No 2nd Term for FERC’s Colette Honorable

April 28, 2017
By Michael Brooks

(https://www.rtoinsider.com/ferc-colette-honorable-42235/)

FERC Commissioner Colette Honorable announced Friday she will not seek a second term on the commission. Her current term expires June 30.

“After much prayer and consideration, I’ve decided not to pursue another term at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” Honorable said in a statement. “I appreciate the strong bipartisan support I’ve enjoyed over the years and look forward to continuing this important work after leaving the commission.”

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Honorable at an EBA event in 2016 | © RTO Insider
Honorable was nominated by President Barack Obama in August 2014 to fill the remainder of former Commissioner John Norris’ term. The Senate unanimously confirmed the former Arkansas Public Service Commission chairman in December 2014. (See Senate Confirms Honorable to FERC.)

Neither Honorable nor FERC said when she would leave the commission. “We have nothing more than her statement,” a FERC spokeswoman said.

Honorable could serve until her successor is confirmed or the end of the current Congressional session, whichever comes first.

In the past, some commissioners have stayed on past their terms’ expiration dates, saying they would wait until a replacement is named.

But Commissioner Tony Clark left at the end of September last year after his term expired in June without any nomination being submitted. And the commission has been without a quorum since February, when Chairman Norman Bay resigned after President Trump named Cheryl LaFleur acting chair.

Honorable had been interviewed on E&ETV’s “OnPoint” web show April 24 and gave no hint of her impending decision. She also said the commission was “hopeful that any day, any week we will hear who the nominees will be” and that she had no insight into when they would be announced.

Stakeholders and members of Congress have grown increasingly agitated that the president has not submitted any nominations to the Senate.

Honorable’s chances of being reappointed diminished with Trump’s election. Although the commission has not traditionally been marked by partisan divisions, the president gets to appoint members of his party to three of the five seats and pick the chairmanship. (See CPP, FERC’s Bay, Honorable Among Losers in Trump Win.)

Since Republicans Philip Moeller and Clark left, the five-member panel had been all Democrats: Honorable, Bay (whose term ran through June 2018) and LaFleur (June 2019).

Although Bay’s departure left an opening for a second Democrat, FERC insiders had not expected Honorable to remain.

Maggie Henry’s Story

My name is Maggie Henry. My husband and I own 100 acres of what used to be bucolic paradise in North Beaver Township, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. I’m writing to urge you to take part in the March for Climate, Jobs and Justice in DC and around the country on April 29th. We need to stand up in big numbers on this day!

Here’s my story:

In 2006 my organic farming business was taking off beyond my wildest imagination. I kept adding more products to my market, the customer demand was insane! In a 2 year period I went from 24 laying chickens to 400 and I literally could not keep up or keep eggs in stock at the East End food co-op in Pittsburgh. Following a story on the front page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the demand just soared. The following year I was actually on the cover of the family section of the New York Times for my Heritage turkeys.

Right around this period the voice of Terry Greenwood, a farmer a couple counties away, crossed my radar. Terry’s story about the devastation that a company called Dominion Resources had done to his farm was just incredible and heartbreaking. I began researching fracking and decided very early on that it wasn’t something that could coexist with organic food production and began objecting to the early gas development in my area. Within the next decade I would literally come to feel like the Biblical Job of fracking! Fracking has destroyed my business and laid to waste everything my husband and I have worked our entire lives to build, our children’s inheritances, keep the farm going yet another generation? All destroyed!

Life in the shalefields of Pennsylvania is poisonous, now proven by over 700 studies, including an EPA one this past December where they were forced to admit to lying about groundwater contamination from the slurry of poisonous chemicals forced into Mother Earth.

Earthquakes, over 80 of them since March of 2014, have destroyed the integrity of my basement foundation. Water now pours down the walls in a rain storm. They shattered my chimney flue pipe and cracked all my drywall. The roof with 40 year shingles we replaced in 2008 now leaks from the ground shaking, the shingles bumped up from the tremors.

I cannot be on the farm for more than a day before the toxic pollution spewed into the air from the cryogenics plant near the farm causes my heart to do somersaults in my chest. We were forced to flee 2 years ago, take out a mortgage on a 3rd house, 3 hours away from our beloved farm. 2 houses stand vacant on the farm, we pay those taxes and the insurances as well!

As if all that isn’t enough I live in terror of pipeline explosions because the adjacent farmer leased his land to the pipeline company. These monstrous snakes were routed 30 feet from the farm house living room and run next to our property a mere 12 inches away. Can you even imagine yourself in this dire situation? We are not wealthy people, we never have been, taxes and insurances are a constant struggle, always have been!

Worst of all the fracking corporations have stolen from me the right to grow old raising my grandchildren on the land their parents roamed, as did four generations of our previous ancestors.

How is all this possible in America, land of the free, home of the brave? I now know what the Palestinians have endured over all these years. I understand their resistance, what choice do they really have? What choice do I have? So I protest, all over the state, and in DC too.

This is where BXE enters the picture. In the fall of 2014 I traveled to DC to take part in a week-long nonviolent blockade of FERC. I was one of about 80 people arrested that week, and I’ve continued to be active ever since.

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BXE has been a lifeline for me. Being associated with like-minded individuals around direct action nonviolent protest is just incredible! The support is emotionally healing in a way I find difficult to describe. Their support has moved the nagging question beyond “What did we do to deserve this?” To “What can I do to change things for the future?”

I’m planning to be in DC again in a couple of weeks to take part in BXE’s April 26-29 convergence and actions. You can find out more and sign up here. And I’m really looking forward to taking part in the massive March for Climate, Jobs and Justice on the 29th, and I hope everyone reading this is too.

And you know that BXE needs your financial support to keep going. Please donate here.

Let’s change things for the future!

For BXE,

Maggie Henry

Theories, rumors abound on FERC vacancies

Hannah Northey and Rod Kuckro, E&E News reporters

Published: Friday, April 21, 2017

Companies and lawmakers have been wondering what’s taking the White House so long to fill three vacancies at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

A few theories making their way through energy circles include lengthy background checks, debates about which nominee should be chairman and the bipartisan pairing of candidates.

“Everyone is scratching their heads as why it is taking so long to move formal nominations for FERC,” said Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s energy program.

More than two months ago, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said President Trump vowed in a meeting with lawmakers to fill the empty slots. Then came surefire signals that decisions were underway with the surfacing of key names.

Today, agency watchers and commission members are still waiting.

One former transition source said the debate over who should serve as FERC chairman is at the heart of the administration’s delay.

Possibly up for the job are Kevin McIntyre, a co-head of Jones Day’s global energy practice; Neil Chatterjee, a longtime energy aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.); and Robert Powelson, a Pennsylvania regulator who is serving this year as president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

Currently leading the agency is acting Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur, accompanied on the panel by Commissioner Colette Honorable. The duo, both Democrats, have been unable to make high-profile decisions since former FERC Chairman Norman Bay, also a Democrat, abruptly left in February, depriving the panel of a quorum.

Some sources say the Trump administration’s hangup stems from a long queue of nominee background checks that can take months to wrap up.

Others suggested it may have more to do with the practice of pairing up nominees by party. Democrats getting a pick may make them more likely to agree with a GOP choice.

Slocum threw out another theory, pointing to Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s recent memo calling for a study of the effect of clean energy subsidies on the U.S. electric grid and baseload power.

“I have to think that the holdup there might be a vetting process to see particularly if the incoming FERC chair is going to align with the kinds of objectives and tone that we see in this memo here,” Slocum said.

Green groups have seized on the lack of quorum to challenge FERC actions. The Sierra Club, for example, asked a federal court in March to block the agency’s approval of the $3 billion Atlantic Sunrise pipeline.

The group argued FERC rushed the decision on Bay’s last day and failed to make critical environmental information available, thereby violating the National Environmental Policy Act (Energywire, March 14).

Twitter: @HMNorthey Email: hnorthey@eenews.net

Sweet Potatoes, Not Pipelines!

Join us at FERC on Friday, April 28, between 8-10 am.

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On the day before the March for Climate, Jobs and Justice, Beyond Extreme Energy is taking close to half a ton of sweet potatoes to the headquarters of FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 1st St NW in DC. We will be speaking out about our passionate opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and all new proposed fossil fuel infrastructure. FERC is a rubber-stamp agency for the gas industry!

We will be distributing these sweet potatoes in small bags free to FERC employees and passers-by, with a leaflet explaining why we are taking action at FERC.

Sweet potatoes are grown in eastern North Carolina, site of Duke Energy and Dominion Resources’ proposed ACP, which would run 550 miles through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Land would be taken by eminent domain, including land where sweet potatoes are being grown, degrading soil fertility, threatening growers’ livelihoods, water and way of life and the chance for a stable climate for all of us.

This area has the highest concentration of people of color in the state: African American, indigenous, and Latino, and lower-than-average income for N.C., so it’s no surprise that the pipeline was diverted from two earlier routes that were whiter and wealthier.

This area is also home to a growing number of solar and wind energy projects. This renewable future is better for farmers and all energy consumers – that is, all of us. It’s time to leave the gas and all fossil fuels in the ground!

NO ATLANTIC COAST PIPELINE! NO NEW PERMITS FOR FOSSIL FUEL INFRASTRUCTURE!

(All BXE actions, gatherings, and activities adhere to our Principles of Nonviolence, which can be found here.)

Michigan AG Says Lack of FERC Quorum Means No Nexus Pipeline Until 2018; Backers Disagree

Michigan Attorney General (AG) Bill Schuette and companies backing the proposed Nexus natural gas pipeline are in disagreement over when the pipeline will enter service, with Schuette saying the lack of a quorum at FERC will delay it until 2018 but the companies predicting it will be 4Q2017.

The 255-mile Nexus pipeline, which is being jointly developed by DTE Energy Co. and Spectra Energy Corp., would move 1.5 Bcf/d of Marcellus and Utica shale gas from eastern Ohio into Michigan, connecting Appalachian gas to markets in the Midwest and Canada. Enbridge Inc. acquired Spectra earlier this year.

The disagreement surfaced after Schuette filed a brief last week with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), in a case [No. U-18143] to discuss plans by DTE Electric Co., a DTE subsidiary, to implement a power supply cost recovery plan (PSCR) in its rate schedules for 2017.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been without a quorum since the departure of Norman Bay, who had served as the Commission’s chairman before announcing his resignation in January. President Trump then named Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur to serve as acting chairman. A flurry of activity took place before Bay’s last day on Feb. 3, but several major natural gas pipeline projects, including Nexus, did not win last-minute approval.

“DTE Electric Co. cannot demonstrate that the inclusion of the Nexus pipeline related expenses in its 2017 PSCR factor is warranted,” Schuette said, later adding that the pipeline’s backers “expected approval of the certificate of necessity (CON) by FERC in February in order to put the Nexus pipeline into service by Nov. 1. However, as of today there was still no final approval and the quorum issues at FERC…remain an obstacle to moving the project forward.

“Given the roughly nine-month lag time between approval and putting the pipeline in service…even if FERC were in the position today to approve the CON, it would still be 2018 before the pipeline could reasonably be put into service. There is no evidentiary support in the record to sustain [DTE Electric’s] request to include Nexus gas transportation expenses in this PSCR plan this year.”

A footnote in the filing clarifies that Schuette was not making a concession that Nexus expenses should not be recoverable in future PSCR years. Schuette filed the brief in support of the Michigan Environmental Council and the Sierra Club.

Adam Parker, a spokesman for Nexus Gas Transmission LLC, disagreed with the AG’s assessment.

“While Nexus’ certificate application remains pending before FERC, the record supporting the FEIS [final environmental impact statement] and application are complete and ready for prompt FERC approval once a quorum is restored,” Parker told NGI’s Shale Dailyon Monday. “We are exploring all opportunities to improve our schedule and are actively working with our contractors and other relevant parties to ensure a safe and responsible construction plan is in place to achieve a targeted Q4 2017 in-service.”

DTE spokesman Peter Ternes concurred. “We are still projecting to have the Nexus project completed this year,” he said Monday.

Nexus received afavorable draft environmental impact statement from FERC last July.

Last January, the MPSC agreed with an administrative law judge’s finding that DTE Electric’s plans to contract with Nexus to buy natural gas for power generation appear “reasonable and prudent,” but it denied the utility permission to recover power supply costs for the $2 billion project from its customers without an evidentiary hearing.

Earlier this month, the Sierra Club urged FERC to wait until the MPSC ruled on capacity commitments to Nexus before issuing a Natural Gas Act certificate for the pipeline.

DTE has encountered pushback in Michigan over its proposed commitments to Nexus, including a 75,000 Dth/d commitment from DTE Gas Co. and a 30,000 Dth/d commitment from DTE Electric. Regulators and opponents, including ANR Pipeline Co., have questioned the affiliated nature of the transactions and whether DTE Gas or DTE Electric properly considered alternatives, including the competing Rover Pipeline project.

Meanwhile, lawmakers from both parties have urged Trump to make nominations to FERC, but so far none have been forthcoming. New FERC commissioners must be confirmed by the Senate.

BXE April Convergence

Beyond Extreme Energy Convergence
April 26-28

Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) is getting together with friends and accomplices ahead of the People’s Climate March in Washington, DC to be together, build community, organize, and take action to stop Trump’s appointments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Below, you will find everything we know about our plans, including a tentative schedule of events. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Lee Stewart at Actions@BeyondExtremeEnergy.org, or if it’s an emergency, 703-999-2634.

Everyone is welcome to join BXE for our any of our activities. Everyone is also welcome to join BXE as an affinity group as we participate in other actions together during this time period.

If you would like to join us, please fill out this registration form.

Housing, Food, and Logistics

If you plan on being with Beyond Extreme Energy during your time in DC, we’re providing housing and food.

Housing will start on the night of Wednesday, April 26th at First Trinity Lutheran Church (309 E St NW) and go through the night of Saturday, April 29th. The church has 50 mattresses on the floor for people to sleep on. Because another group is sharing the space on Friday, depending on our numbers, some people will have to stay in overflow space at St. Stephen’s Church in Mt. Pleasant/Columbia Heights that night.

Please bring everything you need to sleep and be comfortable, including toiletries and a towel. Please do not bring alcohol, drugs, or weapons. First Trinity will have a locked room for storing gear and personal items during the day.

Food will be provided by Seeds of Peace starting at dinner on the evening of Wednesday, April 26th.

Please be sure to fill out the above linked registration form if you plan to stay and/or eat with us.

Transportation to and from DC and within the city is up to everyone as individuals. There is no parking at the church. Parking in DC is notoriously difficult. If you are bringing your car, you will have to find a parking garage and pay to park there. If possible, leave your car home and come to the city via public transportation.

Tentative Schedule of Events

(An official People’s Climate Movement can be found here.)

Wednesday, April 26th
*
**

Beyond Extreme Energy Gathering
11am-Evening, First Trinity Lutheran Church (4th and E Street NW)
Discussion. Action planning for Thursday. Time to be together.

Thursday, April 27th
***

Senate Actions
Morning, Senate Office Buildings
Leafleting Senate staff. Noise demonstration. Traditional lobbying on FERC vacancies.

Youth Climate Lawsuit Speak-Out
9am-10:30am, Supreme Court (1 First Street NE)
Stand with the 21 youth plaintiffs suing the federal government for perpetrating climate chaos. Click here to learn more.

Afternoon Actions
TBD
We will target the oil and gas industry with creative, non-arrestable action

Dinner by Seeds of Peace
6pm, First Trinity Lutheran Church (4th and E Street NW)

Action Planning/Training
7pm, First Trinity Lutheran Church (4th and E Street NW)
Legal Training with BXE’s lawyer. Planning for Friday.

Pre-PCM Native Round Dance At Trump Hotel
8:30pm-10pm, 1100 Pennsylvania Av. NW
Click here to learn more about this event.

Friday, April 28th
***

Morning Actions
TBA

It Takes Roots Action: Mother Earth’s RED LINE
2pm to 4pm
Join It Takes Roots to take direct action against corporations and politicians driving the extractive economy. Click here for more details.

Environmental Justice In Action: How HBCU’s Are Leading the Climate Fight
6pm-9pm, Howard University
Click here to learn more about this convergence.

Labor Network for Sustainability Gathering
7pm-10pm, 2333 18th Street NW
Click here to learn more.

Saturday, April 29th
***

People’s Climate March
9am-3pm
Click here for more information.
BXE will be marching as part of the Fossil Fuel Resistance bloc, itself a part of the Reshapers of Power group which is gathering on the Mall between 3rd and 4th Sts., on the south side of the mall.

Climate Showdown: Flood Trump
5pm-8pm
Click here to sign-up to flood Trump with action.

Sunday, April 30th
***

People’s Climate Candidate Training
7:30am-3:30pm, Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th St NW)
Click here to learn more about this training to run for political office.

Monday, May 1st
***

FERC Technical Conference
Morning, FERC
Click here for more details and to register. We’re trying to get people to go.

March on May Day
12pm-1:30pm, Malcolm X Park
Learn more about this worker’s march against racism, sexism and capitalism.

(All BXE actions, gatherings, and activities adhere to our Principles of Nonviolence, which can be found here.)

Judge Slams FERC’s Climate Review

Ellen M. Gilmer, E&E News reporter
Published: Tuesday, April 18, 2017
(https://www.eenews.net/greenwire/2017/04/18/stories/1060053227)

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Photo by Bilfinger SE, courtesy of Flickr.

A panel of judges grilled the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today on its approach to studying climate impacts from natural gas pipelines.

The case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit centered on a project in the Southeast, but Judge Judith Rogers spent much of today’s oral arguments airing broader concerns about FERC’s typical treatment of downstream greenhouse gas emissions.

“FERC just doesn’t have to do its duty because it thinks someone else will,” she said, responding to the agency’s argument that many downstream impacts fall under the jurisdiction of other agencies.

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups filed the lawsuit last year, challenging FERC’s decision to issue certificates for the Southeast Market Pipelines Project, which includes the Florida Southeast, Hillabee Expansion and Sabal Trail projects.

The groups say FERC violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to adequately consider downstream climate impacts and the effects on environmental justice for communities along the project’s route.

Sierra Club attorney Elly Benson argued today that FERC had tools available to conduct the downstream greenhouse gas analysis — and was prodded by U.S. EPA to use them — but ultimately opted for a less-detailed approach.

“There’s no reason to not engage in reasonable forecasting,” she told the panel, which included Rogers, a Clinton appointee, and Judges Janice Rogers Brown and Thomas Griffith, both George W. Bush appointees.

FERC attorney Ross Fulton pushed back, noting that the agency conducted a more general downstream analysis that concluded the project would not significantly contribute to cumulative greenhouse gas impacts because power plants receiving natural gas from the pipelines were switching from coal, which emits more carbon dioxide.

“And the commission found that it could rely upon the plants being subject to federal and state air permitting processes for pertinent emissions and mitigation requirements and that these permitting bodies are best positioned to receive relevant air quality information,” FERC told the court in a brief earlier this year.

Moreover, he said, the agency determined that the linkage between the pipelines and the power plants was not direct enough to merit closer FERC review, as the commission has no control over how the natural gas is used.

Brown seemed receptive to that argument, but Rogers jumped on it, noting that contracts with end-users have already been signed. “When would FERC ever have enough information and enough certainty” to look more closely at downstream greenhouse gas emissions, she asked.

She also rejected the notion that the case was analogous to other D.C. Circuit decisions that held FERC had no obligation to conduct in-depth downstream analyses because other agencies held the keys to final approval. In last year’s EarthReports Inc. v. FERC, for example, the D.C. Circuit ruled that FERC was not required to consider indirect effects of increased liquefied natural gas exports from a FERC-licensed facility because the Department of Energy alone has authority to increase exports. In today’s case, Rogers said, FERC has final authority over the Southeast projects.

Griffith also appeared skeptical of FERC’s position, asking Fulton and counsel for industry intervenors why they were so resistant to the idea of attempting to quantify downstream emissions.

“It wouldn’t have been hard to do, right, with all that information available?” he asked Fulton.

Fulton responded that “it would not have been hard to do, but it would have been hard to do in a meaningfully informative way,” because it is difficult to estimate how much of the project’s natural gas would be used to replace coal in power plants.

The environmental groups are asking the court to vacate the certificates and remand to FERC.