Blockaders say Democratic Party fails people and climate

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Activists condemn the Democratic Party for its support of fracking and the Trans Pacific Partnership.

For nearly three hours this afternoon, six Beyond Extreme Energy activists blockaded the doors at the Democratic National Committee, calling on the party to stand on the side of people and the planet instead of the fracked-gas industry.

They and a crowd of supporters from BXE, Environmental Action and Greenpeace chanted “Fracking, Drilling, Oil and Gas: None shall pass” and “Hey Democrats, you can’t hide. We can see your corporate side.” They held a large banner with their demands: #StopTPP #BanFracking, #NoDrillingInTheGulf and #NoEminentDomainForPrivateGain.

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Nancy Vann, at left, condemned the high-pressure Spectra pipeline for fracked gas that runs through her property.

Before the action, many in the group had delivered the same message to aides of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee. The party platform doesn’t include a ban on fracking or opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership. While the platform opposes offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, it is silent on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The Democratic Party is nothing more than a new form of climate denial: One that admits climate change is real – but refuses to take the actions necessary to stop it,” a letter to Schultz and the DNC said. “These conciliatory nods and appeals for incrementalism only perpetuate environmental racism and sacrifice lives and livelihoods for corporate gain.”

“Incrementalism is killing us,” said Ted Glick, his arms linked to others through sections of PVC pipes in the blockade. “When it comes to the climate crisis, we can’t do it little by little. We are way beyond being able to do that.” Too many Democrats believe fracked gas is a bridge fuel, he said. “It’s a gangplank to hell on Earth,” because of all the leaking methane.

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Joined by sections of PVC pipe, Steve Norris (from left), Ted Glick, Carol Gay, Margaret Flowers, Maggie Henry and Michael Bagdes-Canning (not pictured) block the DNC entrance.

Fracking and its infrastructure “has destroyed my life,” said Maggie Henry, an organic farmer whose family had to abandon their land and home in northwest Pennsylvania, near the border with Ohio. “There is absolutely no recourse” to this industry’s actions, said Henry, who was also part of the blockade.  The fracking industry has “stolen from me the right to grow old and raise my grandchildren on that land.”

Michael Bagdes-Canning, also from northwest Pennsylvania, told of a community of 50 families who have had to rely on donated water since January 2011 after fracking began nearby.

“The Democrats have betrayed us. Some in the labor movement have betrayed us,” said Carol Gay, a blockader from the New Jersey State Industrial Union Council. “It’s shameful that the Democrats are not stepping forward to stop the TPP. It’s nothing but a corporate coup d’etat. … We want the Democrats to stand on the side of the people. We want the Democrats to stand on the side of the planet.”

“We are not against trade,” said Margaret Flowers, also part of the blockade and a Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate from Maryland. “But [the TPP] will keep us from being able to pass laws to protect our families and to protect workers and to protect the environment.” Under the TPP, a corporate tribunal would rule on claims by a company that says regulations reduced anticipated profits.

Nancy Vann, an activist from Peekskill, NY, who was supporting the blockaders, said: The DNC is “objecting to us taking over a little of their land for a few hours when [Spectra is] taking over my land permanently.” She has been fighting Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market, or AIM pipeline, which runs through her property and within 105 feet of the aging Indian Point nuclear plant.  Spectra’s right-of-way destroyed wetlands and required the clearing of 300 trees on her property.

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Ian Russell arrives to speak with protesters.

After an hour or so of negotiating, the blockaders agreed to release their arms from the PVC pipes if someone from the DNC would come outside to speak with them. That led to a lengthy and often heated discussion with three DNC staffers, including Ian Russell, deputy director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Russell’s statement that “a lot of Democrats share your position” and “would be heartbroken to hear this” were met with derision, outrage and disbelief.

“We are tired of two corporate parties,” Gay said.

The activists said the Democrats lacked the spine to stand up to Republicans in Congress. “The Democrats stab us in the back,” Flowers said. “This is our future. This is our lives. We don’t trust the Democrats. We know who they represent, and it’s not us. It’s industry.”

Anthony Rogers-Wright, a policy and organizing director at Environmental Action, said the Democratic platform’s stance on offshore drilling amounts to racism and genocide. The platform opposes drilling in the Arctic, to protect polar bears, and the Atlantic, to protect clams, he said, “so, why is the Gulf [of Mexico] still treated as a sacrifice zone?” The surrounding states may be red, he said, “but black and brown people are dying there. … We don’t know who to turn to anymore.” The disappearing land is already creating climate migrants, he said. “Our public health is as important as our vote.”

After about a half hour of discussion, Russell asked what message the protesters wanted him to take to Democratic leadership. “Tell them we are angry and willing to risk arrest, and we’ll keep doing it until the Democrats show some backbone” on these issues, said blockader Steve Norris of Asheville, N.C.

The activists were threatened with arrest but declared the day a victory and left shortly after the impromptu meeting with the DNC staff.

Back at FERC

In the morning, at the monthly meeting of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), BXE activists stood silently outside, large blue dots taped over their mouths.

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The blue-dotted protest in silence at FERC.

They were objecting to FERC’s practice of using a blue dot to mark in its files the names of activists who speak out at the agency’s monthly meetings. Those with blue dots are barred from future meetings and instead ushered to an overflow room, where they can watch the proceedings on a TV screen. In this way, FERC commissioners try to avoid listening to complaints about their rubber-stamp approvals of pipelines, compressor stations and export facilities for fracked gas. BXE has organized disruptions at 21 consecutive FERC meetings.

blue dot ellen.jpg-largeFERC Chairman Norman Bay says that interrupting “does not help your cause.” Use proper channels, he says. Submit comments online on projects. Testify at public hearings. BXE activists and thousands of others have done all that and more – to no avail. FERC approves these projects. Every. Time. Except. Once. (FERC extended a deadline for that one pipeline and fracked-gas liquefaction facility, in Oregon, so that the company could file again.)

Three people spoke out at the FERC meeting today, including Dineen O’Rourke of Sandisfield, in western Massachusetts, who is fighting Kinder Morgan’s Connecticut pipeline expansion project. She called out: “Unless FERC denies permits for fracked gas projects, they’re complicit in the destruction of the planet.” She was quickly ushered from the room. And O’Rourke, along with Adrian Plaisance and Carol Gay, joined the blue dot club.

Take Action at Democratic and Republican Conventions

Beyond Extreme Energy encourages our members and supporters to take action at the Republican National Convention, from July 18-21 in Cleveland, and the Democratic National Convention, from July 25-28 in Philadelphia. Although BXE’s main focus is activities July 22-24, in the days before the Democratic convention, we support nonviolent protest and direct action at both.

Art build for the March for a Clean Energy Revolution in Philadelphia

  • On Friday, July 22, and Saturday, July 23, in Philadelphia, an art build is planned for the big March for a Clean Energy Revolution on Sunday. BXE member Kim Fraczak of Sane Energy Project will be leading the art build. To find out how you can take part, contact Kim at kim@sanenergyproject.org. To RSVP on Facebook, click here.

Three gatherings on Saturday, July 23

  • Power Shift 2016, a gathering primarily but not only for young people, is being organized by the Energy Action Coalition. Details here:  http://powershift2016.org.
  • People’s Summit will come up with an overall people’s platform for the progressive movement. Details here: http://thepeoplesrevolution.org.
  • Summit for a Clean Energy Revolution is being put together by the coalition organizing the March for a Clean Energy Revolution. Details here: http://cleanenergymarch.org and registration is here.

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The March for a Clean Energy Revolution on Sunday, July 24

BXE is one of more than 600 organizations that have endorsed the March for a Clean Energy Revolution, which gathers at City Hall at noon on Sunday, July 24. Details here: http://cleanenergymarch.org.

The week of the Democratic convention

Finally, BXE members will be participating in numerous nonviolent demonstrations and direct actions planned for July 24 and after. To find out more and/or if you are planning to be in Philadelphia, email BXE at info@beyondextremeenergy.org, and we’ll be in touch.

Virginia pipeline fighters stand with BXE

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Our friends in Virginia fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline send a message of support to BXE:

“In response to Senator John Barrasso’s request to denounce Beyond Extreme Energy #BXE and his attempts to villify our fam in the resistance against ecological destruction.

No, we will not denounce BXE’s tactics or their actions. They are justified. They are escalating because FERC continues to ignore the voices of those saying no to fossil fuel projects. BXE is our extended family and we support… their choices. No more divide and conquer.

There are surely nonprofit orgs out there who claim to be fighting for our futures, but who will continue to distance themselves from groups like BXE and No ACP because these non-profits often have competing interests, as well as financial or philanthropic ties to the same corporations that are killing us. They do so even without request, for fear of ruffling one financial feather or another. We hope that will change very soon.

We hope the nonprofit world, a.k.a Big Green, will see that they are on the wrong side, and that these corporations and the institutions that uphold them are toxic. We hope the staff and directors of these groups realize the dedication of those who do this work without compensation, those who engage out of love and out of necessity. We hope they realize the political climate is really shifted by grassroots organizations, who take risk and direct action, that force them to react. Power to the people. BXE you have our love.”

Day 4: FERC blocks the public but not pipelines

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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.

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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.

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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.

Day 3: FERC decides to close its ‘open’ meeting as #RubberStampRebellion continues

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On Day 3 of the #RubberStampRebellion, during a free-to-the-community dinner party in front of FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur’s apartment building, we received startling news: FERC has decided that its monthly open meeting planned for tomorrow will instead be open-with-air-quotes. “Open.” In other words, closed. Turned into a tv show. We can watch the livestream.

In a notice linked in a Twitter post, FERC said:

“Upon the affirmative votes of Chairman Norman C. Bay and Commissioners Cheryl A. LaFleur, Tony Clark, and Colette D. Honorable, the status of the Commission’s May 19, 2016 public meeting is open to the public via webcast only.”

“It’s an outrage,” said Steve Norris, a Beyond Extreme Energy activist from Asheville, NC. “We live in a democracy. We have an open meeting. And then they cancel it. Of course, it has never really been open, but now we can’t even be in the room with them.” People traveled from as far as Nebraska to attend the meeting, he said. “And they pulled the rug out from under them. What kind of democracy is that? It shows what we are up against.”

The #RubberStampRebellion rally outside FERC will go on as scheduled Thursday, starting at 8 a.m, with speakers Jane Kleeb from Bold Nebraska, the Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, singer Luci Murphy, and Mike Tidwell executive director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

“We are considering other options consistent with our commitment to non-violence and our commitment to getting FERC to prioritize a rapid shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy to protect the lives and health of current and future generations,” said Melinda Tuhus of BXE media.

For 18 months, BXE has attended each of FERC’s monthly meetings, calling attention to FERC’s rubber-stamping ways on behalf of the oil and fracked-gas industry. Each month, a few people have spoken out, been ushered quickly from the room – and barred from meetings. Forever. FERC has called these interruptions “a situation.” Many of those trying to speak to commissioners have traveled from communities fighting fracked-gas projects under FERC’s purview and feeling decidedly unheard.

During the #RubberStampRebellion, BXE has continued to call on FERC to stop granting permits that expand fracked-gas infrastructure and, instead, to prioritize wind, solar and other clean and renewable energy sources. The health of communities and the planet depends on making energy generation and distribution locally sourced, democratically controlled, and greenhouse gas-free.

Earlier the day, the #RubberStampRebellion participated in a #FlushTheTPP protest decrying the U.S. International Trade Commission’s (US ITC) report about that corporate power-grabbing agreement.  The ITC’s Economic Impact Report applauds the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and actively fails to mention the significant economic impacts of the climate crisis, which the TPP will worsen.  TPP Resisters have issued People’s Economic Statement.

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Photos by Eleanor Goldfield of Art Killing Apathy

On the morning of Day 3, the #RubberStampRebellion delivered an order of eminent domain for a pipeline at the home of FERC Chairman Norman Bay. Just like the many similar orders resulting from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permits for fracked-gas pipelines, compressors, export plants or storage facilities.

 

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To ensure the profits of Spectra or Williams or Dominion or Duke or Kinder Morgan and the rest of the industry, FERC always decides that the pipeline must come through, a community must move aside, fossil fuels must flow and burn, the trees must fall, the children must fall sick, the climate must fall apart, the air must fill with pollution, the land must be disturbed, the water must be spoiled, the woodland critters must scatter, the fracking must continue. In fact, FERC routinely says that the effects from fracking are outside its scope or unforeseeable.

While FERC insulates itself from dissent and expands the fracking industry’s reach with each permit, outrage and resistance grows. Beyond Extreme Energy is one of countless groups and communities pushing back against FERC’s rubber-stamp machine. The #RubberStampRebellion goes on.

Donate to the ‪#‎RubberStampRebellion here: bit.ly/BXE-RSR-Fund

Follow updates on Facebook

Day 2: Dinner in front of FERC Chairman Norman Bay’s house

On the evening of Day 2, the #RubberStampRebellion dined al fresco — on the sidewalk in front of FERC Chairman Norman Bay’s house near Dupont Circle. Attire advice for the 25 or so in attendance: Rain gear. On the menu from Seeds of Peace: spicy tacos with beans, rice and cabbage and an apple dessert cake.

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Activists enjoy dinner in front of Norman Bay’s home.

Visiting the commissioner at his home is a step not lightly taken. The chairman has expressed disdain and impatience regarding Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) activists’ repeated interruptions at monthly meetings of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. These speakers are promptly ushered out. He and other commissioners don’t attend hearings in communities in the way of fracked-gas pipelines, storage facilities, liquefaction and export facilities, and compressor stations, instead sending staff. His agency advises industry about a “successful” strategy that “greatly increases the chances that a project will proceed in a timely, efficient and credible manner.” And FERC disregards the countless carefully submitted objections to the fracked-gas industry’s plans for communities.

The commissioners are not listening. They are instead determined to expand fracked-gas infrastructure (while denying any role in fracking), tethering the economy to yet another climate-disrupting fossil fuel for decades to come.

So, as part of BXE’s #RubberStampRebellion actions this week, activists are spending one night on the sidewalk in front of the house of each of the four commissioners. On the first night, activists posted a notice of eminent domain on the front door of Commissioner Tony Clark’s house. They also taped wanted-style posters in the park across the street, letting neighbors know about his job as serial community- and climate-wrecker.

Tonight, Norman Bay’s neighbors were learning the same about him. Posters wheat-pasted on street lights include a photo with the message:

Chairman Norman Bay, Commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Rubber stamps fracked gas projects for the oil and gas industries, Complicit in the deaths of 100 million people which the World Health Organization says may die by 2030 due to climate change.

They also brought giant yellow cardboard rubber-stamps with images of families harmed by FERC’s decisions, and a banner announcing: #RubberStampRebellion Your neighbor Norman Bay and FERC Destroy communities and the climate

Kendall Hale from Asheville, NC, said many passersby accepted the #RubberStampRebellion pamphlets. She said one friendly neighbor revealed that Bay had told neighbors he was leaving town and warned that people were coming to harass them and knock on their doors. “We aren’t disrupting anyone. We are very polite. It’s FERC that’s disrupting communities,” Hale said.

Another neighbor took a pamphlet and said “great cause. Keep doing what you’re doing,” said BXE activist Melinda Tuhus from New Haven, CT.

“Chairman Norman Bay rubber stamps fracked gas infrastructure projects despite knowing that each permit issued is another nail in the coffin,” said BXE activist Lee Stewart of Greenbelt, MD. “The World Health Organization says 100 million people could die by 2030 as a result of climate change. The commissioners at FERC know the horrific consequences of burning fossil fuels, yet they continue to work on behalf of the industry by approving permit after permit. They are willfully complicit in these deaths. The story of their unwillingness to break the mold and do what needs to be done is the story of our unwillingness to break the mold and do what needs to be done. It’s time to break free.”

As night fell, a lighted sign declared: NO GAS. CLEAN ENERGY NOW!

During the day, #RubberStampRebellion activists went to Capitol Hill on behalf of local communities who are fighting FERC projects. They visited offices of Florida Sen. Ben Nelson, asking him to oppose several projects moving through the FERC approval process, including Spectra’s Sabal Trail pipeline; New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, asking them to speak out against the Spectra AIM pipeline; and Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, calling on him to oppose a fracked-gas liquefaction facility proposed at Fields Point in South Providence.

Peter Nightingale, a member of Fossil Free Rhode Island and a professor of physics at the University of Rhode Island, described a “respectful conversation” with Senator Whitehouse’s staff. He invited the senator to FERC’s monthly meeting on Thursday, asked him to use his influence to stop the LNG facility in Providence from being built, and continued an ongoing discussion about the dangers of methane for the climate. “He ignores that methane is worse for the climate than coal and oil,” Nightingale said. “We offered him a free lesson about the physics of that.”

The #RubberStampRebellion continues through the week – and beyond.

Donate to the ‪#‎RubberStampRebellion here: bit.ly/BXE-RSR-Fund

Follow updates on Facebook

 

Day 1: 7 arrested in #RubberStampRebellion at FERC; encampment at home of Tony Clark

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On the first day of the #RubberStampRebellion, seven climate activists were arrested while forming a human blockade at the exit of the underground parking garage at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC.

“My grandchildren and all future grandchildren thank you,” Steve Norris, an organizer with Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE), called out as Homeland Security agents handcuffed the seven and led them away. “Thank you for standing up to this corrupt rubberstamp machine that is destroying communities and whose policies are destroying the planet.”

Those arrested were Ellen Taylor of Washington, DC; Peter Nightingale of Kingston, RI; Claude Guillemard of Baltimore; Don Weightman of Philadelphia; Clarke Herbert of Virginia; Linda Reik of Upper Delaware River, NY; and Melinda Tuhus of New Haven, CT. They were released shortly after 10 p.m.

While blocking the entrance, the activists as well as others from the #RubberStampRebellion called out chants and sang songs, such as “Fighting for our health, we shall not be moved” and “Fighting for our children, we shall not be moved.”

All week, BXE is carrying out creative, non-violent actions throughout the Washington, D.C., area, targeting FERC and the fossil fuel industry whose projects that rogue agency approves.

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Activists display giant rubber stamps with images of families harmed by FERC permits for fracked-gas infrastructure.

During the blockade and at an action in the morning, #RubberStampRebellion activists distributed a small pamphlet to passersby that explained the rationale for the rebellion actions planned for this week:

For too long, this invisible federal agency has caused community destruction and climate devastation with every permit it issues.  

For too long, FERC has rubber-stamped fracked-gas pipelines, compressor stations and export facilities.  

For too long, FERC has guided the fracked-gas industry through the permit process and offered advice on handling community opposition.   

For too long, FERC has insisted that it can’t take into consideration climate change caused by fracking and other fracked-gas infrastructure.   

For too long, FERC has insulated itself from community dissent, sending aides to local hearings while forbidding comment at its monthly public meetings in Washington, DC. Those who speak out are hauled from the room and barred from ever returning.    

BXE is calling for an end to the Fracked-gas Expansion Rubber-stamp Commission, an end to the FERC that promotes fracking and fossil fuel infrastructure that makes wealthy corporations more powerful while sacrificing communities, our health and our Earth. BXE calls for a swift, just transition to a renewable-energy economy. 

The Rubber Stamp Rebellion camps outside FERC Commissioner Tony Clark's house in Virginia.
The Rubber Stamp Rebellion camps outside FERC Commissioner Tony Clark’s house in Virginia.

On the first night of the RubberStampRebellion, six climate activists visited the Ashburn, VA., home of FERC commissioner Tony Clark.

Although the activists didn’t bring toxic and climate-wrecking air and water pollutants that FERC permits, they taped wanted-style posters in a park across from the Clark townhouse that included a photo and notified neighbors:

Tony Clark, Commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Rubber stamps fracked gas projects for the oil and gas industries; Complicit in the deaths of 100 million people which the World Health Organization says may die by 2030 due to climate change.

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The #RubberStampRebellion visits FERC Commissioner Tony Clark’s neighborhood.

They also posted on his front door a notice of eminent domain, similar to the orders used to seize land for pipelines for transporting fracked gas. In March, BXE had a #PancakesNotPipelines action at FERC to protest maple trees razed under an eminent domain seizure for the proposed Constitution pipeline in Pennsylvania and New York, even though all state permits had not been granted. With Josh Fox and Tim DeChristopher acting as pancake chefs, landowner Megan Holleran served up the last drops of syrup from her trees at the event.  A week after the Holleran family’s maple trees we cut down, New York said it would not issue permits needed for the pipeline. Read about that action here.

Among those visiting the Clark residence for the #RubberStampRebellion was Wes Eastridge from Marshall, Va., who said: “We’re fighting against the continued development and reliance on methane–because it’s totally unnecessary. FERC allows companies to destroy people’s property with eminent domain and that methane is obtained by an extremely destructive process known as fracking.”

Donate to the ‪#‎RubberStampRebellion here: bit.ly/BXE-RSR-Fund

Follow updates on Facebook

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The #RubberStampRebellion heads for FERC.
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Clarke Herbert’s drumming announces the giant rubber stamps are headed to FERC.
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Ted Glick and Claude Guillemard hand out #RubberStampRebellion pamphlets to passersby.

10 fracked-gas infrastructure projects canceled or delayed in last 24 months

By Ted Glick

Since April 2014, 10 fracking infrastructure projects have been canceled or delayed. Here’s the list:

April 2014: The Bluegrass Pipeline in Kentucky was stopped by a court decision upholding landowners’ rights against the use of eminent domain to take their land for private profit.

November 2015: The Port Ambrose liquified natural gas (LNG) project was vetoed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The project was proposed by Liberty Natural Gas off the shores of New York and New Jersey.

March 2016: The Jordan Cove LNG export terminal and 223­-mile Pacific Connector pipeline in Oregon were rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), signifying FERC’s first gas-infrastructure rejection in 30 years.

March 2016: The Republican-­dominated Georgia legislature voted overwhelming for a one-­year moratorium on any new gas pipelines, setting back efforts to build the Palmetto Pipeline.

March 2016: FERC announced a seven-month delay on making a decision about the Penn East pipeline in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and a 10-month delay for the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

April 2016: The Oregon LNG company announced that it’s ending its years­-long effort to build an export terminal and pipeline.

April 2016: Kinder Morgan announced it is suspending its efforts to build the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline, which would have run from Pennsylvania through New York into Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

April 2016: Dominion Resources announces that the start time for beginning construction on the Atlantic Coast pipeline, going from West Virginia through Virginia into North Carolina, is being moved back from this fall to summer 2017.

April 2016: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation rejected the application of the Constitution Pipeline company for a water quality permit, a permit it must have in order to begin construction.

“We are actually experiencing the clean energy revolution, it’s really happening right now,” I said to my wife when I heard the news about the Constitution Pipeline.

It’s very significant that the movement against fracking and fracking infrastructure projects is winning these victories, but it does not mean we can take a break. As of March 24, FERC lists 58 interstate gas pipelines on its website.

We need to gain strength from these victories and, with the wind shifting from a headwind to being more at our back, step up our pressure on FERC, and the gas and pipeline industry. Join Beyond Extreme Energy from May 15 to May 22 in Washington, DC, for the Rubber Stamp Rebellion.

Ted Glick is a co­founder of Beyond Extreme Energy and a climate activist since 2003. Past writings and other information can be found here, and you can follow him on Twitter @jtglick.

No justice from eminent domain

By Michael Bagdes-Canning

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Friends and activists gather to witness the tree-cutting on the Gerhart land.

Federal Marshals with automatic weapons and bullet proof vests, sheriff deputies dispatched to “keep people safe,” state troopers there in support. Something terrible must be happening in Pennsylvania’s forests. Something terrible is happening and it is not just in forests; large corporations are taking lands owned by Pennsylvanians and the federal marshals, the sheriff deputies, and the state troopers and our courts were dispatched to help them do it.

Who could blame Stephen Gerhart, 85, for thinking that the darker times he’d lived through were over when he moved to Pennsylvania in 1957; the Nazi occupation of his native Hungary, the Communist “liberation,” and the brutal Soviet suppression of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 were evils he had to endure when he was young.

Who could blame Gerhart if he thought that he would quietly live out the rest of his days on the wooded hills in Huntingdon County that he and his wife Ellen had lived on for the last 34 years, in the forest they had pledged to protect when they bought the property in 1982 by signing up for the Forest Stewardship Program.

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Ellen and Stephen Gerhart

Who could blame him for thinking he was living a nightmare when, on March 28 of this year, Stephen had to endure one more brutality at the hands of the state – a chain saw crew ripping apart the woodlands he and Ellen looked after all these decades.

This atrocity came about after Huntingdon County President Judge George N. Zanic ruled that Sunoco Logistics, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Corporation (ETC), was a public utility and could condemn, via eminent domain, a 3-acre right-of-way through the Gerhart property to run the Mariner East 2 pipeline.

The seizure of private lands so that pipelines can be constructed is a troubling phenomenon that has wracked several communities in Pennsylvania over the last several weeks.

In early March, Williams Partners, recently acquired by ETC, unleashed a chainsaw crew on North Harford Maple, a family-owned sugar bush near New Milford. U.S. District Court Judge Malachy E. Mannion had earlier ruled that Williams Partners was a public utility and allowed it to seize a 125-foot right of way through the heart of the producing trees to lay the Constitution pipeline. North Harford Maple is owned by Cathy Holleran, and the Holleran family had derived a significant income from maple products produced on the property.

Neither the Gerharts nor the Hollerans wanted the pipelines to pass through their properties. Both families were offered compensation. The Gerharts were offered $100,000 for the 3-acre right-of-way. In both cases, it was not about the money; there was a desire to retain something money cannot buy.

In the Holleran’s case, it was a life-sustaining business and magnificent old maples. For the Gerharts, it was the beauty of the forest and the wild things that inhabit it. For Williams Partners and Sunoco Logistics, it was all about taking what was not theirs.

Eminent domain has its roots in antiquity, when all lands belonged to a sovereign. In the United States, the Constitution limits the power of eminent domain to condemnations “for the public good” and requires “just compensation.”

Both the Mariner East 2 and the Constitution pipelines are projects of multi-billion-dollar corporations. Their aim is profit, and the public good for their projects is debatable. What’s not debatable is that neither the Gerharts nor Hollerans have received any compensation, let alone a just compensation as the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution dictates.

A just compensation would take the Hollerans’ business into consideration. A just compensation would take 34 years of nurturing into consideration. Of course, a pipeline presents a whole other wrinkle to eminent domain. With pipelines, you get compensated once but you continue to pay taxes on a piece of property that remains “yours” but you cannot develop. You may not be able to get homeowners insurance.

Susquehanna County

On March 2, with the sap flowing, seven federal marshals armed with automatic weapons and clad in bulletproof vests and state police arrived at the Holleran property in Susquehanna County to protect the chainsaw crew from the demonstrably nonviolent Holleran family and friends there to witness and document the destruction. The Constitution pipeline hasn’t been approved in New York, so it’s completion isn’t certain, yet, Williams Partners chose to move forward with the cutting anyway. With the family looking on, completion of the cutting was completed on March 4. A visibly shaken Megan Holleran, a family member and field technician for North Harford Maple, said, “I have no words for how heartbroken I am. We’ve been preparing for this for years, but watching the trees fall was harder than I ever imagined.”

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Megan Holleran, near maple trees cut for the Constitution pipeline.

Shortly afterward, Williams Partners announced that it was ceasing work on the pipeline for 6 months. When Megan Holleran heard this news she said, “It proves that I was right when I said it was completely unnecessary for them to do this at this time. It’s proof of how stupid it was that they came out and cut our trees already.”

Huntingdon County

On March 28, county sheriff deputies and state police arrived at the Gerhart property to protect the chainsaw crew. Judge Zanik, ignoring that the pipeline isn’t permitted yet, that Sunoco misrepresented the character of the Gerharts’ property – the wetlands was more extensive, by a factor of 7, than indicated on Sunoco Logistics’ map – gave permission for cutting to begin.

The Gerharts, like the Hollerans, had assembled friends to witness and document the destruction. However, the Gerhart property also had three tree sitters, people perched high in trees or suspended between trees, to act as a physical barrier to the crews and protectors for the trees. The sheriff, protesting all the time that he was there to protect the safety of all involved, nonetheless permitted the chainsaw crew to engage in reckless behavior that endangered those in the trees and arrested several people, including one individual that was not in the right of way. Those arrested were charged with indirect civil contempt and had bail set at $100,000. They also faced up to 6 months in jail.

Broken system

The eminent domain process is broken. It allows wealthy interests to steal property from others. It may be legal, but it is not right. The courts may sanction it, but there is no justice.

Having lived through the Nazis, the Hungarian Communists, and the Soviets, Stephen Gerhart knows a little something about injustice. In a letter to Judge Zanik, Stephen Gerhart wrote, ” It is unjust to give [Sunoco Logistics] the right of eminent domain so that they can trample on the rights of the people of Pennsylvania.”

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The Gerharts placed their land in state stewardship program, but the state gave permission for them to be felled for the Mariner East 2 pipeline.

 

Filmmaker Josh Fox and six others arrested at pancake-cooking action at FERC

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Josh Fox and Tim DeChristopher make pancakes for FERC commissioners on a solar-powered cooktop. Photo by Eleanor Goldfield of ArtKillingAction.

UPDATE: View Josh Fox’s short film about the Holleran family, their maple trees, climate change and the #PancakesNotPipelines action at FERC.

March 24, Washington, DC — Gasland filmmaker Josh Fox, Megan Holleran and five others were arrested in the driveway of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) while waiting for commissioners to join them for pancakes topped with the last drops of maple syrup from the Holleran family farm in New Milford, Pa.  They and about two dozen other activists were protesting FERC’s approval of the clear-cutting of a wide swath of maple trees at the Holleran farm.

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Before their arrest, Gabe Shapiro, BXE organizer Don Weightman, Ashfield (MA) Selectman Ron Coler, Megan Holleran, Jane Kendall , Josh Fox and Bethany Yarrow block a driveway at FERC while waiting for commissioners to join them for pancakes.

Blocked by guards from entering the FERC building, Fox repeatedly called on the commissioners to come down for “the last dregs of syrup” and a conversation about fracked-gas infrastructure and climate change. “Everyone I know is fighting a pipeline or a compressor station or a power plant that is in front of FERC for approval,” said Fox, wearing an apron that said “Pancakes not Pipelines.” “It is clear to me that FERC has to be the most destructive agency in the United States right now. They are faceless, nameless, unelected and ignore citizen input. I think of FERC as the Phantom Menace. The agency’s commissioners have been rubber-stamping fracking infrastructure all over country that threatens local communities and the planet by accelerating climate change.”

Climate activist Tim DeChristopher, wearing a chef’s cap and a “Pancakes not Pipelines” apron,” cooked the pancakes on a solar-powered cooktop set up on the sidewalk in front of FERC.  DeChristopher said FERC had “cut down life-giving maple trees to make room for a death-dealing pipeline.” The agency has been “able to get away with this shameful behavior by operating in the shadows. We’re here today to invite FERC employees into the open, to engage in a human way with the people whose lives are impacted by FERC’s decisions.”

Protesters carried banners that said “Stop the Methane Pipeline” and “Pancakes not Pipelines.” Led by singer-songwriter Bethany Yarrow, who was also arrested and is the daughter of Peter Yarrow, protesters sang songs, including “We Shall Not Be Moved” and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round.”

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While seated at a table, eating pancakes and waiting for FERC commissioners or employees to join them, several people hurt directly by the agency’s permits also spoke.

Holleran, among those arrested with Fox, said FERC had given approval for the trees to be cleared before the pipeline had all the required permits. “We followed all the rules. We asked them to wait before doing irreparable harm to our farm. This could happen to anyone,” she said. “FERC, come on down and chat with me. FERC has a chance to be accountable now.”

Nancy Vann, a Westchester, NY, landowner who blocked tree-cutting on her land for the Spectra Energy’s Alqonquin Incremental Market (AIM), said, “Each tree that is cut is another step toward an uninhabitable planet. I’m here for Megan and her family and for the 20 million people living within a 50-mile radius of the pipeline that’s planning to go 105 feet from the Indian Point nuclear power plant and two earthquake fault lines.”

Activist and psychiatrist Lise van Susteren said, “We are here to tell [FERC] we will not stand by while you have this unholy alliance with industry.” Psychiatrists and other health-care professionals have to report to authorities any child abuse, she said. “Every child stands to suffer because of what we are doing to the climate.”

“We can not afford to think what is happening now doesn’t affect us all,” said Aria Doe, co-founder of the Action Center for Education and Community Development in Rockaways, NY, where neighborhoods were inundated by Hurricane Sandy.   Much of the pollution ends up in poor communities of color, she said. “I’m here for my future grandchildren.”

Robin Maguire from Conestoga, PA, said the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline is routed through sacred burial sites.

Also at the action was Karenna Gore of the Center for Earth Ethics.

In addition to Fox, Holleran and Yarrow, those arrested were: Gabe Shapiro, a student at Hampshire College, MA; Jane Kendall from New York City; Don Weightman, a  BXE organizer from Philadelphia; Ron Coler, a Select Board member of Ashfield, MA, who’s fighting the NED pipeline and Connecticut Expansion.

Yarrow’s 9-year-old daughter, Valentina Ossa, watched in tears as her mother, still singing, was handcuffed and put in a Homeland Security van.

Beyond Extreme Energy organized the action, one of many the group has led at FERC. BXE is working with groups and individuals across the United States to revoke FERC’s mandate to operate an arm of the oil and gas industry. It seeks an end to FERC permits for new pipelines and other projects that allow the expansion of the fracked-gas industry. BXE has made this demand in an escalating series of protests at FERC beginning in 2014 and including disruptions at the monthly FERC meetings, described in the March 20, 2016, New York Times article “Environmental Activists Take to Local Protests for Global Results.”

BXE will continue its actions at FERC during the Rubber Stamp Rebellion planned from May 15 to 22.