In April of 2019 two BXE activists scaled the awning of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) offices in Washing D.C., unfurling a banner demanding the end of FERC and the creation of the Federal Renewable Energy Commission (FREC). They occupied the awning for 6 hours, an action that marked the beginning of our FERC Into FREC Campaign.
A Just Transition to Climate Change Requires the Dismantling of FERC
Our country and world desperately need the enactment of a Green New Deal. The science is clear: by 2030 we must be decisively onto the path of energy efficiency, conservation and wind, solar and other genuinely clean and safe renewable energy sources. Fossil fuels must be in a sharp and permanent decline as the power source for electricity, as well as for transportation and heating/cooling of buildings. Such a shift would lead to the creation of millions of new jobs, including for those historically discriminated against and for those currently working in the fossil fuel industry. Such a massive shift in society dovetails with the need for new economic model focused on anti-racism, decolonization, direct democracy, unionization, and social justice.
In our eyes the Green New Deal (GND), or any other comprehensive climate legislation, must transform the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as the federal agency tasked with regulating and overseeing the U.S. electrical grid. However, we believe FERC reform is not possible. FERC is too deeply ensnared by the fossil fuel industry and retrograde policy mandates. FERC must be dismantled and replaced by the Federal Renewable Energy Commission (FREC).
FERC was created in 1977 when Congress passed the Department of Energy Reorganization Act. Over 40 years later, it’s time for a FERC overhaul. FERC must be replaced by FREC, the Federal Renewable Energy Commission.
What would FREC Look Like?
Since the launch of the FREC campaign BXE has been in dialogue with frontline groups and politicians about what FREC would look like. The culmination of this work has been the Legislative Case for a Federal Renewable Energy Commission (2020) and the 30 Legislative Points for a Federal Renewable Energy Commission (2021). But for a much less nitty gritty summary:
- FREC will require that an Environmental Justice Analysis, in addition to an Environmental Impact Statement, must be created for every proposed new energy project. The EJA would evaluate potential structural violence resulting from new energy infrastructure projects. This includes but isn’t limited to environmental racism, gendered violence, energy monopolization, and economic sacrifice zones.
- FREC will create an Office of Indigenous Relations, operated according to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international best practices, mandated to ensure that any proposed energy projects to be built on Indigenous land or sacred sites have full and transparent input and interactions with, and agreement from, potentially impacted Indigenous Nations/Peoples prior to any application to FREC for a permit.
- FREC will affirmatively take the initiative to multiply the number of engaged, legally empowered and government-supported local citizens groups planning and advancing new, jobs-creating, non-polluting renewable energy infrastructure in their community. This includes formalizing a system by which DERs (Distributed Energy Resources) can aggregate and compete in wholesale power markets. FREC will affirmatively publicize positive, community-led efforts which have effectively managed renewables investment, construction and operation, and which have increased energy independence for consumers and communities, for the benefit of other communities to help them do the same.
- There will be no taking of, or work on, private or public land by energy companies which receive permits until every regulatory and court action has been exhausted. Financial support, a minimum of 50% of legal fees, will be provided for legal fees for all landowners or communities who decide to challenge negative regulatory actions after they have fully participated in the FREC intervenor process prior to final regulatory action.
- Funding for FREC will not be solely based upon fees for companies which are applying for permits but primarily through Congressional appropriations. Industry funding creates dependency on continuing expansion of the industries being regulated. Congressional appropriations hearings could have surfaced the long-suffered eminent domain abuse practiced by FERC.
- FREC would simplify and improve the process for public comments on proposed projects, including extensive public outreach, engagement and assistance. Data that is held by FREC on both individual projects and on industries as a whole would be made available through accessible and understandable, user- friendly information processes and services. A priority would be put on making information and data held by FREC easily accessible and shareable. FREC would ensure that the public have access to trained specialists who can aid them in interpreting data and plans. This would include legal support, scientists, and engineers.
- 248 organizations have signed onto the FERC Into FREC Sign-on Statement , a broad summary of what a Federal Renewable Energy Commission would entail.
- Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders (D), Elizabeth Warren (D), Howie Hawkins (G), Ian Schlakman (G), and Joe Sestak (D) publicly endorsed dismantling FERC and replacing it with FREC.
- We have received broad support from Reps Ocasio- Cortez (NY), Grijalva (AZ) and Senators Sanders (VT) and Markey (MA). Congressional work is ongoing to develop support for a full legislative effort.
FERC Into FREC Roadshow and Movie
In the fall and winter of 2019 BXE went on two road shows through the shalefields of PA, frontline communities fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipelines in Appalachia, and environmental justice fights in North Carolina and Georgia. Along the way we screened our film FERC Doesn’t Work and got frontline community members views on what the Federal Renewable Energy Commission would entail. From this experience we put together the FERC Into FREC film in spring of 2020!
The Legislative Case for FREC
Our latest effort is to further develop the idea of FREC by doing policy and industry research that would make FERC possible at the legislative level. The result of this work is the “Legislative Case for a New Federal Renewable Energy Commission.” We are currently seeking frontline group input on this document. We are actively working with members of Congress to assess paths forward for dismantling FERC and replacing it with the Federal Renewable Energy Commission.
FERC Into FREC Summit
In April of 2021 we held the FERC Into FREC Summit which gathered frontline organizers and climate activists for a deep exploration of the vision of how FREC might work. The result was the creation of the 30 Legislative Points for a Federal Renewable Energy Commission the most thorough articulation of how FREC would function in the real world.
You can check out the Summit deep dive into FREC via this prezi outlining our vision: https://prezi.com/view/mjlSxP35a5EGkt6Aubgu/