Thanks are due to US Senators Mazie Hirono, Ron Wyden and Bernie Sanders for their votes in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee a couple days ago against Trump’s two nominees to be FERC leaders. They aligned themselves with the FERC Vacancies Campaign, a network of 170 mainly grassroots groups which have been fighting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s rubber-stamping ways when it comes to new fracked gas pipelines proposed by the gas industry.
It was painful to hear Democratic Party committee leader Maria Cantwell talk before the committee vote about her intention to support Trump’s nominees because of the importance of getting a quorum back at FERC so they can keep doing their thing. I worked hard back in 2009 and 2010, when I was employed at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, in support of a cap-and-dividend CLEAR Act she and Susan Collins had co-sponsored as an explicit alternative to seriously problematic cap-and-trade legislation. But here she was 8 years later fronting for Trump’s pro-fracking, pro-fossil fuel industry nominees.
So I stood up and spoke out. In words I felt were so awfully appropriate for Senator Cantwell and so many other Democrats, I said, as loudly and clearly as I could, “Climate leaders don’t support fracking and new fracked-gas pipelines and infrastructure. FERC is all about the expansion of fracking. 30 years FERC has been operating and rubber stamping all the pipeline proposals except one. FERC has rubber stamped them. Don’t support FERC. It’s got to change.”
That was all I could say in the time it took for Capitol Police to grab me and move me out of the room. Minutes later Jess Rechtschaffer and Sid Madison also spoke up along similar lines and were removed the same way. All of us were arrested. Jess and Sid were released later that day after paying a small fine; I was held overnight and then released at 6 pm the following day.
We had not planned for me to interrupt Cantwell, but as the designated first speaker/disrupter, I just couldn’t sit silent when she so painfully spoke up for business-as-usual at FERC. There is little doubt that she’s aware of our movement’s concerns; her top energy staff people were met with weeks ago; I personally spoke at length with one of them in April, and energy and climate are a personal priority for her.
Of course, President Obama was a supporter of (some kinds of limited and incremental) climate action too, but ‘til the day he left office he was a cheerleader and open supporter of fracking despite all of the science showing how dangerous it is because of methane leakage and methane being 86 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2.
Part of the explanation for this state of affairs is the wimpishness of a number of Big Green groups on the fracking issue. Though there are few which are still outright supporters of methane gas as a “bridge fuel” to a renewables-based energy system, there are more than a few whose commitment to ending the current gas-and-pipeline-and export-terminal-rush is weak to barely there.
That’s why it’s so important that the FERC Vacancies Campaign has emerged over the last months when FERC has been without a quorum. Though most of the 170 groups are local grassroots groups, there are also national, regional groups and state groups that have signed on.
Without question, the movement to stop the gas rush is getting stronger and more connected. Most immediately, we need to flood the Senate, all the US Senators, with calls, emails and tweets demanding that they vote against business as usual at FERC by voting against Trump’s two FERC commissioner nominees, Robert Powelson and Neil Chatterjee. That vote could happen as early as next week, so the need is great for people to take action.
More information can be found at http://beyondextremeenergy.org.
Beyond this immediate campaign, our movement needs to step up and be more supportive of direct action campaigns on the ground at locations where new pipelines, compressor stations, gas-fired power plants and export terminals are being proposed. We need to figure out ways to keep exposing and putting the pressure on FERC. And we need to build upon the outreach to Senators, and House members, that has been taking place to keep the issue of fracking, fracking infrastructure and all new fossil fuel infrastructure an on-going, live one on Capitol Hill, in local elections, in the media and everywhere else we can.
Climate leaders don’t support fracking, and those who claim to be leaders who do need to feel the heat of our popular movement.
Ted Glick has been an organizer with Beyond Extreme Energy since its founding three years ago. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.