Pipeline Foes Like Hobbled FERC Just the Way it is

March 8, 2017


By Michael Brooks

FERC’s loss of its quorum has members of Congress and the natural gas industry feeling anxious, but anti-fracking activists said Wednesday they will oppose any nominations to the commission in order to keep it paralyzed.

Ted Glick, a founder of Beyond Extreme Energy, said his group and more than 130 others were inspired to act when Chairman Norman Bay resigned Feb. 3 after President Trump named Cheryl LaFleur acting chair. Bay’s departure left the commission with only two members, one short of the minimum needed to approve natural gas pipeline projects.

The commission approved seven natural gas pipelines worth 7 Bcfd before Bay left this year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The commission approved 17.6 Bcfd of capacity last year.

Besides lobbying senators to vote against nominees, the activists’ efforts will include nonviolent civil disobedience, which his group has used to disrupt the commission’s open meetings, Glick said during a news teleconference. (See Meet the People Making Life for FERC a Little More Difficult this Week.)

In a March 2016 protest outside FERC headquarters, Beyond Extreme Energy and other activists ate pancakes with the last syrup from Megan Holleran’s maple trees, which were cut down for a pipeline in New Milford, Pa. Holleran, “Gasland” filmmaker Josh Fox and five others were arrested.

Beyond Extreme Energy and its allies see FERC as a rogue agency that ignores communities’ input on pipeline projects and is cozy with the industry that it is supposed to regulate. Their opposition is nonpartisan, with the activists yesterday lambasting Democrats for their failure to rein the commission in.

“The appointment of one new commissioner could put that agency back in business and able to inflict incredible and irreparable harm on communities and our environment,” said Maya van Rossum, leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

Preventing the restoration of FERC’s quorum is virtually impossible, however. Republicans control the Senate 52-48, and Democrats can no longer filibuster the president’s nominations except for the Supreme Court.

“The best outcome right now for the communities being abused by these pipeline projects and these pipeline companies and by FERC is to prevent” a quorum, and give Congress “the breathing room” to holding hearings “investigating the abuses that are happening at the hands of FERC, identifying the needed reforms and putting in place those reforms before a quorum is restored,” van Rossum said. “We get that’s a heavy lift. We totally get that.”

Joining Glick and van Rossum on the call was Todd Larsen, executive co-director of Green America; Josh Fox, director of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Gasland;” and Maggie Henry, a former organic farmer.

“It’s not just that we will oppose the FERC nominees,” Fox said. “Citizens all across this nation are gathering to build protest camps like the one at Dakota Access, and you will see a state of protest against fossil fuel infrastructure unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the United States of America.”

Cantwell, Dems Urge ‘Nonpartisanship’

Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has other ideas.

She and 15 other Democrats wrote Trump on Wednesday urging him to respect the commission’s tradition of nonpartisanship, noting that less than 2% of the orders issued in 2016 included a dissenting opinion. “We hope that your nominees will be prepared to continue this tradition, and we intend to review them through that lens during the confirmation process,” the senators wrote.

They also said that both Republican and Democratic presidents have nominated people recommended by the Senate leader of the party that does not hold the presidency — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “We expect you will honor this long-standing practice in nominating individuals to serve on the commission,” the senators said.


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