Like the vast majority of people in this country, I knew nothing about the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission until maybe 2-3 years ago. Since then, through my CCAN work fighting the plans for the Cove Point LNG export terminal at Cove Point, Md., through my work in New Jersey fighting a compressor station and pipeline going through the county where I live, and through my work in the mushrooming movement in the Marcellus Shale region and elsewhere against fracked gas infrastructure and exports, I have unfortunately learned a great deal about FERC.
FERC is, quite simply, a rubber stamp for the gas industry. Yes, gas industry proposals to FERC take time to work through their internal process, and there are sometimes conditions attached to the FERC approvals, but approve is what FERC almost always does, at least for the last several years.
That is why I have been so pleased to see and be part of the development of Beyond Extreme Energy, which over the past five months has had a big impact. Our week of actions in early November, literally disrupting FERC’s operations through determined nonviolent direct action, every morning, was one of the best actions I’ve ever helped to organize. And it has been great that BXE activists have gone to every monthly FERC Commissioners’ meeting since then, keeping the pressure on. I was one of the participants at the January 22 meeting where FERC Chair Cheryl LaFleur adjourned the meeting and cleared the room because of our vocal presence.
Five days later, speaking at the National Press Club, this is what LaFleur said about our movement:
“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.”
But I wasn’t expecting what happened this morning when I went to FERC.
A few weeks ago I was invited by Green America to be part of a meeting they had set up with FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller. It was at 10 AM today, February 4th. There were two people from GA and me. We got through front door security OK, I was given a badge to wear, and a security cop took us up to the 11th floor and a conference room there. He went to get Moeller and whoever else was coming with him, and about a minute later he comes back into the room and says I need to leave. I push back, ask him why, he says I “am banned from the building.” So I go back down the elevator with him and go to the front entrance security desk, where a top FERC security guy—I recognized him from our past actions—was standing there, and he started to leave as I arrived. I stopped him, asked him directly why I was being removed, he said something like, after I pressed him, “we are looking into what we can do legally to deal with people who do not follow FERC procedures,” something like that. He made it clear that it wasn’t just me that they don’t want in their building.
Note that I’ve never been arrested at FERC (though I’ve helped others do so).
So we’ve gotten FERC’s attention. As someone wrote to me after hearing about what happened this morning, quoting Gandhi, “’first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win…’
I think we’re at Stage 3 now for sure!