The FERC 25

Just about a month ago, on July 14th, one day after a major demonstration to Stop Fracked Gas Exports at Cove Point and Beyond, 25 people undertook a nonviolent direct action at the D.C. headquarters of FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC does a number of things, but the reason these July 13 and 14 actions happened is because of its role as a virtual rubber stamp–at something like a 98% approval rate–for any interstate pipeline or infrastructure projects proposed to it by the natural gas industry.

The likelihood is very high that, absent a much more massive campaign of resistance, FERC is going to approve not just the three gas export terminals approved so far in Louisiana and Texas and the pending Cove Point (Md) proposal but also another dozen or so that are being processed by them as this is written. And there could well be more.

What will it mean if FERC approves all, or even most, of these proposals?

-It will mean a 50-60% increase in the volume of shale gas produced by the process of hydraulic fracturing—fracking—around the country. This, in turn, will lead to an increase in the number of gas pipelines, compressor stations and other infrastructure built in rural, suburban and urban areas which have never experienced this before.

-This will mean many more people sickened by the poisoning of their water supply and/or air who live near the fracking wells or the compressor stations, many more people who see their property values and net worth plummet.

-It will unquestionably hurt the growth of the truly clean energy sources like wind and solar, undercut them just at the point where they are starting to take off and growing rapidly both in the US and worldwide.

-And perhaps most ominously, it will lock in decades of methane and CO2 release into the atmosphere, almost certainly making it impossible to avoid runaway global warming with all the attendant worldwide catastrophic impacts. Even the Dept. of Energy, which schizophrenically supports fracking, admitted in a report it released in June that the export of fracked gas to Asia, the primary destination, would generate close to or even more total greenhouse gas emissions than the burning of Asia-based coal. And that’s the case even though they used seriously flawed methane release estimates that don’t correlate with recent scientific field studies.

In other words, there is real urgency to this issue for those who get it on the seriousness of the climate crisis.

The FERC 25 not only got it but were willing to risk arrest to try to draw attention to this urgent situation we are in. For two hours, from 7:45 am until they were arrested close to10 am, it was difficult for FERC employees to get into their building to get to work. To do so they had to step over and around the bodies of those sitting in front of the metal gates the police had set up to try to control access to the two pedestrian entrances. They had to hear the chants and see the signs calling for FERC to change its ways. Some of them, one would hope, had to be affected by this disruptive nonviolent witness.

Since the action, hundreds of people have signed a pledge circulated by fracktivists based in Pennsylvania saying that they are prepared to take similar action if necessary to try to stop FERC’s rubber-stamp machine. Members of the FERC 25 and others have begun holding conference calls to make plans for actions later this fall, with details still to be determined.

Just a few months before he went to jail for close to two years for his courageous act of civil resistance in Utah, Tim DeChristopher spoke to thousands at a 2011 Power Shift conference in DC. He called for strategic actions on climate that went beyond one or two days but, instead, a week or more, day after day, people willing to risk arrest in numbers that would create a political crisis for the powers-that-be. Several months later such anaction took place in DC with two weeks of sit-ins in front of the White House to stop the KXL tar sands pipeline. 1250 people were arrested, and three years later that pipeline has not been built.

Don’t the conditions we are facing, the plan for a dramatic escalation of fracking and its internationalization, cry out for something similar?

Is there a valid argument why the climate movement, or at least the part of it that supports strategic nonviolent cd, should not be coming together now in support of something similar at FERC as soon as possible?

Wouldn’t this be a perfect follow-up to the massive September 21st People’s Climate March?

If not now, when? If not us, who?