Frontline Communities Rising: Resisting FERC Under Trump

From DC Media Group

Beyond Extreme Energy Protesters Barred From FERC Public Meeting on Eve of Inauguration by John Zangas

The public was barred from a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) meeting scheduled for 10 am Thursday. Over 30 Department of Homeland Security police met Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) at the front doors, preventing entry to what organizers are calling a sham meeting with industry insiders.

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“It’s a ‘denial of citizens rights’ and prevents the public from taking part in Energy policy proceedings,” said organizer Ted Glick, with Beyond Extreme Energy. He called on FERC to be transparent and follow their mandate to put the public interests before oil and gas industry profits.

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Over 60 persons allied with BXE had planned to attend the meeting to express opposition to an increasing number of fracking energy infrastructure projects. Pipeline and Liquid Natural Gas projects must get permit approvals from FERC in order to be built, but virtually every project submitted by the gas and oil industry is approved, say activists, making FERC a “rubber stamp” for every project the gas and oil industry submits, while failing to act on citizens’ concerns for their health, land and the impact gas projects have on the environmental.

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BXE protesters held a sit-in at the doors in response DHS police actions and then held a press conference outside.

Maggie Henry, an organic produce farmer and land owner, who traveled from Northeastern Pennsylvania to attend the meeting, said her farmland was rendered unusable from local fracking pollution and a 42-inch diameter pipeline built 20 feet from her front door. “I wanted to raise my grandchildren on my farm and market organic vegetables, but the gas company took all that away from me,” she said.

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“They’re pushing people to a point where they have to fight back. They’re radicalizing thousands of people,” said Elise Gearhart, who also traveled from Pennsylvania to the FERC meeting, only to be barred.

Gearhart’s family owns a farm and her mother was arrested three times protesting the Mariner East 2 Pipeline easement, twice on her own land. “People who would have never been activists, teachers and farmers and just regular people are being radicalized,” she said.

With every arrest her mother was released without charges. “How can you arrest someone on their own land?” she asked.

“I’m not scared of Sunoco or FERC or Trump because under these circumstances where you’re forced to fight, fear is irrelevant [and] you’re fighting for your life your water, your land, your ability to grow food,” she said.

BXE held a press conference outside FERC and vowed to return at future meetings.

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The BXE protest was one of the first of what will be many civil disobedience actions planned throughout the week. Police presence around Washington is very heavy with over 29,000 law enforcement and security on hand for the Inauguration.

You can view the full-hour long press conference hosted outside FERC by Beyond Extreme Energy here. The stories told paint a damming picture of this dreadful agency.

Patrick Robbins, a fourth generation New Yorker with Sane Energy project, spoke about the fight against Spectra’s AIM pipeline, a high pressure, 42 inch gas pipeline being built within 105 feet from the aging Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. “All pipelines really do lead to FERC,” he said to the gathered crowd. “This disgraceful agency is foreclosing on a livable planet for so many people, and as Trump rises to power, it’s clearer than ever that we are going to have to fight to preserve our voice in government. And when our voices are not being heard, as with FERC, we are going to need to dismantle these institutions and build something else. Everybody has the right to determine what kind of energy system they have where they live, and I know that we will build that system together.” Please like Resist Spectra on Facebook.

(Photo Credit: Maria Bergheim)

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Jono Droege from Lancaster County, PA spoke about the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, a $3 million expansion project to move Marcellus Shale gas from Susquehanna County in northeastern Pennsylvania to the Cove Point export terminal in Maryland and as far south as Alabama. The pipeline would go through the Susquehanna River Valley, one of the largest bodies that drain into the Chesapeake Bay. “The river is sick”, Droege said of the Susquehanna. “Pennsylvania has a long history of coal extraction, and more recently, gas extraction. And before the coal even, other minerals. This all dates back to the time of colonization. Pennsylvania has a long history of this.” The pipeline would also go through two long-term and continuously growing mine fires. “What’s going to happen when those mine fires come together,” Droege asked. “Pennsylvania is about to get heated,” Droege concluded as he encouraged folks to join planned resistance encampments to stop Williams Partners  from moving ahead with tree cutting. Please follow the fight to stop the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline by liking Lancaster Against Pipelines on Facebook.

Elise Gerhart’s  family lives in rural Central Pennsylvania along the route of a proposed Sunoco Logistics pipeline, the Mariner East 2 pipeline. Mariner East 2 is an interstate pipeline that would start in Ohio and end in Delaware, but surprisingly,  is not FERC regulated. “Not only does FERC approve all these horrendous projects, ” Elise said at the press conference, “they do not take responsibility for all of the interstate pipelines that are planned for this country.” “I never really thought that’s how I’d introduce myself. You know, that that would be a big part of my identity–‘Hi, my name is Elise and I fight pipelines.’ It’s been a really, really strange thing for a lot of people who have these other identities, as farmers, and school teachers, and grandparents, who are now labeled as these radical people who fight pipelines. But, we’ve been given no choice. This fight was brought to our doorsteps, to our homesteads, to our farms, and the planet has been pushed to the limit, and the people have been pushed to the limit, and we really got no choice but to fight back.” Elise drew connections between the fight to stop the Mariner East 2 pipeline with the fight to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, will be merging with Sunoco Logistics, the company behind the Mariner East 2 pipeline.

Mike Badges-Canning from Butler County, PA spoke about the community of Woodlands. The water in Woodlands was found to be contaminated by fracking. Over the last  number of years, folks there have had to depend on the generosity of neighboring communities to provide them with water. 17 schools in Butler County are within one mile of fracking infrastructure like the wells responsible for water contamination in Woodlands. Mike spoke of his grandchildren who are growing up in the county, and who face the health risks that come with living close to such infrastructure. “FERC is not directly responsible for the drilling of the wells, but FERC enables communicide. FERC enables these companies to come in and destroy people and planet,” Mike said.

Maggie Henry, an organic farmer from Western Pennsylvania, said that fracking destroyed her life.  “Most days, to tell you the honest truth,” she said,  “I feel like the Job of fracking.” “When someone steals everything that you own, you become a member of a community that you’ve probably never wanted to join, but all of a sudden, the Palestinian struggle against the Israelis comes home. What we have done to the Native Americans is beyond shameful.”

(Photo Credit: Maria Bergheim)
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Ellen Barfield from Baltimore, Maryland spoke about Dominion and the lies they included in their FERC permit application. In the application, Dominion underreported the number of people living near their currently approved and under-construction export facility on the Chesapeake Bay. Ellen also pointed out how the Cove Point facility is being built within three miles of the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, echoing the struggle against the AIM pipeline in New York. To follow this fight, like We Are Cove Point on Facebook.

James Root from Connecticut was at FERC for the first time, and spoke of successful struggles in his state utilizing rate-payer based strategies to fight pipeline companies. Folks in Connecticut have been successful in stopping the Access NE expansion and the NE Direct Project, he said.

Jennifer Alves from Loudoun County, Virginia spoke of a fight in Northern Virginia to stop Dominion from expanding a compressor station that would feed gas into lines connected to Cove Point. “I’m in it for the long-haul,” Jennifer said of the fight. She read a statement written by Joe Bono, a homeowner who lives very close to the compressor station. Joe wrote, in part “locating an industrial natural gas pipeline compressor station in a populated area is a mistake.  It puts the community at risk of fires; explosions; acute, high level exposure to the toxic odorant, tertiary butyl mercaptan added to odorless methane gas, during blow downs; and chronic, low level exposure to this odorant due to round the clock leakage prevalent at compressor stations.” Please like 350 Loudoun on Facebook.

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Garrett from 350 Vermont had important words for the movement against FERC as a whole. “We have to realize that these struggles, having our land taken away, our food, our water being compromised or polluted, these struggles are pretty new to us, but they are very old, very old news for communities of color, First Nations, the people who have been under the heel of government and white folks for generations, ” he said. “Speaking again as a white man who is privileged beyond belief, I want us to be aware of how we can stand with communities that are not represented here, because they are perhaps working constantly, protecting their children.”

Ellen Taylor, who was arrested at FERC for blocking the driveway into the building, spoke about the need for FERC employees as civil servants to speak out. Too much is going on in the shadows, and in the darkness. We really have to count on these public servants to do their job and bring some of this stuff out into the open,” she said.

Margaret Flowers with PopularResistance.org was a pediatrician who started her advocacy work around health care. Big Pharma, she found, gave to both major parties. “They’re two wings of the same bird,” she said. Margaret called attention to the fact that FERC won’t be good for the people under Trump, but also wasn’t good for the people under Obama. “The answer isn’t to elect another Democrat. The answer is to organize and mobilize against both major parties to focus on our issues and not tie our issues to their agenda. We have to fight, that’s the only way we’re going to win.”

After the rally at FERC, we headed over to the DNC to call out the Democratic Party for their culpability in the situation we find ourselves in today–including not being willing to stand up for a fracking ban.

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Please read the below statement written by folks who wanted to speak at the press conference at FERC, but could not make it in person.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline – NC, VA and WV

The Atlantic Coastline Pipeline route through rural North Carolina is proposed to travel through Robeson County, the most ethnically diverse rural county in the U.S. It is also the nation’s third poorest county and home to the largest population of Native Americans East of the Mississippi River. Dominion and Duke Energy propose to link three pipelines together in the heart of the indigenous community and are being allowed to use eminent domain for private gain, if need be, to take territory from families who have known no other land.   Homeowner, Robeson County, NC, Alliance for the Protection of our People and the Places We Live (APPPL).

The proposed ACP would have extremely drastic impacts on me emotionally and financially. In the event of an explosion caused by this pipeline my ancestral home would be destroyed and if I am at home at that time, I would be killed.  The ACP representatives have made paltry easement offers. This project forever devalues my property. As an environmentally aware  individual I am disgusted by the drastic environmental damage this unnecessary project would cause, merely for the sake of private corporate profits, in no way for the public good.   Marvin Winstead, Nash County, NC, Alliance for the Protection of our People and the Places We Live (APPPL).

Mountain Valley Pipeline – VA

This past May, 20 students from Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, and University of Mary Washington traveled along the route of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline in a show of resistance and solidarity. Along every mile of the pipeline, we met people whose fear and anger have thus far been disregarded by FERC. Their concerns range from everything from property rights to climate change to clean drinking water, but overall the message is the same: the Mountain Valley Pipeline is unwanted by the people it will affect the most. —Madison Roberts, Virginia Tech student

Eastern Market Access Project– VA

I oppose the expansion of the Loudoun Compressor station because Dominion has failed to operate the existing compressor station in a safe manner.  Last September, the community was not notified of a “venting”/blow down.  The strong smell of the harmful chemical odorant added to the natural gas caused great alarm and over 100 calls were made to Loudoun County and Fairfax County Fire Departments as well as Police Departments.  Further, there has been a history of violations of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality permit and failure to properly notify the local fire department when there was a fire. — Natalie Pien of Leesburg, Virginia. Co-founder of 350 Loudoun

Penn East Pipeline – NJ and PA

The proposed PennEast pipeline would bring an additional one billion cubic feet per day of fracked gas to Southeast Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and result in a glut beyond current demand. It would have a devastating and lasting impact on our land, water, forests and wildlife. The NJ Division of Rate Counsel had previously called the project’s requested rate of return “unfair to consumers” and like “winning the lottery.” PennEast is facing strong criticism from federal and state regulators, as well as massive, growing public opposition.    —Patty Cronheim, Hunterdon County, NJ activist

Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline — PA

We reject Williams’ plan to run a 42-inch, high-pressure pipeline through the heart of our community. At an action over the weekend, our community burned pages of FERC’s Environmental Impact Statement, which said this pipeline would have little impact. We celebrated the power of local communities to protect the land we love, the water that gives us life, and the place we call home. We celebrated our quiet conviction that NO ONE loves this land more than we do, and that’s why Williams has a fight on their hands they don’t understand. Williams’ lust for profit is no match for the love that joins us to one another and to this land we call home.”     —Malinda and Mark Clatterbuck, Lancaster Against Pipelines

Northern Access Pipeline – Western NY

Concerned citizens from the entire 97-mile proposed pipeline route have been mobilizing since the Northern Access Pipeline was first proposed in March 2015 by National Fuel and Empire Pipeline.  The new pipeline includes additional and expanded compressor stations and a new dehydration facility—infrastructure that FERC has fast-tracked in spite of the fact that the proposed pipeline would cross almost 500 water bodies. Even though NY has banned fracking, greenhouse gas emissions—in particular methane—have grown due to pipeline activity.  We are fighting to protect Niagara Falls and all of the habitat, wetlands, and communities on and around the proposed pipeline path. —David Reilly, Sierra Club

Nexus Pipeline – Ohio

Despite our repeated appeals to FERC, including personal testimonies, letter writing campaigns, legal challenges, organized protests and scientific documentation of the pollutants, carbon emissions, air and water destruction, property devaluation and dangers of building through karst terrain and along earthquake faults,  FERC ignores our well-founded complaints. Our challenges to eminent domain rights given to shippers aimed mostly for export markets are also ignored. The human health, environmental degradation and global warming impacts of the fracked gas infrastructure sanctioned by FERC will long be remembered by future generations as the shameful lack of any kind of regulatory integrity that is most needed in these times of unfettered corporate profiteering.   –Lea Harper, We Want Clean Water

New Market Project – upstate New York

Segmentation was the name of the game for Dominion’s New Market Project in New York. With a wink and a nod, FERC accepted the company’s outlandish claim that the only reason for building two new compressor stations, massively expanding a third, and modifying facilities in six different counties was to move 112,000 dekatherms. However, we know that this is not the endgame, but rather just the beginning of Dominion’s plan to pump even more fracked gas through New York. Although we meticulously identified numerous flaws in the Dominion’s application, FERC blatantly ignored our comments and rubber-stamped the project.    —Suzy Winkler, Mohawk Valley Keeper