every gas infrastructure project that comes before it, including interstate pipelines, compressor stations and LNG facilities.
As people filed through security, security personnel put blue dots on the identity cards of those FERC believed would be disruptive – peremptorily excluding many individuals who had never been inside the building before.
The higher than normal turnout of visitors was due to the fact that FERC moved up by a week its standard monthly commissioners’ meeting with the express purpose of preventing BXE members from attending its meeting. BXE put out an emergency call to get people – who come from the District, Virginia, Maryland, and throughout the northeast corridor — to attend.
The judge said the government could have handled the situation better, and that people should be given an opportunity to observe without disruption. If they are disruptive security could ask them to leave. But there was no evidence that Gubisch had gone to a place where she was told she couldn’t go, or that she refused to leave.
After the judge’s ruling, her attorney, Mark Goldstone, said, “All citizens should be given an opportunity under the First Amendment to observe their government at a public hearing. They should not be preemptively deemed to be disruptive and shunted off to an overflow room to watch a public hearing on a TV screen. Laura Gubisch and other climate change activists were able to illustrate the anti-democratic response by FERC, which supports their charge that that agency is a captive of the oil and gas industry and is tone deaf in considering the views of citizens deeply concerned by the hazards of hydraulic fracking on the air and water in communities across the United States.”
Gubisch released the following statement: “The urgency of the terrible devastation created by our human actions require every citizen to take corresponding actions of integrity; everyone must step outside their comfort zone to salvage Mother Earth. The problem is not just FERC but a raft of undemocratic and destructive practices like fracking, eminent domain, government overreach to quell dissent, illegal surveillance and abuse – all are unnecessary and can be ended now. The good news is that we have clean ways to operate in this world, abundant sources of energy are all around us and each person has the capacity and responsibility to turn in this direction.”
Gubisch said she plans to file a civil suit against FERC.