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Football With Coach Kafka

Imagine a football game. You’re the home team and you’re playing defense. It’s a tough game and not exactly fair. Why? Because the other team is FREAKING HUGE.

giantfootballplayer-x-wide-communityBut wait, there’s more. Bloodied and bruised, now imagine looking over the line of scrimmage at the opposing team and seeing something that just can’t be right. What are the refs doing in the middle of their huddle?

In the great American game of FERCball, this surreal and grossly unfair situation occurs just as often as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regularly convenes seminars around the country for the benefit of the industries it regulates. The purpose of the seminars is to help permit applicants successfully navigate the labyrinth of FERC procedures. It’s like the refs helping one side know which plays to call.

But FERC’s bend-over-backwards assistance to industry execs goes even further as Ann Nau of Myersville, MD discovered recently.

As if we don’t already know the disdain with which FERC looks onto impacted communities, they’ve been holding ‘pre-seminars’ in addition to the normal industry seminars.

(Myersville, by the way, has been fighting—and thus far, losing—a battle to keep a dangerous compressor station out of their town and away from their churches, stores, and elementary school.)

It’s easy to understand Ann’s frustration. Look how FERC describes these pre-seminars.

image[1]“Strategize for dealing with difficult behavior”? “Enhance your negotiation skills”? And these trainings are provided free of charge around the country, multiple times per year? It’s sadly obvious whose side these “referees” are on.

It’s also very predictable. Back in the locker room and out of sight of the public, these “referees” regularly exchange their striped jerseys for helmets and pads in order to take the field and actually play for the other team. Read—and be appalled by—an April 7, 2015 E&E report by Hannah Northey and Kevin Bogardus entitled Employees Negotiate For Industry Jobs Under Agency’s Eye.

Writing on the basis of research done under a Freedom Of Information Act request, Northey and Bogardus conclude in part,

Employees at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have deep ties to the industry they regulate, according to agency documents detailing their job negotiations and stock holdings…

Ethics records throughout 2014 show agency staff seeking employment with grid operators, law firms and utilities that the agency has jurisdiction over and often meets with as it sets new orders and rules.

The authors uncovered at least forty instances last year in which FERC employees entered job negotiations with the industries they regulate. What makes FERC’s employees so valuable? According to former FERC staffer Travis Fisher,

“It’s a certain level of expertise, the sweet spot is somewhere in that four-to-five-year mark,” he said. Fisher said he, like his former colleagues, gained a keen understanding of which draft orders would compel commissioners and what language would have to be scrapped or rewritten — valuable insight for utilities seeking to comply with the FERC regulation.

“Your job at FERC was to read those pleadings, from the utility side you’re writing those pleadings,” Fisher said. “Someone fresh out of FERC is extra valuable because of their knowledge of the politics of the organization.”

Of course, many FERC commissioners and upper level staff only put on referee jerseys after changing out of their industry uniforms and helmets in the first place. It probably goes without saying that no one thus far has written an extensively researched article about the revolving door between FERC and, say, the climate justice movement or the front line communities trying to protect their ground water, their children, and their lives.

So let’s sum up.

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It’s not supposed to be this way. It’s time to change the game.

Communities Demand An Accountable Government

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The Fight Against FERC: 
Communities Demand An Accountable Government

by Angela Vogel

FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, gas, and oil. FERC also reviews proposals to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and interstate natural gas pipelines as well as licensing hydropower projects. Since 1935 when it first became an independent regulatory agency it has done little to protect citizens from exploitation. Instead, the agency uses its vast powers to facilitate the expansion of dirty and deadly extraction for export to international markets. FERC ensures that toxic energy projects create greater profits for rich developers while leaving poisoned communities with the lie of so-called U.S. energy independence through fossil fuels.

Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE), a frontline and activist network that came together in 2014 to begin fighting FERC’s facilitation of dirty energy projects, has put constant “unprecedented” pressure on this industry-funded agency leading FERC Chair Cheryl LaFleur to say, “We have a situation here.” BXE believes that direct action plays a crucial role in supporting frontline communities to take their battles to FERC’s doorstep and face them in person and in bringing attention to the life and death situation these communities have been fighting for years.

“Here in rural Pennsylvania, there are many families who are facing a horrible fate. FERC would like to approve massive natural gas pipelines that will destroy countless generations-old family farms and homes.  For many of these families the option to move elsewhere does not exist due to financial burdens or long-time connections to the land and community,” says Deirdre Lally, a volunteer with Shalefield Organizing Committee.

“Our numbers are small but powerful,” says Maria Kretschmann of anti-fracking group E.D.G.E. (Ending Dirty Gas Exploitation) whose family-owned organic farm is threatened by expanding fracking infrastructure. “Communities must join together because we have enemies with fat pockets, dozens of lawyers on hand and no moral compass. We fight not just for ourselves and our friends but for those who cannot defend themselves or come to D.C.”

BXE is partnering with community-focused groups to echo the frontline fights in D.C. and to present a fully-rounded strategy against the industry-funded, rubber stamping behemoth FERC.  This battle must continue escalating to reflect the severe implications of what is at stake, and what is, quite literally, coming down the pipe.  The coalition has outlined a nine-point short-term plan for reforming FERC that is posted to their website (http://tinyurl.com/masznzn). However, long-term goals may look a little different. According to Faith Meckley of the frontline group We Are Seneca Lake, “The system is no longer made for the people but for the benefit of the companies. We need to make it really clear that we can no longer be ignored, and it’s time for a new system to be built.”

While it is of the utmost importance that frontline communities, separated by both geography and often culture, come together with support from the broader environmental movement, it’s equally important that the issue of global warming and impending climate chaos not get lost. Since Cornell first released findings in 2011 that high quantities of methane released from fracking makes it more dangerous than coal, the scientific community has found more and more evidence to back this up leaving many to wonder how the industry ever sold us the snake-oil promise of a ‘natural’ bridge-fuel and how we will reach the carbon emission goals necessary for ongoing life on the planet if fracked gas extraction continues to expand with the help of agencies like FERC.

“We are all downstream and downwind,” says Lally, “and we must continue to support each other in this struggle, because eventually we will win, but only if we do it together.”

Join BXE for a week of actions actions at FERC

May 21-29!

https://beyondextremeenergy.org/sign-up-for-mass-action-at-ferc-in-may/

Contact info@beyondextremeenergy.org

for details on housing, workshops, & more!

 

FERC Is A Rubber Stamp Machine

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Anyone remember the Blue Meanies from the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine movie?

Trust me–they were very mean. And although the film neglected to mention it, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that in addition to hating music, they rubber stamped fracking infrastructure projects whenever they had the opportunity.

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New lyrics by NYC’s Occupy The Pipeline. Inspired editing by Bill Huston. And let’s not forget a shout out to John, Paul, George, and Ringo!

One Hell Of An Editorial

GIF edition!

Sometimes you read something so good, you just have to high five the internet a little bit.

5sThe Recorder, the “newspaper of record serving scenic Bath and Highland counties, and the Allegheny Highlands of Virginia”, published a stellar editorial on March 26th that deserves to be read by far more than the paper’s 5,000 subscribers.

In “Aww, FERC Is Frustrated,” the editors respond to FERC Chairman Cheryl LaFleur’s infamous and telling comment, “We have a situation here.” If the commissioners are perplexed by the recent groundswell of opposition to fracking and its associated infrastructure, The Record, at least, is not.

“Why the “unprecedented” outcry, Ms. LaFleur? Because of the industry’s failure to adequately protect us, and your agency’s failure to do the same.”

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“We see little evidence of a sturdy, unblemished record of oversight or protection. What we do see is the gas industry has much more control over FERC, state agencies, and lawmakers who make up the rules than it should.”

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“You are not representing our interests, Ms. LaFleur. You are representing industries that have full and powerful resources to mostly glide through your processes with ease.”

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“Until your agency can balance its mission to help the energy sector with its mission to minimize risk, Ms. LaFleur, your in-box will remain flooded for the foreseeable future. Get used to it”

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We here at Beyond Extreme Energy could not agree more.

Read “Aww, FERC Is Frustrated” at https://recorder.our-hometown.com/news/2015-03-26/Opinions_%28and%29___Commentary/Aww_FERC_is_frustrated_002.html.

Maryland Governor Hogan Celebrates TOWN-breaking At Cove Point

Hogan town-breaking ceremony

Tracey Eno of Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community had this to say about Dominion Resources’ groundbreaking ceremony today for its LNG export plant at Cove Point.

“The residents of Lusby are NOT celebrating Dominion’s ‘TOWN-breaking Ceremony’ today. It’s no surprise that this event was kept a secret until the last minute and is closed to the public ‘due to security concerns,’ according to Dominion PR spokesperson, Karl Neddenien. If Dominion is worried about security, they should think twice about building a dangerous liquefaction train next to the 20,483 residents of Lusby. We worry about security every day and the risk of vapor clouds and explosions of propane and LNG, with potential for grave catastrophe. The 2006 Maryland Department of Natural Resources study shows that 360 families are at risk of a flash fire right now.

“We look forward to meeting with Governor Hogan to tell him the truth. We can only assume he hasn’t studied the details of the project. We recommend he Google ‘Images Skikda Algeria 2004’ as a primer.”

Cove Point Residents Protest At FERC Meeting

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reposted from www.baynet.com

Washington, DC – This morning, March 19, singing and chanting members of We Are Cove Point (WACP) from Lusby, Maryland, and their supporters from Beyond Energy (BXE) attempted to sit in and read a statement at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s(FERC) monthly meeting, protesting FERC’s failure to rule on a Request for Rehearing of its Sept. 29, 2014 order approving Dominion Resource’s construction permit for Cove Point even while construction at the hotly-challenged site continues. They were immediately removed from the building and the doors were locked behind them.

The prepared statement read:

You are continuing to allow Dominion to proceed with construction while simultaneously asking for a lot of new information from them—why didn’t you ask for this before you granted the permit in the first place? You are taking months to rule on local residents’ request for a rehearing. You are refusing to rule on a request from their legal team to stay all construction while FERC considers their request for a rehearing.  The combined result of this is that Dominion gets to continue construction for many months before the case gets heard at the Court of Appeals.

The community groups and their supporters also presented FERC with a petition – supported by nearly 20,000 signatures – demanding that FERC order construction at Cove Point to stop while the agency considers the health, safety, and legal issues raised by the Application For Rehearing, which was filed by Earthjustice, and when granted would invalidate the permit – bringing the Cove Point project to a halt.

Today’s protest at FERC is the latest in a series of continuing and escalating community protests at FERC’s monthly meetings. The protests have led FERC Chair Cheryl LaFleur to declare, “We have a situation here.” FERC has also issued a gag rule to silence these protestors. (The rule was imposed in early March, but will not go into effect until 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.)

As to the gag rule, BXE says:

FERC must get its priorities straight – beginning with stopping construction at Cove Point. It is outrageous that FERC cares more about suppressing citizen protests – which are necessary because of its failure to act – than it does about acting promptly to protect the health and safety of the communities in and around Cove Point. FERC must no longer be the first line of defense for the fossil fuel industries in setting energy policy.

BXE will continue to bring these concerns to the Commission, and emphasized that concerned citizens and communities will not be silenced by an industry-friendly gag rule.

BXE has also called for large-scale non-violent direct action later this spring to protest FERC’s arbitrary, secretive and industry-friendly policies. Hundreds of concerned citizens, families, and community groups will converge on FERC to demand that the agency “Stop the FERCus” by turning FERC’s natural gas policy around and opening up a clean, renewable energy future.

http://www.thebaynet.com/articles/0315/plantprojectfoesescortedfromcommissionmeeting.html

Help Us Take BXE To The Next Level In 2015

BXE action at FERC, Nov. 2014

BXE Friends,

It is truly amazing what Beyond Extreme Energy has been able to accomplish in just five months with your generous support and help. We are building upon a movement that has been developing for years.

Here is what Cheryl LaFleur, Chairwoman of FERC, said publicly on January 27th at the National Press Club: “Increased demand for natural gas-fired plants will lead to new pipelines, . . .And I believe meeting the goals of the (EPA) Clean Power Plan will also lead to construction of a lot of new natural gas generation.” She added that implementing these polices could become more difficult due to the increasingly hostile views environmental activists have taken toward hydraulic fracturing and pipeline projects in recent years.

“These groups are active in every FERC docket… as well as in my email inbox seven days a week, in my Twitter feed, at our open meetings demanding to be heard, and literally at our door closing down First Street so FERC won’t be able to work. We’ve got a situation here.”

In other words, she knows who we are, and she knows we are a problem for FERC and industry.

At last, by going to FERC’s open meetings and to their front door, BXE has gotten FERC’s attention. And we have plans to keep doing so. In late spring, from May 21-29, with your help, we will be organizing nonviolent actions at FERC with many hundreds of people taking part.

We hope that you will want to join with us in this action and reach out to bring others with you. But we need more than that.

BXE has initiated a $10,000 pledge campaign. We are asking those who can to pledge $500, $1,000 or whatever you can, more or less, toward a goal of $10,000. We’re not asking for the money until we reach that goal. Once we reach it, and the money comes in, we will be able to hire young people to visit campuses starting in early March to strengthen student participation in the late spring actions, as well as move the overall organizing for those actions forward.

As of this writing, a little over $3,300 has been pledged. We also have other substantial money committed, further along, from one of our member organizations which worked with us in the fall.

BXE is a very frugal organization. It literally runs on the volunteer energy and commitment of dozens of individuals and many groups, with no paid staff up until now. Our major action last November, “closing down First Street so FERC won’t be able to work,” was pulled off very successfully for less than $16,000 in total.

We figure we’ll need close to three times that to organize this spring action, because our plan is to triple, or more, the number of people taking part in it.

That is why this $10,000 pledge campaign is so important. It will fund our work this spring in the build-up to those actions, especially the campus organizing, and it will generate energy to keep the organizing and fundraising momentum going.

So how about it? FERC is central to the fossil fuel industry’s plans to expand the natural gas empires in the US and to other countries. BXE, on the other hand, has the experience and has developed the organization to challenge FERC. We are uniquely situated to challenge, slow and maybe even halt the extremely dangerous policies and practices of the gas industry and FERC right now.

Isn’t what Beyond Extreme Energy has brought to the movement against fracking and the climate justice movement worth your financial support? What if it didn’t exist and wasn’t active? Without question, this movement would be missing a very important component.

BXE is a loose, flexible, resilient and adapting organization, with our hearts and minds focused not only on FERC but also on gritty and difficult community-based struggles like the ones going on in Cove Point, Seneca Lake, the Pennsylvania fracking fields and elsewhere. Because of these strengths, BXE is bringing grassroots energy into the conversations going on at the highest levels in Washington, D.C.

We look forward to your responses. Please let Ted know at ted@chesapeakeclimate.org what you are willing and able to pledge.

Many thanks,

Steve Norris
Ted Glick