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). But for a much less nitty gritty summary:
- Currently FERC staff and commissioners are hired from the energy industry they are supposedly regulating and return to the energy industry, an active revolving door. Leaders and employees of a new Federal Renewable Energy Commission must be personally and professionally committed to the historic task of shifting rapidly from fossil fuels to renewables. Leaders must be chosen based not upon their ties to the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries but on their experience with and commitment to renewables.
- FREC’s purpose must be made explicit in a mission statement which commits it to lead the urgent work of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and shifting to a renewable, jobs-creating, justice-based and energy efficient power grid and economy.
- As distinct from the way FERC operates, potentially affected and proximate communities must be notified from the very beginning of planning processes for proposed new and/or expanded energy infrastructure. They must be given sufficient support, including funding, to enable them to fully participate in democratic decision-making processes.
- FREC’s funding stream must not be dependent on fossil fuel industry “fee-for-service.” Right now ALL of FERC’s budget comes from fees on industries that have business before FERC. It is in the financial interest of FERC to have as much business with them as possible. Given the power of the fossil fuel industry, this encourages corruption and pro-industry bias.
- 238 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.
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.
Stay tuned for more!