Activists Disrupt Senate Hearing of Trump’s Corrupt, Climate-Denying FERC Nominee

For Immediate Release:

Washington DC – At this Morning’s hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee three activists from Beyond Extreme Energy were arrested while speaking in opposition to Bernard McNamee, who is Trump’s latest Republican nominee to be a Commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

This action put the exclamation point on the more than 25,000 signatures and letters gathered to oppose McNamee’s nomination.

McNamee is a long-time fossil fuel insider and climate denier. He has worked as a lawyer for energy companies, was the energy spokesperson for the conservative think tank, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (funded by Exxon-Mobil and Chevron), and an energy advisor for Senator Ted Cruz, who introduced him at today’s hearing.

Last summer McNamee was instrumental in drafting policy with Energy Secretary Rick Perry to have ratepayers bail out ailing nuclear and coal plants owned by political allies of Donald Trump. When this radical plan was unanimously rejected 5-0 by FERC, McNamee was again part of crafting a plan to use the War Powers Act to force the same subsidy through. That radical plan raised the concern of many members of the ENR Committee, but Politico reports that it was seen as a key “litmus test” for Mcnamee’s nomination to FERC.

BXE and other activists contend that by putting McNamee in a position of power at FERC Trump is seeking to take direct political control of what is supposed to be an independent government agency, all while forcing American ratepayers to buy power from uneconomical power plants that would raise costs on U.S. consumers by billions of dollars per year. Preliminary estimates range from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity projection of about $4 billion per year, to The Brattle Group’s estimate of between $9.7 billion and $17.2 billion per year.

A BXE activist stood up during the hearing, interrupting McNamee as he gave his personal introduction to say “Members of the committee, I have to object to this nominee. I ask you to think about conflict of interest and what a terrible example this nominee is with all his connections to fossil fuel industries.” As he was removed from the hearing room he continued: “Think about all the victims of eminent domain, and the refugees and those killed by the fires and hurricanes. Vote NO ON MCNAMEE.”

Two additional BXE members stood and held a banner reading “Vote No On McNamee!”
All three were taken out of the hearing room and arrested, but have since been released after paying a small fine.

The ENR Committee is to vote soon after Thanksgiving on McNamee and the other nominees to other government agencies. Senator Murkowski (AK) has stated that the decision will go before the full Senate in December.

Activists have been speaking out in opposition to McNamee for weeks — in addition to the tens of thousands of signatures, activists collected letters from citizens and endorsements from more than 100 organizations, and compiled an impressive list of detailed questions and concerns about the nominee. Shortly before Halloween, these same three activists who were arrested today (and others) visited the offices of most members of the ENR Committee dressed as “Super Villians for FERC,” in an action that added a little humor to the question of why they oppose this nomination (video).

Essay from a Fourth Grade Michigan Student: “The Pipelines Should Not Be Built”

Just as climate change is the overwhelming challenge of our future, so too are our children the hope and promise of our future.  After attending the Climate Reality Training last October, I showed my fourth grade students a slide show on climate change.  I told them that they were not powerless to make a difference so when we heard about the Rover Pipeline leaking, they wanted to do something.  I directed them to do some research and then write opinion papers to send to newspapers and decision makers.  Here is one of those papers written by one of my students.

–Michele Wilkins Bailey, Ann Arbor, MI


There is a big argument going on in Michigan. The Rover and Nexus Pipelines are natural gas pipelines that use natural gas from sources in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. It is still being debated whether they should continue to be built in Michigan, or stopped. My opinion is that the pipelines should NOT be built. The process used to harvest natural gas, fracking, uses priceless freshwater and contaminates groundwater with bad toxins, as well as hurting the wildlife. During fracking, companies do not need to show the chemicals they use, which is another big danger. The pipelines will increase pollution and climate change.

One reason the pipelines should not be built is that fresh water is being used and contaminated. During fracking, companies use about 70 gallons of water a minute to get natural gas (Slagter, Ann Arbor News, 10/13/17), infecting the water with toxins. Toxins and chemicals also can spill out into drinkable freshwater sources such as the Huron River, where many of us get our water from. The reason the Rover Pipeline was stopped is because it leaked into wetlands near Dexter, Michigan, potentially causing horrible diseases from the poisonous chemicals. Wildlife such as plants and animals in the areas where water is polluted may die. The pipelines are a threat to our water.

When companies frack for gas, it is not required that they show the chemicals they use. If people get sick from leaks, doctors may not know what patients are sick from, because they do not know what chemicals are causing the effects. Toxic and forbidden substances should not be used without our knowing. This is a big danger for the community. Different chemicals are used in different companies and released in different water sources. Some common substances have been found: Acids, proppants (they open cracks in stone), clay stabilizers (preventing clay and soil from blocking cracks), and many others are some examples.

Another reason the pipelines should be stopped is they will cause more pollution and climate change. Fracking puts dangerous chemicals into the water and natural gas puts carbon dioxide into the air. Installing the pipelines will require cutting down more trees, which will result in less intake of carbon dioxide, also increasing climate change. Renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and water power are much greener options and are never-ending, so they do the exact opposite of polluting.

The Rover Pipeline Safety Commitment is: “Safety is our main goal. We want to provide safe and reliable natural gas service to communities.” I do not think they would be doing this project if they were completely committed to safety. In just the past two years, twelve people have died and ten have been injured from exploding pipelines (“Green America Magazine”, 2017). Along with contaminated water and pollution, the outcome of this project is neither safe nor healthy.

By now, I’m sure you have come over to the green side. Obviously, everyone wants clean water, truthful information about their drinking water, and a non-polluted Earth. Now, it’s time to take action. Do your part. Put up posters. You can even do what I did-write an argument and send it to the authorities. The Rover and Nexus Pipelines must be stopped!

Clara Paulson
4th Grade Student
Ann Arbor, MI

FERC Disrupted!

by Molly Dunton, Earthworks

On Thursday, January 18th, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held it’s monthly meeting at its sleek office building in Northeast DC. As FERC staff, industry reps, and members of the press filed in, the mood in the room was noticeably jubilant. Hushed conversations took place between first time attendees, who wondered out loud how these meetings work, while veteran staff debated who would win the weekend’s football games. At the top of the hour, a silence fell over the room as the Commissioners took their seats at a large round table. The livestream kicked on as the FERC Secretary opened the meeting by reading an excerpt from the Sunshine Act*:

“Members of the public are invited to observe, which includes attending, listening, and taking notes, but does not include participating in the meeting or addressing the Commission.”

Secretary Bose finished her attempt to outlaw public participation in the meeting, banged her gavel, and hurried on to the agenda, which included proposals to approve several permits and certificates for infrastructure projects our nation does not need. It was then, after being told that I was allowed to witness but not engage with matters directly harming people and places I care about, that I decided to stand up and actively participate in this public meeting.

My name is Molly Dunton and I live and work in DC, not far from FERC headquarters. I have the pleasure of working for the national environmental non-profit Earthworks, and I have the privilege of working with residents around the country that have been negatively impacted by extreme energy development. In other words, my job involves supporting communities that have been forsaken by FERC in the name of corporate profits. I may not live in a frontline or fenceline community, but I carry the voices of my partners on the the front lines with me into my work. My home is not currently threatened by one of FERC’s reckless project approvals, but when might it be? Regardless of how much or how little physical stake any of us has in a given project on FERC’s docket, this fight is personal.

FERC’s continued assault on American communities is not only unsustainable and financially unviable, its unjust. What’s worse, barring the public from participating in the proceedings that decide our collective fate has created a culture of invincibility at FERC. When the opportunity arose to attend the January FERC meeting with our partner Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE), I jumped at the chance to disrupt these opaque proceedings and challenge that notion of invincibility. That morning, I was a bit intimidated about entering a federal building knowing I would not be leaving on my own accord, but whatever apprehension I felt was quickly replaced by confidence and strength instilled in me by those that had gone before and others who showed up to support us.

BXE has been disrupting FERC meetings on a regular basis for years, and has perfected an almost formulaic approach: 1) know your message, 2) keep it short and sweet, and 3) disrupt early in the proceedings before Commissioners have a chance to rush through their docket and conclude. As mentioned earlier, as soon as I was told by the FERC Secretary that I and other members of the public would never be given the chance to speak or ask questions during these meetings, I knew it was my chance to stand up, reclaim that space, and speak my truth to their purported power. My statement, yelled above the chaos that erupted in the room, was as follows:

“FERC recently announced it would review its process for pipelines. We the people have drafted for your consideration an 8 point plan for a pipeline review process where the wellbeing of people and the environment actually matter.”

At this point, I attempted to hand our plan to the Commissioners. Needless to say, they did not accept. As I was escorted out of the room by security, I could still actively participate in the non-participatory meeting, so I continued with increased urgency in my voice:

“Protect our resources! Protect our women! Protect our children! Stop being a rubber stamp for industry!”

(Photo Credit: Phil Ateto)

The past year has been difficult for our movement to say the least. Beyond FERC, our leaders are increasingly out of touch with the on the ground reality of their policies. The FERC meeting on January 18th provided me with something I had been desperately seeking: a chance to look those leaders unwaveringly in the eye and try to hold them accountable. Being able to scream at corrupt FERC Commissioners and staff, and call them out for servicing the fossil fuel industry over the American people, was cathartic. Knowing that my actions had contributed to challenging FERC’s paradigm, even in some small way, was uplifting and empowering, feelings that have been hard to come by as of late.

My disruption was brief, maybe 30 seconds, and the Commission resumed the meeting almost immediately. But a few minutes later, my co-conspirator and from West Virginia stood up to take her turn. And next month, there will be more allies signing up to participate in FERC’s regular meeting. So long as FERC continues to approve projects that put profits before people, and continue to ignore the voices of those it truly works for, we the people will continue standing up and speaking out.

*The Government in the Sunshine Act was passed by Congress in 1976 with the goal of creating more transparency within government agencies and federal commissions. The full text of the section that pertains to meeting transparency can be found below.

  • 375.203   Open meetings.

(a) General rule. Except as provided in §375.206, meetings of the Commission will be open meetings.

(b) Public participation in open meetings. (1) Members of the public are invited to listen and observe at open meetings.

(i) “Observe” does not include participation or disruptive conduct, and persons engaging in such conduct will be removed from the meeting.

(ii) The right of the public to observe open meetings does not alter those rules which relate to the filing of motions, pleadings, or other documents. Unless such pleadings conform to the other procedural requirements, pleadings based upon comments or discussions at open meetings, as a general rule, will not become part of the official record, will receive no consideration, and no further action by the Commission will be taken thereon.

(2) To the extent their use does not interfere with the conduct of open meetings, electronic audio and visual recording equipment may be used by a seated observer at an open meeting.

(c) Physical arrangements. The Secretary shall be responsible for seeing that ample space, sufficient visibility, and adequate acoustics are provided for public observation of open meetings.

[45 FR 21217, Apr. 1, 1980, as amended at 80 FR 13225, Mar. 13, 2015]

 

BXE’s Response to FERC’s Upcoming Review of Pipeline Permitting Process

Response of Beyond Extreme Energy to the statement of the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that the agency will review its approval process for interstate gas pipelines. 

If FERC were an agency which truly put the public interest first, the announced plan to review their process for approving pipelines would be a welcome development. But facts don’t lie: over the past 30 years FERC has granted permits for all but two proposed interstate gas pipelines. It is a rubber stamp agency, and it has been this through both Democratic and Republican administrations.

This announced plan comes on the heels of FERC’s efforts in New York to override the rights of states to make decisions on air and water permits for proposed pipelines. It comes as FERC considers Rick Perry’s order that they change regulatory rules and increase costs to consumers so that coal and nuclear power are given special privileges in the supposedly fuel source neutral, FERC-regulated market.

The “need” as far as new gas pipelines is to stop building them and get serious about the urgently-needed shift to renewables. But all signs indicate FERC is going from bad to worse. Instead of moving forward into the 21st century world of wind, solar and other renewables, the Trump-appointed FERC leaders want things to go backwards to the fossil fuel-dominated 20th century. We don’t trust them.

WANTED: VIDEOGRAPHER FOR BEYOND EXTREME ENERGY (BXE) VIDEO PROJECT

Beyond Extreme Energy is looking for an experienced and committed videographer to put together several short, popular education videos about FERC and the struggle to replace it. We have put together an overview, found below, of the areas we want the videos to cover.

The final product as currently envisioned, although none of this is set in stone, would be a series of 1-5 min videos on the topics indicated in the outline below. The videos would target the unengaged public and would be able to be viewed both separately or strung together into a single, longer video.

Money: We are committed to raising the funds necessary for this popular education project. How much we pay the videographer  will be negotiable and based on the needs of the person doing the work, their experience doing videos, and discussions with BXE .

One immediate need is a short, one minute or so trailer to help with fundraising. A videographer who could put that together soon would be a big plus.

Timeframe: We would like this work to move forward as soon as possible. We would like the trailer to be done ASAP and the videos to start coming out in the early part of 2018.

Work needed: BXE has access to a significant amount of footage already available, going back to our formation over three years ago. The primary need is NOT for a person to travel to conduct interviews or film actions; the need is for creative editing of already existing material.

Interested?: If you are a videographer, or if you know someone who is, please make contact with BXE by emailing Lee Stewart at Actions@BeyondExtremeEnergy.org .

Overview of Video Content

What is FERC?

FERC, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is the most dangerous federal agency that you’ve never heard of. They can seize your property, send armed marshals to your door without a warrant, poison your water and air, and destroy our climate, and no Mayor, Governor, Senator, or Member of Congress can make them stop.

But you can.

FERC was created almost half a century ago by a law known as the Natural Gas Act. Back then, in the 1970s, we didn’t know how dangerous climate change was (though #ExxonKnew). Most American’s didn’t use natural gas for heat or power.  So sweeping authority over where and how to build big gas projects like pipelines, power plants and compressor stations was all given to this one agency.

Since we didn’t need a lot of new pipelines or projects, FERC alone was given authority to review and permit them. Over the last 30 years, they have turned down only one!

Frontline Struggles

This should be a series of profiles, like on this site: http://fireriverfilms.com/bayoubridge/ BXE needs to talk about who are the right people to profile, but 2-4 short ones from people who’ve come to speak at FERC rallies before is a possible plan. We might even have most of the footage we need from videos of past FERC actions, like pancakes not pipelines and sweet potatoes not pipelines.

Real emphasis should be given to the fracking and now gas export boom. That this is a gold-rush mentality where a lot of companies (ETP, Spectra, Duke, Dominion, etc) try to get rich quick, and don’t care who they hurt to do it.

Climate Change, Methane, FERC, and You

To stop climate change, scientists tell us that more than 80% of proven coal, gas and oil reserves need to stay in the ground. That means an almost immediate halt to new gas & oil wells, coal mines, and especially to extreme energy sources like fracked gas and tar sands oil.

Fracked gas is a double-whammy to the climate. First, it leaks – from wells, from pipelines, compressor stations and every part of the supply chain. And when it leaks, that methane (gas is 90% or more methane) is 86 times more powerful at over-heating our climate than regular old CO2. Second, once gas gets where it’s going in the pipeline, it still has to be burned – where it releases more CO2. When you combine the two effects together – leaking methane and the climate impact of burning gas – it’s as bad or worse for the climate than burning coal.

Amazingly, FERC gives short shrift to those impacts when it considers new projects. But in recent months, court cases have started to pressure FERC to consider the climate impacts of fracking wells, pipelines, and power plants. But it’s not enough, and it’s too slow. Until FERC starts saying NO to all new pipelines and gas projects proposed (instead of YES to 100%) it won’t be enough. And their refusal to act creates danger for ALL of us, as climate disruption drives rising seas, makes storms, droughts, floods and wildfires more extreme, and threatens our homes and communities – no matter where we live.

 

Vision

The 100% Renewable energy future we need ASAP will require a big, connected energy grid powered primarily by a LOT more solar and wind energy. Ironically, if we want to build clean energy infrastructure fast, and also compel big investments in efficiency and energy conservation, FERC could be the perfect ally.
FERC reviews plans for how the electric grid is connected. FERC can say no to new fossil fuel infrastructure instead of yes. Like a powerful Jedi from the Star Wars Movies: FERC can be a force for good, or evil.

But given that FERC as we know it is owned and paid for by the fossil fuel industry, they’re unlikely to turn away from the dark side. That’s where we come in; by taking action together, collectively and in coordination; by pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable for FERC to consider and what we’re willing to risk to stop climate change and pollution, we can force FERC to change, or force it to be replaced by an agency that values people over profit, and the planet over polluters.

What can we do?

Three things:

1) get involved and support the dozens of frontline communities battling gas projects reviewed or already approved by FERC right now. The battle is joined, come and join us!

2) Speak up – call your Representative and Senators and tell them what you’ve learned about FERC. Ask them to meet with local impacted groups in your community and hear our concerns. Join us at actions in DC at FERC’s headquarters or related targets and support BXE’s efforts to make the resistance visible at all levels.

3) Because FERC will not say no, and courts and state regulators are often too slow to stop the harms created by these projects, we need to be prepared to risk more. We can’t wait for politicians and experts to save us – we need to get out of our houses and take direct action. That can look like a lot of different things: a mass demonstration, an encampment, a sit-in, a lockdown and more are all different kinds of direct action. What’s important is our willingness to act in solidarity with our neighbors and other communities on the frontlines of pollution.

Join us today to take action.

Fighting White Supremacy with Melinda Tuhus

Beyond Extreme Energy organizer Melinda Tuhus will be leading a conference call on an experience she had working against white supremacy in New Haven, CT.  This call is open to everyone, regardless of past, present, or future involvement with Beyond Extreme Energy.

The call will be from 7pm ET to 8pm ET on Tuesday, October 3rd.

Call-In: 302-202-1108
Code: 950727

Below is a description from Melinda of the experience to be shared and discussed.

“On July 8, about 150 anti-racist activists came to the New Haven Green to shut down a planned rally featuring the leader of the Proud Boys, Augustus Invictus. He never showed up and only a handful of Proud Boys came to the Green. The anti-white supremacists were a mix of SURJ members, generally progressive New Haven activists, and local and out of town antifas. Although SURJ members said there had been an agreement with antifas to keep 15 feet away from the Proud Boys and to shout them down, some antifas (especially a few from out of town) physically attacked a couple of them. When the police massively intervened, they ended up arresting two white out of town antifas and two local African American activists, who had merely tried to talk to the Proud Boys.

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(Image from the New Haven Register)

The SURJ member identified as the leader got death threats and a lot of criticism from other SURJ members. Some of the local antifa said they had never agreed to the non-violence guidelines. At a follow-up SURJ meeting the question was asked why we partnered with a white group (antifa) when we say we exist to respond to the requests of POC (groups or individuals) for solidarity. The progressive New Haven community is supporting the local activists as they go to court. There is not agreement on how much to support the folks arrested for assaulting people.

Questions raised include if and how to support anyone arrested during a political action; how to support anti-racist activists who may not make the best decisions rather than criticize them, and how to work (form united front) with people with whom we have serious disagreements but also with whom we agree on larger goals.”

While VA Dem. Governor Candidate Spreads Falsehoods about Pipeline Permitting, Northern Virginia Residents Apply Pressure Through Postcard Campaign!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

LOUDOUN COUNTY, VA–Virginia citizens against fracked gas pipelines send Gubernatorial Candidate Ralph Northam nearly 300 “Hear Our Voice” postcards from Loudoun County. Kamie Bledsoe, environmental activist member of 350 Loudoun, started the post card campaign shortly after Tom Perriello lost the Democratic Primary. Tom Perriello came out against the new proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline. But, Ralph Northam, despite taking the Hippocratic Oath in his training as a medical doctor, failed to oppose the pipelines and in an interview on a conservative radio station stated that governors cannot take a position against pipelines.  Regrettably, Dr. Northam is mistaken. The governors of New York and Maryland have come out against fracked gas pipelines. In fact, Lieutenant Governor candidate Justin Fairfax and at least ¾ of candidates running for the VA House of Delegates have also come out against the pipelines. Dr. Northam’s position on pipelines is contrary to the National Democratic platform to promote renewable sources of energy.

Northam 2

Although the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is tasked with national permitting for the pipelines, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, under the direction of the governor, can deny water quality permits for the projects and prevent them from being built. This authority is stipulated in the Clean Water Act, was used by New York’s Gov. Cuomo to stop the Constitution Pipeline, and was recently upheld in court.

Ms. Bledsoe and colleagues easily collected postcards from various venues including public events, environmental events, and civic meetings. People from all walks of life and from all political parties signed postcards. They were motivated by many different factors including the abuse of Eminent Domain for private gain, pollution of drinking water sources, climate change impact from methane of pipeline infrastructure, tying up financial capital and resources for fossil fuel projects instead of renewable energy projects.

Natalie Pien signed a post card because “Unneeded fracked gas pipelines devastate our environment, exacerbate climate change, and harm human health. Dr. Northam must honor the Hippocratic Oath and oppose the new pipelines.”

The objective of this post card campaign is to elevate the importance of the pipelines issue to Virginia citizens across the Commonwealth. The ultimate goal is that Mr. Northam change his position to oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Members of 350 Loudoun have been showing up at Northam’s campaign events in Northern Virginia trying to educate the public and the politicians on the pipelines, and trying to get Northam to change his stance. At a recent such event, activists dressed in Wizard of Oz costumes and called on Northam to find the heart, brain, and nerve to come out against the pipelines.

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