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Beyond Extreme Energy has decided to organize a long-term, water-only “Fast For No New Permits” this September in front of FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. We also encourage people to fast individually where they live and/or to organize local solidarity fasts during this same time period.We are undertaking this action in support of the call in Pope Francis’s encyclical, “Laudato Si,” for action on the climate crisis commensurate with its seriousness. As he says in the encyclical:
“There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.”
The fast will begin on September 8, the day after Labor Day, and will continue until September 25th, the day the Pope speaks at the United Nations in New York City.
Serious fasts have been undertaken by social movements for many decades. Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, Dave Dellinger and Bobby Sands are the most well-known practitioners of this way of taking action against injustice.
Fasting—also described as hunger striking—is usually undertaken after less drastic and more traditional forms of action such as leafleting, petitioning, meetings, vigils, and demonstrations have failed to move the person or institution being targeted. Fasting is a way to dramatize the urgency of the demands of the movement and to draw attention to the intransigence of those being called upon to change.
FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has proven itself intransigent. For years citizens groups have utilized FERC’s procedures to try to prevent the dramatic expansion of gas pipelines, compressor stations, storage terminals and export terminals.
- We have signed up to be official “intervenors” in proposed gas infrastructure expansion proposals.
- We have submitted well-reasoned comments to the FERC website.
- We have signed petitions on specific projects, in some cases submitting hundreds of thousands of signatures.
- We have mobilized hundreds of people many times and in many places to FERC-organized local public meetings. Most recently, more than 100,000 people signed a petition calling upon FERC to change in the winter of 2014.
- We have met three times with the Chair of FERC to present our demands.
- More than 100 people have submitted to arrest in nonviolent actions in front of FERC’s DC headquarters. Twice in the last year Beyond Extreme Energy has organized week-long, nonviolent blockades of the entrances to FERC, disrupting FERC’s operations and reaching out to FERC employees urging them to speak up about FERC’s corruption by the gas industry.
- For eight straight months we have attended the monthly meetings of the five FERC Commissioners to raise our concerns, often leading to our being physically removed from the meetings and, now, to our being banned from them.
But the permits to expand fracked gas infrastructure just keep coming. FERC continues to be a rubber stamp for the US fracked gas industry and their plans to expand their operations worldwide.
Fracking is a threat to people and the planet. The process of hydraulic fracturing of shale rock often contaminates nearby water, air and land and leads to earthquakes. It generates significant methane emissions which as a greenhouse gas is at least 85 times more powerful than CO2 over the first 20 years after it is emitted and dangerously accelerates the heating of the earth. And gas infrastructure is a threat to the health and safety of those living or working close to it.
FERC must stop rubber-stamping gas industry permit applications and change the way it operates. FERC must prioritize the emergence of wind, solar and other renewables above fossil fuels. We say: No New Permits!
For some of us who have for the last year been focused on FERC, this fast has a deeply personal, spiritual dimension. It was best articulated by Cesar Chavez in his life and death fight to create the United Farm Workers in California in the late sixties:
“This fast is first and foremost personal. It is something that I feel compelled to do. It is directed at myself. It is a fast for the purification of my own body, mind and soul. The fast is also the heartfelt prayer for purification and strengthening for all of us… It is a fervent prayer that together we will confront and resist, with all our strength, the scourge of poisons that threatens our people, our land and our food.” -Cesar Chavez
In the words of Pope Francis: “It is no longer enough, then, simply to state that we should be concerned for future generations. We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity. Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn. . .
“The Earth Charter asked us to leave behind a period of self-destruction and make a new start, but we have not as yet developed a universal awareness needed to achieve this. Here, I would echo that courageous challenge: ‘As never before in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning… Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.’”