Pope Francis Comes to the Capital, FERC Protests Escalate

IMG_4711by Gabriel Shapiro, Hampshire College, gabeshapiro42@gmail.com

This past week, I took a trip from my school in Western Massachusetts to Washington DC, to hear the Pope’s message, to participate in Jewish Yom Kippur services in solidarity with the Pope’s call for climate action, and to support the Beyond Extreme Energy group as they neared the end of an 18-day water fast. They were fasting on behalf of communities across America that are being impacted by the fracking industry. At the confluence of the Papal visit to the capital and many interfaith climate justice actions leading up the event, the fasters were giving everything they had to the last couple days of prayer, in order to take a bold stand against the fracking industry.

Spending time with the fasters in the church where we were sleeping, at the climate justice rally in the National Mall and throughout various actions allowed me to ask questions and to understand the motivations behind the fast. Being with people who are fasting is odd, because you can tell that they are struggling but it’s not very visible on the outside. Through words, they shared the difficulties they were facing, the objectives of their actions, and the impact they hoped to make.

Steve Norris, one of the BXE fasters, noted how this method of protest was passed down from struggles in the past. “Gandhi said that fasting is the purest form of prayer,” he said, “This is a prayer we put out to the Universe.”

It is also a strategy, used to raise awareness and heighten the stakes. BXE is hoping to bring fasting back into the active toolbox for creating change in our modern world.

Why did these folks feel strongly enough to resist food for 18 days?

Hundreds of fasters will be breaking their hunger strike on September 25th at NOON

The Frack Attack

The past decade of increased domestic oil and natural gas extraction has resulted in a major build-out of related infrastructure, all across the United States. The flow of fracked gas to the shore for foreign export is never fast enough to satisfy the corporations at play. More and more transmission, compression and storage facilities must be built to support the corporate pursuit of profit and control over the market. We are in the midst of a global pipeline epidemic, none of these projects being limited by borders as they are connected to the trans-national energy market.

With little to no regulatory restrictions to adhere to, large energy infrastructure corporations, often based in faraway places are quickly establishing new pipeline routes and related infrastructure in a web stretching across all parts of the country. Each step of the process, from fracking to exportation of liquefied fracked gas provides an opportunity of profit for the extreme energy industry while exploiting and endangering communities. Even in the face of declining stock returns and even the threat of bankruptcy for some fracking companies, the industry continues to seek expansion, putting communities and the Earth in jeopardy. Helping to decline the financial stability of this industry is the renewable energy sector, which is enjoying unprecedented growth, creating new jobs and helping to transform the country’s energy profile.
We Are Cove Point is a coalition working to stop a massive fracked-gas export terminal from being built by Dominion, centrally located in the town of Lusby, Maryland. The facility would be the first on the East Coast, its impacts would be felt by many.  Learn more: www.wearecovepoint.org

IMG_5477Community Resistance and Movement Building

Communities across the United States are being faced with these large scale industrial projects which bring harm to their ways of life and the land they hold dear. They are being forced to organize themselves in opposition to projects, coming together in homes and churches to plan strategies. These communities are using scientific research to determine and make public that these projects do pose a serious threat to their lives and to the entire region. This research also clearly addresses the ways in which these projects would increase global CO2 emissions, contributing to widespread climate chaos.

Many of these communities are engaged in ongoing resistance campaigns, using a variety of tactics to protect themselves from the onslaught of the fracking industry. The individuals that make up the resistance campaigns have dedicated their lives to defending their communities.

These resistance communities often use a variety of tactics, carried out by volunteers, often whom have a deep connection to the land in jeopardy. While working painstakingly through the different legal avenues, many of these groups have also engaged in nonviolent direct action campaigns, feeling they have no other option to fight off the industry. These pockets of human resistance are forming multi-faceted social movements, each specific to its place and population. Looking at the vast number of communities engaged in this struggle, from those along the TGP pipeline route in Western Massachusetts, to those facing massive compression and treatment facilities in Philadelphia, to those facing the effects of local power plants switching to fracked gas, we ask what could allow a single industry to cause so many cases of human resistance in such a short time period. Who regulates this industry and why are they not doing their job?

FANG (Fighting Against Natural Gas) has been organizing resistance to Spectra’s Algonquin pipeline, part of the AIM project. After many levels of escalation and movement growth, FANG delivered an official pledge of resistance to Spectra. Construction is set to begin… Learn more: http://www.fangtogether.org/


IMG_5535FERC Doesn’t Work

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the government body responsible for overseeing the construction of interstate natural gas projects. FERC should be a federal agency supported by democratic process which represents the common good. To the contrary, it is lead by federally appointed officials who are not required to report to any superior government structure. It is tasked with researching and reporting risks associated with natural gas related projects, and using that research, along with public comments, to determine whether or not approval should be granted.

Unfortunately, the payment FERC receives from the very industry it is meant to regulate serves as a deep bias on the side of the corporations. FERC hasn’t denied approval of any natural gas project, at least in recent years. FERC consistently ignores hard, scientific evidence and thousands of public comments as well as direct actions at their doorstep, consistently for over a year, in order to give the fracking industry permission to expand, at the expense of many.

We Are Seneca Lake is using ongoing human blockades to prevent trucks from entering a facility where Crestwood is planning to store vast amounts of fracked gas in unstable, underground salt caverns. Crestwood’s plan to industrialize the Finger Lakes puts the whole community in jeopardy.
Learn more: wearesenecalake.com

#BXEFast for #NoNewPermits

“Everything that we’ve been doing for the past year in front of FERC has been to call for no new permits, to say that if we continue building out fossil fuel infrastructure, which is what this agency keeps approving, our world is going to be unlivable.” says Melinda Tuhus, a BXE organizer and member of the fast.

The Fast for No New Permits was organized by Beyond Extreme Energy, a group whose target is FERC for its role as a key player in support of the fracking industry. The fast was created to bring attention to FERC and to bring prayers together from numerous communities across America who remain at war with the fracking industry.

The members of Beyond Extreme Energy helped bring these prayers together in the form of a quilt with squares from different resistance communities, a 50 ft. hand painted banner called “The United States of Fracking Banner”, and the hunger in the bellies of those fasting. Stories were brought from the resistance communities, of permitting processes, public hearings, pipeline surveyors, stances of elected officials and the actions taking place to protect themselves from this persistent and destructive industry.

Lisa DeSantis, from the “frack fields” of Western Pennsylvania, joined the fasters to stand up for her community, a place transformed in recent years from a lovely countryside to an industrial maze of drill rigs, compressor stations and pipeline clearings. She was joined by representatives from many communities across the country.

“We are dealing with water pollution,” she says, “the first site that was drilled in my county in 2012 contaminated four known water wells. The sanitation department is taking the residual waste from the fracking industry and dumping it into our water, causing environmental damage all the way downstream in the Ohio river.”

Millennium Pipeline installed a 12,260 horsepower compressor station in Minisink, NY, regardless of overwhelming evidence of negative impacts on the community. The resistance community continues to explore new ways to protest Millennium. More: http://www.stopmcs.org/

18137358659_97167e1dae_kPeople vs. Power

Beyond Extreme Energy feels it has done everything it can through the legal and accepted means of delivering their opinions to FERC. Receiving no recognition or reply, these demands have evolved into action. The objective now is to raise awareness of the heinous set of practices and convoluted processes that make up FERCs work. This fast comes after disruptions of public hearings, a full week of direct action at FERC, and numerous other tactics over the past year, publicly pointing directly at FERC and demanding accountability and an end to permits for hazardous projects.

On behalf of those communities being negatively impacted by the fracking industry, these fasters remained strong and hopeful, even in the face of a powerful and rogue government agency.

“I think it’s a great tool” one of the fasters, who chose not be identified, explained, “it’s worked in the prisons of Northern Ireland, and it’s working in the prisons of Palestine, and it’s going to work here.”

At the end of the 18-day water fast, BXE, their supporters and individuals from communities impacted by fracking infrastructure held a rally outside the FERC headquarters in DC. Along with breaking bread to fill empty stomachs and impassioned speeches making the message clear, BXE delivered the Pope’s monumental encyclical, Laudato Si to the five FERC Commissioners.

At a time of climate chaos and a new era of human action to address it, the fracking industry remains in a state of growth, destroying the livelihoods of countless communities in its path. FERC is a part of the reason for this destruction. BXE and their supporters hope to put us on a different path, one that includes 100% renewable energy, decolonization, and re-localization of our economies.

“This fast, these prayers, are a stone we throw into the water, and there is no way to know how far the ripples will reach, or where they will go.” said Steve Norris, remarking on the impact of their actions. Their prayer was sent widely and the impacts are yet to be seen. For what it’s worth, these fasters successfully raised a major alarm at the headquarters of an agency whose time has most certainly come. It was a blessing to spend time with them and an inspiration to see the principled actions they continue to take for the creation of a better world.

To learn more about and to engage with Beyond Extreme Energy, visit: https://beyondextremeenergy.org/

-Gabriel Shapiro, second-year student at Hampshire College.
Connect with me on Facebook, Instagram ‘minimarv’, or e-mail gabeshapiro42@gmail.com

18 Day Fast Comes to an End

In Washington, DC, 12 people that fasted and other supporters set up camp in front of FERC on the sidewalk every work day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“The gift of the Earth with its fruits belongs to everyone.” — Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, paragraph 71.

by Ted Glick, reposted from www.ecowatch.com

There were many kind people, including some Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) employees, who thanked me or had supportive things to say during the 18 days that I fasted on water only in front of FERC with 11 other sisters and brothers from Sept. 8 – 25. But there are three people whose words I doubt I’ll ever forget.

There was the young black woman whose job was to staff a small booth by the entrance to an underground parking lot just across from the main employee entrance to FERC. She was friendly and over the three weeks that I stood across from her during the work week, holding signs and distributing leaflets to FERC employees going into or leaving work, we often exchanged small talk and smiles. About a week before it ended she commended us on our courage. Then, on the 15th day, she told me, “Some women came by yesterday, asking me, ‘What are they doing here?’ and I told them, ‘They are taking action for all of us.’ Some of us have jobs and have to pay bills and can’t do what you’re doing, but I think what you are doing is important.”

Then there was the Homeland Security Federal Protective Services policeman, a tall, tough-looking, white guy, who came by to talk to me on day 18, asking how I was doing, clearly impacted by our willingness to suffer for what we believed in. After a couple of minutes he said, “I’ve seen lots of groups demonstrating on issues, but yours is the most persistent one I’ve ever seen.”

But the most profound interaction I had was with a woman who might not have known I was fasting. She was an old white woman, on crutches, looking like she was homeless, a beggar on the DC Metro subway. I had seen her earlier in the 18-day ordeal; she had come up to me asking for money. On day 16, the day the Pope was in town meeting with President Obama, on my way home from FERC in the evening to the church where we stayed every night, I saw her again. We were both standing on the Metro platform and I had a mounted, blown-up picture of the Pope holding a sign which said, “No al Fracking.

She came over to me, our eyes connected and she said, to paraphrase, “You know, I know all about Jesus Christ and everything, but I just want to say that if it’s not about unity, it doesn’t mean crap.” I had listened carefully and what she said rang true, was genuine and deep, and I responded, “Yes, you’re right. That is absolutely true.”

The Beyond Extreme Energy-organized “Fast for No New Permits” was not explicitly about “unity.” It was the latest in a now-over-a-year campaign focused on what we call “the most dangerous federal agency most people have never heard of.” We are doing everything we can think of to throw a nonviolent wrench into the gears of the FERC machinery. This semi-independent agency has just kept grinding out permit after permit for the expansion of fracked gas infrastructure, with virtually no rejections of gas industry proposals, from what we’re able to tell, for many, many years.

The idea of doing a serious fast emerged a few months ago as some of us realized that the Pope was going to be in DC in late September, the Pope who has been outspoken about the need for action on the climate crisis and who, yes, had no problem being photographed a couple years ago with that “No al Fracking” sign.

And so on Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day, 12 of us, from ages 19 to 72, began a diet that consisted of water, salt and potassium. Ten of us continued on that diet until the 25th, the day after the Pope’s speech to the U.S. Congress. One faster had to end it around day 10 because of serious physical difficulties he was encountering; the other did so after about 14 days because of her need to build back some strength before joining a 900-mile walk from Rome to Paris beginning next week in connection with the early December UN Climate Conference.

There were at least 100 other people who fasted around the country, including several who fasted for 18 days also, as I understand it, in Oak Flat, Arizona, protesting federal plans to take land in Tonto National Forest sacred to local Apache nations and give it to multinational copper companies to mine.

In DC we 12 fasters and other supporters set up camp in front of FERC on the sidewalk every work day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. We passed out many thousands of leaflets and had hundreds of conversations with FERC employees and people passing by. Dutch TV came by and did interviews, as did a dozen or more other press outlets. We found a great deal of support and almost no overt hostility. One of the more interesting conversations we had was with Norman Bay, chair of FERC. I was able to talk with for a few minutes when he was spotted coming out of the FERC building while most of us on this very hot, sunny day were across the street in the shade of a 30-foot high stone wall. Little of direct substance came out of that discussion, though you never know.

On the 17th day, the day the Pope spoke to Congress, we had a breakthrough with the Washington Post when a reporter interviewed me on the mall and posted a blog about it that morning. The next day that blog post became a substantial part of a good and prominent article in the first section of the paper, taking up 2/3rds of a page and with a big picture. It was helpful to see that Post article reporting that our fast was “to protest what he said was the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s support for the use of fossil fuels and pipelines.”

I would expect lots of FERC employees, including Commissioners, as well as DC judges who will be hearing appeals of FERC’s rubber-stamping ways, see that article and smile.

There is no question this was an effective action. But it was more than that. In significant part because it was a fast—what Gandhi called “the most sincere form of prayer”—and connected to the visit of the people’s Pope, it was also, indeed, about unity, about what the wise, old, beggar woman on the Metro platform had said to me on day 16.

Yes, “the gift of the earth with its fruits belongs to everyone.” And yes, “a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach, it musts integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” (paragraph 49).

And more directly, to amplify the wise woman, “Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” (paragraph 91).

Ted Glick and eleven others fasted eighteen days in front of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington to support Pope Francis’ call for a moral response to the climate crisis and to demand an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure permits. The Washington fasters were joined by hundreds more people fasting in other communities across the country.

I lost 30 pounds over those 18 days. It is good to be eating again, slowly returning to normal eating habits. It is good to have energy to work, feel my strength beginning to return, to taste the delicious flavors of fruits and vegetables, the only things I am eating these first two days of my back-to-normal-eating, nine-day plan. It is good to be home after three weeks away. And it is good to know that the memories of those 18 days and the wonderful community of sister and brother fasters and supporters will be with me always, nourishing my commitment to keep taking action for a stable climate and a transformed world until the day I die.

Ted Glick is the National Campaign Coordinator of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Past writings and other information can be found at tedglick.com and he can be followed on Twitter.

Watching Over The Fasters: A Guest Post From Melinda Tuhus

374401_origby Melinda Tuhus, reposted from www.MelindaTuhus.net

It’s instructive hanging around people who are fasting; one can focus on what’s really basic about life. It saves so much time, not cooking or eating. And you realize how absolutely central food is to any culture, so these folks are denying themselves not only nutrition, but social interactions that come with sharing a meal.

I’m at the Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) fast at FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) for No New Permits for fracked gas infrastructure. A dozen members of BXE began a water-only fast Sept. 8 and will break their fast Sept. 25, the day after the pope speaks to Congress. I am in awe of these people – aged 19 to 72 – who are now two-thirds of the way through it.

Most have good days and bad days – nausea, headaches, dizziness and extreme fatigue, as well as fuzzy thinking, indicating that this is serious business – but they carry on out on the sidewalk in front of FERC in DC. The young people are having more trouble, most likely because their metabolisms are so much faster, so they experience the lack of food more acutely. What’s really surprising is how

It’s a wide sidewalk, and despite a lot of foot traffic, no one has objected to us sitting in folding chairs, placing a big banner and various posters around (one of the Pope holding a sign “No al Fracking”); also a map of the U.S. pinpointing some of the FERC-regulated projects seeking approval or already approved; there are lots. Last weekend when it threatened rain, a security person even suggested putting up a canopy, which has come in very handy to keep the blazing sun off of us all week. That now takes up more than half the sidewalk.

I told my fellow BXEers I wasn’t going to fast (the very idea sent me into a depression) but I would help in other ways. So I’m doing media work and am having mild success. I’m trying to prime the pump of places like CNN and the Washington Post so they’ll be more likely to cover our big closing event on Sept. 25.

I’m also doing other general support, like driving the van (those of you who know me know that this is the least favorite of my duties) and getting flyers printed, facilitating our meetings as others get too tired to focus. What’s astonishing to me is how at different times these folks – who have had nothing but water and electrolytes for almost 300 hours – have the energy to walk back and forth to the Metro, or, like one day this week, the energy to walk across the Arlington Bridge into DC with the NAACP’s Journey for Justice.

Some of them talk about food constantly, but not in a whiny way, just reminiscing about what they love to eat. In fact, I haven’t heard anyone whine at all, or get more than a tiny bit impatient with each other or anyone else, except for one brief interchange, after which the person quickly apologized. Hell, I get grouchy if I miss one meal!

Many people going by have taken our various leaflets, others not, and then usually with a polite gesture or a smile. The worst is when someone totally ignores me, like I’m not there. I find it very hurtful. Made me think of how homeless people must feel most of the time. Some famous person said the opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference. My fave comment (recounted to me, not experienced directly) was when someone angrily yelled, “Eat food, asshole!” I’m going to try to never ignore homeless persons again.

We’ve also had some incredibly wonderful conversations with a lot of people. They often thank the fasters for their commitment – even the chairman of the FERC Commission said he respected our commitment when he engaged one of our folks this week.

We don’t know what impact the fast will have on FERC’s policies and practices, but we’re pushing forcefully to make it harder for them to carry on business as usual. I hope anyone reading this or hearing this will join us for our breaking fast ceremony on Friday, September 25, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at FERC, 888 1st St. NE. Spread the word to anyone you know living in the DC area.

Activists oppose methane gas, fracking at RI State House

memeA small state with a big heart for resistance, RI once again connects the dots in the struggle against fossil fuel infrastructure.

by Andrew Stewart, reposted from www.rifuture.org

A small group of protestors from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds repeated their opposition to the proposed methane gas power plant in Burrillville. Simultaneous with this event, Governor Raimondo welcomed the Prime Minister of Cape Verde, José Maria Pereira Neves.

Among the protesters was Randall Rose, of Occupy Providence, Dr. Peter Nightingale, of the University of Rhode Island, independent film maker Robert Malin, Green Party activist Greg Geritt. They were offering their protest in solidarity with fasting environmental activists in Washington DC who are staging their action simultaneous with the arrival of Pope Francis. The Catholic leader has made climate change a major focus is his recent encyclical, LAUDATO SI, and is expected to raise the issue during his visit to America and the United Nations this week. The Pope just recently visited Cuba, a country that converted to a sustainable energy power grid and green infrastructure after the fall of the Soviet Union collapsed their petroleum import markets in the early 1990’s.

During her opening remarks, Governor Raimondo emphasized the cultural and economic ties between Rhode Island and Cape Verde. Cape Verde has begun rolling out a sustainable energy program in the past several years, such as opening a solar panel energy park last month that Prime Minister Neves attended. The nation, made up of a chain of islands, stands to sustain extreme damage should the oceans rise significantly due to climate change’s melting of the polar ice caps. A significant portion of the population lives beside the ocean in housing whose foundations would be threatened by erosion. Some of the islands would be completely submerged. Beginning in 2011, the island began an expected nine year program to convert the power grid to renewable resources.

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Protestors outside the room hosting the Prime Minister of Cape Verde.

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A Note From Michael Bagdes-Canning

Michael Bagdes-Canning is a long time fracktivist from Butler County, Pennsylvania. The following is taken from an email Michael wrote this afternoon in response to Steve Norris.

Steven, other fasters, all,

When you wrote, “Many people, FERC employees and passersby, walk past and ignore us.”, it was jarring to me. I wake up every morning and I think of you all. Throughout the day, I think of you. Before I go to bed, I think of you. Sometimes I wake in the night thinking of you. I tell others about what you’re up to. I know that you are fasting for me and others like me. I know that you are fasting for all of us – including those that walk by ignoring you, FERC employees, the FERC Commissioners. I am grateful.

The work that you are doing is both profound and humbling. Confronting the Commissioners in their lair is fierce. Confronting them over and over with the damage they are doing is relentless. Confronting them with an empty stomach, day after day, for weeks on end is heroic, fierce, and relentless.

I cannot believe that you are being ignored. If what you were doing was “one and done” – you’d be ignored. What you guys (and I use that term in a generic way, realizing that some of the most amazing BXEers are not guys in the usual sense of the word) have done (and continue to do) is noticed. Eyes may be averted, but people notice. You are bearing witness but you are also also making others witnesses to the ongoing inaction of FERC – your continuing presence is testimony to FERC’s inaction.

People notice. Many, I’m certain, are uncomfortable and look away but looking away doesn’t make you go away. Others may look away because they realize they should be doing something and aren’t – your action shames them. Others may look away out of guilt, they work for FERC or the industry that pulls the strings. Others may be like me, too often, not really see you because their minds are elsewhere but are vaguely aware that you’re there – and then, suddenly, pulled out of their unconsciousness.

Wendell Berry, in an essay entitled The Commerce of Violence, wrote:

“In the Appalachia coalfields, we mine coal by destroying a mountain, its forest, its waterways, and its human community without counting the destruction as a cost. Our military technicians, our representatives, sit in armchairs and kill our enemies, and our enemies’ children, by remote control. In the Guantánamo prison, guards force their fasting prisoners to live; they do so as routinely as in other circumstances they would kill them.” – ( http://progressive.org/commerce-of-violence#sthash.EFeVfFXU.dpuf )

You guys are reversing that. You are voluntarily fasting to point out the routine destruction our system imposes “by remote control” on communities everywhere.

I’m reading all of the posts – Debbie’s, Thomas’, Ted’s, yours, others. I’m engaged. You’re not ignored in this small borough in western Pennsylvania. My thoughts, my prayers, my dreams are with you. I’m reading all of the posts – Debbie’s, Thomas’s, Ted’s, yours, others. I’m engaged. You’re not ignored in this small borough in western Pennsylvania. My thoughts, my prayers, my dreams are with you.


September 25th At FERC

By Ted Glick

It’s the morning of the twelfth day that I haven’t been eating. The only things I’ve been putting into my body are lots of water, salt, potassium and a multi-vitamin.

How do I feel? Weak, very weak, as do most of the others—about 15 as I write—who are also fasting and intend to do so until September 25th, the day after the people’s pope speaks to Congress. 11 of the 15 are also, like me, on the twelfth day of water-only.

We’re physically weak mainly because of the water-only diet but also because we’ve been conducting this hunger strike on the sidewalk in the hot sun in front of FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, from 7 am to 6 pm every work day. We’ve been leafletting and talking to FERC employees, including, several days ago, Norman Bay, the chairperson. We’ve been leafletting and talking to passers-by and people who come to visit, as have Tim DeChristoper, Medea Benjamin, “No Impact Man” Colin Beavan, local high school students, and more.

We’ve been using white boards to make signs that we change as the days go by. We’ve been putting up quotes from Pope Francis and Gandhi. Every morning part of our routine is to change the number of the days that we’ve been fasting on the signs that say, “Day ___ of 18-Day Hunger Strike for No New Permits for Fossil Fuel Infrastructure.”

We’ve also been traveling around DC. We’ve gone to important local demonstrations, several times to the site of a sister fast being conducted by the Franciscan Action Network, and meetings.

All of these activities are taking a physical toll, adding to the impact of not eating.

Spiritually, however, we’re a very strong group. Every day we gather together outside of FERC in the morning and the afternoon to meet and go over everything that has happened or is happening that day. We always begin by going around our sacred circle with each faster reporting on how they are doing. Sometimes individual fasters have reported problems, some pretty serious, as far as how they are doing. So far we have been able to help everyone in those situations to get over them and continue on, sometimes aided by local nurses who have volunteered their services for free.

At the end of each meeting, we join hands for a minute or more of silent breathing together and communal strengthening, and it always works.

Two-thirds of the way through this ordeal, we’re seeing the end of it. We’re starting to talk about how to come off the fast in a way that doesn’t do damage to your digestive system. I shared yesterday my nine-day plan—one day of transitioning back for every two days of fasting– for how to do so based on my past fasting experiences.

The fast will end this coming Friday, September 25th, at 12 noon in front of FERC, the day after Pope Francis speaks before Congress. We will end it by breaking and sharing bread together—a very small piece for each of us—and with the many hundreds or more people we hope will join us. We are inviting people who do so who can to bring a healthy loaf of bread to share so that, together, we will break bread together there on First St. NE, affirming life and community and our determination to keep at it until we have won.

We need people to join us on the 25th not so much to support us but to make a strong statement to FERC, and all those who will learn of our action, about the need for FERC to heed our demand: No New Permits for Fossil Fuel Infrastructure.

Some of the fasters got into the monthly meeting of the FERC Commissioners a few days ago, the meetings BXE has been attending and speaking out at for a year. One of them stayed throughout it, and he reported on how the Commissioners were talking about how electrical power companies need to be making plans to switch to gas as their fuel source going forward. Much of that would be fracked gas. This is consistent with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan projections and the very serious economic problems being experienced by the coal industry.

The Commissioners did not talk about the need for power companies to get serious about switching to wind or solar energy as their power source, even though 1) they are price-competitive with coal and gas, 2) they are actually clean and non-polluting, no water contamination, no poisoning of the air and land, and 3) they don’t leak methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more powerful than CO2 over a 20 year period.

It has become very clear that a, if not the, central battle to prevent worldwide climate catastrophe is the battle over whether natural gas, increasingly fracked gas, or renewables is going to become the primary electrical power source in the next decade. FERC Commissioners are going all-in on an expansion of fracking infrastructure and exporting the stuff around the world.

This decision must not go unchallenged, and it is not. There is a growing and connecting national movement, centered along the east coast right now, that is taking on FERC, in DC and in the scores and scores, maybe hundreds, of local communities where people are organizing to fight new fracking infrastructure. Many more need to join this fight, and now.

Let’s make September 25th at FERC in DC, following upon the big Climate Justice rally September 24th on the mall as the Pope speaks to Congress, the next major manifestation of our determination to prevent FERC from continuing to poison local communities and our threatened climate. In the words of Pope Francis, “There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.”

Wake up FERC!

Ted Glick is the National Campaign Coordinator of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Past writings and others information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.

Personal Update From Faster Steve Norris

Steve Norris of Fairview, NC sent the email below to friends and supporters this morning.

NPR ohoto of SteveLee Stewart, a 28 year old faster wise beyond his years, wrote:  “To fast is absurd.” But as Gandhi said:  “Fasting is the purest form of prayer.”

Being here, eating no food for 18 days, has taken me down a fascinating and disorienting rabbit hole, where “normal” appears absurd and even suicidal, and where unrealistic may be our only way out. I recall hearing Starhawk saying something like this many years ago. “The time for reasonable is past,” she said. But I have struggled to make sense of this. The fast is a journey into unreasonable.

The other day was hot on the sidewalk in front of FERC, I was talking with a guy I dislike – he dominates conversation and is loud and bombastic. He mentioned something about money in the middle of our conversation, but I got so tired of him after 15 minutes I got up and, so as not to appear impolite, distributed fliers to passersby on the sidewalk. He continued talking to another faster, but when he decided to leave, I asked if he was serious about donating money. He hemmed and hawed, but we talked for a minute about the $1000 BXE wanted to give to Lincoln Temple, the very poor African American Church which generously has been providing us space for sleeping.  He left, and I forgot about him. But half an hour later he returned and gave me an envelope with $1000 in cash.  “Use this for whatever BXE needs.”  We’ve given it to the minister of Lincoln Temple.

On Thursday twenty year old Berenice Tomkins, a college student, went into the “open” FERC commissioners meeting, which does not allow public comment. The five polished FERC Commissioners are the corrupt decision makers in this  powerful regulatory agency which makes life and death decisions for communities and people all over the country. Most of us are not allowed entry because we have disrupted meetings in the past, but this was Berenice’s first time, so she got in. She wasn’t sure what to do and waited through the incomprehensible conversations of the Commissioners, which in a coded language talk about decisions already made behind closed doors. When they started talking about forest fire mitigation she could no longer hold her tongue. She stood up and with a twenty year old’s strong voice took over the meeting: ” What are you talking about? It’s your policies which are creating the climate crisis, and you can’t mitigate the fires without talking about the climate crisis?” She talked for a minute or so until until FERC  Security grabbed her arm and dragged her out. She was crying and proud as she came out.

As we were passing out fliers and attempting to engage FERC workers on their way into the building, a female security guard in an adjacent building next to FERC told us :  “I wish everyone had your kind of courage.”

Ted Glick managed on Wednesday to stop FERC Commission Chairperson Norman Bay on the sidewalk on his way to lunch. He told Ted he respected us, and thought the fast was okay, but did not like our monthly disruptions. He also repeated what other FERC employees said, that if we want to stop fracking FERC is the wrong target. According to Bay all the natural gas infrastructure FERC permits, even though it is needed to transport the gas, has nothing to do with fracking. The conversation was ended curtly by Commissioner Bay, but clearly he felt the heat.

My sense from this conversation and others we have had with FERC employees is that many of them understand that that climate change is real and dangerous, that many communities are being badly hurt, but that because of our legal structures, because of their narrow fssil fuel culture, and because they disbelieve in viable alternatives, their minds are wedded to the madness of more fossil fuels.

Elliot Grohman, the bent shouldered and clumsy head of the Homeland Security detail which in past protests at FERC has arrested 75 of us showed up on Wednesday. He actually seems to like and respect us. “Anything you guys need?” he asked pleasantly and in a way that sounded genuinely concerned (other security people have done this too).  “No”, I replied. And then I asked “How are you doing?” He talked for about 15 minutes about organizing security for the Pope’s visit, which for the police is on the scale of a presidential inauguration. I felt sorry for him.

Many people, FERC employees and passersby, walk past and ignore us. But many also stop and talk, ask what we are doing, give us a victory signs, say “Thanks” or “God bless you”, ask for a flier, or simply smile. Many have also stopped and asked probing and important questions, thanking us when they leave. A group of students from a nearby high school in a peace studies class came by, and wanted to learn more. We took them with us to CNN headquarters which is next door to FERC. We were trying to deliver a letter to CNN asking for the moderator of CNN sponsored Republican  Presidential debate to ask the candidates about climate change. CNN refused to talk with us or accept the letter. So on the way out, in the fancy cavernous and echoing CNN lobby we chanted “CNN: Ask about climate change,” giving these youngsters a small taste of real world activism.

So where does all of this lead? What will all the people we have touched in various ways, all of the silent people who have walked past but read our signs saying “Day 12 of 18 Day Hunger Strike, all the police, all the FERC employees, and others – what will they do with this? Is our fast an absurd prayer which they will hear and which will touch their hearts? Will it enable them to see outside of the suicidal trance many still inhabit and which most world leaders, including our own, still embrace?

On September 24 Pope Francis speaks to the US Congress. On the next day, with the help of some clergy, we are planning a ceremony/action at noon in which we will attempt to deliver to Commissioner Bay five copies of the Pope’s encyclical, Laudato Si (Care for Our Common Home) calling for a rapid transition from fossil fuels to renewables, and for social, economic and racial justice. If possible, please join us.


A photo of me at NPR is attached: As you can see I am doing very well. Shockingly, after 11 days without food, I feel almost normal. except for sometimes intense fatigue when I exert myself too much. I’ve lost about 12 pounds. Last evening I walked about 2.5 miles from FERC to Lincoln Temple, and was okay at the end.

Here’s some photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/coolrevolution/sets/72157656438333594

Here’s more details about how we are doing, from Ted Glick’s Future Hope Columns:

DONATIONS:  BXE needs to raise more money to support the fast, and for our ongoing future work. If you can, please consider a tax-exempt donation through BXE website,  or a (non-exempt) check to me at 372Sharon Rd, Fairview, NC 28730. The website is: https://beyondextremeenergy.org/

Ellen Barfield Reports On “Hump Day” At The Fast For No New Permits

DSC_1900by Ellen Barfield

I’m the Beyond Extreme Energy faster at the Federal Energy “Regulatory” Commission who is NOT taking water only, but juice, because I have to buzz back and forth to Baltimore every night to look after my elderly husband, and also dash to various meetings of other orgs I work with. But on the 9th day, over the HUMP!! of our fast I too am feeling muzzy-headed, spacing out on other responsibilities, dealing with tiredness. But the strong solidarity of our little group, and the kind support from all kinds of folks all over the place, is such a bond, and the gathering energy for the Pope’s visit and all the activities in support of the environment and against climate crisis is so inspiring, that I have no doubt this is what I need to be doing.

The FERC employees are getting to know us and smiling and even some of them talking though they’ve been told not to. BXE folks around the country are fasting during daylight Ramadan-style, or for a day or several, or a few days a week. Frontline community members who resist fracking projects damaging their towns and threatening their families are sharing their stories with us and helping us create quilt squares for a visual representation of the BXE network.  We 12 fasters at FERC check-in twice a day for calendar updates and to see how we’re doing physically and spiritually, and to plan all the documents and events we have coming up. We hold hands in a circle at the end of each meeting, and the strength is amazing.

We advocate FERC shifting from facilitating extreme fossil fuel extraction to green renewables, and the workers  there keeping their jobs and helping move the nation toward zero emissions. The idea of economic conversion, changing existing damaging jobs to good life-affirming jobs with government support for re-training and transition, is something I’ve understood and discussed ever since my first activist work seeking to change the nuclear weapons complex. An editorial cartoon I inspired back then shows a woman burying a bomb which grows up to be a windmill. Fracking towers should also become windmills, and workers in the fracking industry, and the government regulators at the Federal GREEN Energy Regulatory Commission, can do jobs they feel proud of helping us shift our economy and infrastructure. And new jobs installing wind and solar arrays and retrofitting existing buildings for efficiency will build the new economy.

When the Pope speaks to Congress next week, and so many citizens listen and endorse his message, we BXE fasters will be adding our energy to many other faith and environmental leaders and tens of thousands of citizens to push the government beyond its resistance to going green. We have no illusions green change is around the corner, but the Pope’s visit is a terrific opportunity to rally and increase the pressure for that change.

For more information on BXE and the fast, and to support BXE, go to https://beyondextremeenergy.org/september-fast-at-ferc-for-no-new-permits/

Peace, Ellen Barfield

Fast For No New Permits Supports The Dyett 12

BXE’s Fast For No New Permits expresses its solidarity with the Dyett hunger strikers.


Washington, DC –  Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) fasted in solidarity with organizers and hunger strikers working to reopen the Dyett highschool with a green energy curriculum. This was the 9th day of the BXE fast and the 30th day of the Dyett hunger strike. BXE is fasting at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) demanding an end to all new fossil fuel infrastructure permits. FERC’s continued permitting of fossil fuel projects disproportionately impacts poor folks and people of color due to project placement (like many LNG terminals in the Gulf South that need FERC approval) and climate change (like super-storms Katrina & Sandy).The Dyett hunger strikers are demanding that their high school, in a mostly black area of Chicago, be reopened with a green energy curriculum. After years of organizing and numerous days without eating, their school will be reopened, but not with the requested curriculum—thus, their hunger strike continues. The courage of the Dyett hunger strikers, including Cathy Dale and Jeanette Taylor-Ramann who had to end their strike due to health concerns, has inspired BXE fasters to keep going, despite weakness, dizziness, hunger, and other pains.

BXE sees the fight for climate justice at FERC as inextricably tied to the fight of poor, black, and brown communities against the school to prison pipeline and the privatization of education. They are both symptoms of the same system that prioritizes private profit at the expense of people and the earth. Furthermore, many FERC approved projects are placed right next to threatened schools.

BXE sent this letter to the Dyett organizers and hunger strikers:

Dear Dyett 12 and all working to save Dyett School,

Twelve people from Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE), ages 19-72, are undertaking an 18 day water only fast/hunger strike from September 8-25 at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). We would like to express our deepest gratitude for the work that you are doing to Save Dyett High School and take back power in the south side of Chicago. We support all of your demands including a green technology curriculum, an important piece of addressing climate justice. Your hunger strike, long term organizing, and all of your actions are an inspiration to our group and many others across the country.

More about Our Fast at FERC:

In addition to the 12 full time fasters, others are undertaking shorter fasts in their communities or at FERC. The FERC is a powerful regulatory agency that is causing irreparable damage to the nation, and especially those living next to fracking wells and fracking infrastructure (like pipelines, compressor stations, gas refineries, and export terminals). We have written letters, lobbied, gone to meetings, talked to Congress, and carried out non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to stop that harm. In response FERC has ignored us all, and actively helped corporations win approval of project after project. FERC uses its power to regulate us, the public, while providing cover for industry as it tries to increase its profits while it endangers our communities and the earth.

Because nothing else has worked to change FERC’s policies, we are now engaged in an 18-day water-only fast to demand NO NEW PERMITS for industry until FERC prioritizes wind/solar/renewables, not fossil fuels. See more at BeyondExtremeEnergy.org.

Our Struggles Are Connected:

We believe that climate change cannot be addressed in isolation from other movements and struggles. Whether we look at New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, industrial polluters like tar sands refineries or trash incinerators placed in black and brown urban areas across the country, starvation and famine in the underdeveloped world as a result of drought, or so many other examples around the world, climate change impacts people of color and poor communities most. Climate change is the result of hundreds of years of capitalism, colonialism, white-supremacy, and patriarchy. These same forces also create poverty, homelessness, gentrification, food deserts, disease, mass incarceration, and inequality in all parts of society, notably in education. The privatization of schools in the United States is an unconscionable problem, often funded by the same banks and investors that fund the fossil fuel industry. You are a leading example of how to challenge the powers that be and reclaim control.

In solidarity,

Beyond Extreme Energy Fasters

More Truthtelling At The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Monthly Meeting

Francis Eatherington of Roseburg, OR is removed from FERC’s public meeting after trying to communicate to commissioners her concerns about the Pacific Connector Pipeline.

by Melinda Tuhus

Today’s monthly Federal Energy Regulatory Commission meeting marks the one year anniversary that Beyond Extreme Energy has been attending these meetings and raising the issue of FERC’s approval of almost all fracked gas infrastructure projects that come before the agency. A few fasters and other supporters who had never attended before were able to get in, while the “regulars” were shunted to another room to watch the proceedings on video.

Francis Eatherington came all the way from Oregon to try to address the commissioners about the Pacific Connector Pipeline route. As the meeting was about to start, she stood and said, “You have to listen to me. Wildland fires are burning right over the proposed pipeline route. FERC never considered the dangers of this common occurrence in southwest Oregon.” The wildfire season has been extended for several weeks in recent years, burning many more acres, due to climate change. She expressed concern for the firefighters risking their lives already, and moreso if they have to contend with possible gas explosions.

In response to her statement, she was removed from the building by security.

In solidarity with the members of Beyond Extreme Energy who are conducting an 18-day, water-only fast, Eatherington began a juice fast today until September 25.

Tighe Berry, a member of Code Pink, simply stood up and asked why Eatherington was being removed. “She came all the way from Oregon” to speak to the commissioners, he said. “This is supposed to be a public meeting, but you don’t let the public speak. You could hold your meeting in a closet.”

Another BXE faster who got into the meeting was Berenice Thompkins. She spoke passionately about the dangers of the climate crisis exacerbated by drilling and burning fracked gas, and of the damage to communities forced to host these projects. She was also escorted out.

Video from the meeting and interviews with Eatherington and Thompkins:

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