Three activists with Beyond Extreme Energy disrupted a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the nominations of the final two members to join Trump’s FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Committee). One of the arrestees was a 25-year veteran of the agency.
FERC is the agency that approved the expansion of the fracked gas pipeline and the compressor station, the site of the proposed gigawatt Invenergy power plant in Burrillville. The Spectra Energy compressor station has been the site of numerous protests, acts of civil resistance and arrests. Approval by FERC is also required for the National Grid liquefaction facility planned at Fields Point in the Port of Providence.
At Thursday’s committee hearing, when Chairwoman Senator Lisa Murkowski asked the nominees, Richard Glick and Kevin McIntyre, to stand, activist Andrew Hinz also stood and shouted:
Have a conscience! FERC is destroying the atmosphere!
In a prepared statement, Hinz wrote:
“Because I spent 25 years working at FERC, I am compelled to speak out. It is abundantly clear now that natural gas is not a safe bridge fuel. We must divert any proposed investment in fossil fuel infrastructure not required for safety to a rapid transition to sustainable energy. FERC is broken and in dire need of a reset. It must take into account solid, overwhelming evidence of climate impacts and, instead of permitting fossil fuel expansion projects, it must support and aggressively promote incorporation of sustainable energy into our grid. Until FERC is reset, we are witnessing an undemocratic, non-representative process that is merely an extension of the fossil fuel industry and is destroying our atmosphere and poisoning our water. My message to our legislators: find your conscience before it is too late–while there is still time to keep our planet habitable.
Ted Glick, a New Jersey-based activist who was arrested at a similar hearing for Trump’s first two nominees to FERC, stood and repeatedly asked Congress to investigate FERC. The agency’s abuses of law and power have been exhaustively documented by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, which hosted a speak-out at the National Press Club last year.
Ted Glick met earlier this year with Richard Glick (no relation), whose expertise is in renewable energy. Ted Glick said:
“Based on my meeting with him and what I know about him, he will have no impact at FERC. He will be run over by Trump’s three appointees, and probably [Obama appointee] Cheryl LaFleur, too. FERC is a corrupt agency and it’s a waste of a good man.
Indeed, in a recent 2-1 ruling, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that FERC had not properly analyzed the climate impact of burning the methane that the Southeast Market Pipelines Project would deliver to power plants.
Clarke Herbert, a retired school teacher from Alexandria, Virginia, disrupted the meeting and focused on the disruption to the lives of thousands of people due to construction of fracked gas infrastructure. In a statement, he wrote:
FERC’s process for approving pipelines violates our constitutional protections of private property. The 5th amendment not only protects us from self-incrimination [‘Taking the Fifth’], it also states, ‘No person shall be deprived of property without due process of law nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.’ In this country FERC allows the legal seizure of private property from landowners because the government determines there is a public need without allowing landowners to question that need or examine the studies the government relies upon. At one time, pipelines were useful to carry gas to remote areas of the country to keep Grandma warm in the wintertime. Today, with deregulation, pipelines are a platform for commodity trading and the export of gas to foreign countries.
The three activists were escorted out of the hearing room and arrested.
Beyond Extreme Energy has been using creative, non-violent actions to target FERC since 2014. BXE is a leader of the FERC Vacancies Campaign, which fought for six months to get Congress to investigate FERC before approving nominees who would restore the agency’s quorum. The U..S. Senate approved Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson in August, restoring the quorum. The agency’s first meeting since February is set for September 20.
Senator Whitehouse’s office in D.C. did not respond to a request to comment on the FERC vacancies, the arrests, and the senator’s apparent intent to vote for the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017. This legislation, if enacted, would require the Department of Energy to expedite approval of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects. It would also authorize funding for research of methane hydrates, which contain the world’s largest methane reserves, trapped under Arctic permafrost, Antarctic ice, and ocean sediments worldwide. In 2016, both Rhode Island senators, Reed and Whitehouse, voted for Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 one of the provisions of which was to speed up the export of domestically produced natural gas.
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