Day 4: FERC blocks the public but not pipelines

group shot day 4

On Day 4, the #RubberStampRebellion held an open, very public meeting on the sidewalk in front of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on First Street, NE.

Barred from FERC’s monthly meeting, activists held banners and large cardboard rubber stamps, chanted and beat drums, and listened to speakers and singer Luci Murphy. Several stood on a small wooden platform to say the few words they would have said to commissioners – if they had been allowed into the meeting.

linda reik

Linda Reik of Upper Delaware, NY,  decrying the Ds of FERC: disingenuous, distortion, deception and defective reasoning.

Just 16 hours earlier, FERC commissioners decided its meeting would “open to the public via webcast only.” In other words, closed.

We envisioned industry reps languishing in the so-called overflow room (where activists known to FERC are typically sent), watching the live webcam along with the public. But when Toma from Philadelphia approached the building in hopes of watching from the overflow room, Homeland Security officers explained that the building was closed to all but government employees and “invited guests.” AKA industry representatives.

Sure enough, among the “invited guests” visible on the webcam was Bret Lane, chief operating officer of SoCalGas, part of a panel speaking about “preparations for Los Angeles basin gas-electric reliability and market impacts.” Included was discussion of the Aliso Canyon gas leak disaster and aging infrastructure.

So, FERC excluded only the public from the meeting. Security officials told Toma, who didn’t want to disclose her full name, that she could have pre-registered – but then she would have had to know in advance that FERC commissioners were closing the meeting to all but the pre-registered and invited.

“This is our government,” she said, in tears, afterward. “It’s so frightening – what all this means.” Her family lives near Greensburg, PA, the site of a recent fracked-gas pipeline explosion and hellish fire.

“The decision to conduct this open meeting by webcast only was not made lightly,” FERC Chairman Norman Bay said at the meeting. “It was made after consultation with law enforcement and our security staff. And the primary concern was preserving the safety of the public and commission staff.”

The only threat to safety, however, has been from security officers sometimes brusquely removing outspoken Beyond Extreme Energy activists and other citizens from the room.

jane kleeb

Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska says the “seeds of resistance are growing everywhere.”

Also stopped from speaking was Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, which played a critical role in defeating the Keystone XL pipeline and is now working with people in other states to fight fossil fuel projects. Kleeb said she had planned to talk about the need to end the use of eminent domain at the federal and state levels. “FERC should stop using eminent domain for private gain and [for] giving that power to pipeline companies,” she said. “If pipeline companies didn’t have eminent domain powers, none of these projects would be built.” She also wanted to call for a “climate test” on pipelines, a reason President Obama cited in stopping the KXL.  “If our land [in Nebraska] was important enough to use a climate test, then everybody else’s land is important as well.”

Of FERC’s decision to close the meeting, she said: “On the one hand, it’s a victory for citizens. It shows they are nervous about citizen action and they are feeling some public pressure. But on the other hand, our government is supposed to be for the people, by the people, and they just shut the people out.”

On the sidewalk, the people’s meeting was at times festive but mostly serious.

“We’re here for a new world and FERC is trying to stop the new world. FERC is stuck in the fossil fuel economy of the 19th and 20th centuries,” said Ted Glick of BXE.

“The folks inside are losing,” said the Rev. Lennox Yearwood after highlighting several defeated fossil fuel projects and the fracking ban in New York. “We are winning and winning and won’t stop winning. We’ve got to win for the next generation,” he said. He criticized the climate movement for too easily giving the role of climate leader to politicians. “Jerry Brown can’t discuss renewables on Monday and discuss fracking on Wednesday and still be called a climate leader. Justin Trudeau can’t discuss renewables on Tuesday and be an oil baron on Monday and still be a climate hero. President Obama can’t talk about stopping drilling in the Atlantic and still talk about drilling in the Arctic and Gulf [of Mexico] and still be a leader,” he said. “They are not climate leaders until they realize we must transition to 100 percent renewable energy.”

Mary Wildfire from West Virginia said coal, oil and gas pollute in different ways but have global climate change in common. For some officials, she said, “there will be documentation about how they permitted all this stuff well into the 20-teens, when it was blindingly obvious what was being done was destroying the planet, destroying the food and hundreds of years of evolution —  because we don’t want to change our habits, because there was some money in it, because the corporations ruled the world.”

“The more I find out about this criminal agency that masquerades as an arm of our government, [the more] I have to step up and put my body on the line,” said Nancy Vann from Westchester, NY, who is fighting the AIM pipeline that will run under the Hudson River and 105 feet from the aging Indian Point nuclear power plant.

Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, blasted Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s support for the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines. After CCAN gave the governor an F for his climate efforts, McAuliffe planted a tree on Earth Day.  “A million trees will be wiped out by those pipelines,” he said. “The time for green-washing and planting trees is over.”

In mid-afternoon, the #RubberStampRebellion headed for the neighborhood of FERC Commissioner Colette Honorable. While Commissioner Tony Clark called these visits acts of “uncivility,” at least one pipeline fighter offered via twitter: “I’ll trade you #RubberStampRebellion protesters for massive Spectra pipeline. Deal?”

With faux pipeline and eminent domain papers at the ready, rubber-stamp rebels set up banners and handed out fliers at a nearby intersection because the neighborhood was posted as private property. Plans were underway to serve up the eminent domain papers via a pizza delivery.

The #RubberStampRebellion concludes its week of actions today. In at least 20 communities, allies organized local #rebellious actions. FERC, we’ll be back. #ResistanceIsEverywhere.