Members met with select Senators and members of Congress as well as having a presence in the halls throughout the day urging them to deny FERC a quorum until reforms are made.
Stephanie Scherr, Director of ECHO Action NH, represented New Hampshire as a part of a national delegation taking action in the halls of the Senate on July 20th.
New Hampshire’s Congresswomen Anne Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter will be visited by members of the delegation. Ms. Scherr met with Tony Hobbs, Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter’s environmental staffer, to discuss FERC reform, concerns about gas expansion in New Hampshire and the potential for offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine.
Washington D.C. – On July 20, 2017, over a dozen activists representing a national coalition of affected community and environmental organizations harmed by the decision making process of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), walked the halls of the U.S. Senate buildings in protest of an upcoming vote that would restore a quorum at the powerful agency. President Trump has nominated Neil Chatterjee, former energy policy advisor to Mitch McConnell , Robert Powelson, president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, and announced the nomination of Kevin McIntyre from the law firm of Jones Day known to represent pro-fossil fuel interests, to the FERC commission. The intent to nominate Richard Glick, currently serving on Senator Cantwell’s staff, has also been announced but not advanced. Protestors are urging Senators to delay a vote to appoint any new commissioners, and thereby restore a decision making quorum, until congress held hearings into the agencies abuses of power and law and installed needed reforms.
Those involved in the protest walked the halls throughout the day with signs having a range of different messages opposing the abuses by FERC and against the quorum, as well as low singing of the song “We Shall Overcome”. As protestors marched the Senate halls from 11 to 3 with their signs, other members of the coalition were meeting with targeted Senate staff urging the hearings and specific needed reforms. The coalition also delivered a letter to targeted members of Congress signed by 104 organizations representing communities from across the nation, outlining the legislative reforms of FERC and the Natural Gas Act that are needed to prevent FERC’s ongoing abuse.
“FERC is an out of control agency with no real checks or balances on its power – the congressional power of the purse is elusive for FERC, the ability of a President, if willing, to remove a Commissioner is extremely difficult, and the courts have repeatedly take a pass on checking FERC’s multiple abuses of its authority and applicable laws. Congress needs to hold hearing to understand the full breadth of depth of FERC’s abuses, to understand how communities, small businesses, farmers and state governments are being harmed and then put in place real reforms, not the recent window dressing fixes we have seen proposed. The only way to prevent the ongoing abuses until reforms are installed is to deny FERC its quorum in the meanwhile,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, head of the regional Delaware Riverkeeper Network and a leader in the national anti-pipeline coalition.
“Here in Pennsylvania, we are familiar with Trump’s FERC nominee, Robert Powelson. Even people who’d never heard of him before, learned about him a few weeks ago when he said that citizens protecting their communities from pipeline projects were “engaged in jihad,” said Karen Feridun, Founder of Berks Gas Truth. “It is an affront to anyone concerned with the devastation going on in our state’s shale fields and in the communities scarred by pipelines that someone who is so rabidly pro-fossil fuels and so contemptuous of the people he is in public life to represent has been nominated to serve on a Commission that is already notorious for its abuses of power. The Senate has the opportunity to stop FERC’s dangerous tradition of approving every pipeline it meets and it starts by rejecting nominees who will make a bad situation worse,” said Karen Feridun from Berks Gas Truth.
“People are increasingly seeing the damage that FERC’s failure to regulate pipelines is causing to local communities and the climate,” said Todd Larsen, executive co-director of Green America. “After 40 years of FERC failing the American people, it is time that Congress took action to rein in FERC’s abuses and create a regulator that serves the country, not the fossil fuel industry.”
“New Hampshire responded to FERC’s voracious appetite for power by calling abuses in to their landowner helpline. Concerned residents reported everything from photos of a shed labeled a compressor station and open houses held during blizzards to incomplete reports with thousands of “to be determined” labels, routes abruptly changed and segmentation used to justify pipeline overbuild,” said Stephanie Scherr, Director of ECHO Action. “FERC employees chastised citizens and denied the existence of noisy, toxic, off-gassing blowdowns. There is no recourse for citizens, communities and even legislators, to fend off the abuses of a rogue agency with an appointed commission and no apparent accountability to the people or for their irresponsible decisions enhancing climate change. The Senate can begin much needed FERC reform by taking away the rubber stamp and not confirming nominees.”
“FERC is a rogue agency. They’re captured by the oil and gas industry and dedicated to an “all of the above” energy policy that will cook the planet and bulldoze our communities” said Drew Hudson, founder of 198 Methods. “Returning them to operation is like powering up the Death Star and giving the keys to the Empire. No Senator, and especially no Democrat, who cares to claim about the climate or the goals of the Paris climate accords should vote to restore their quorum.”
“To call FERC a regulatory agency is a travesty. A company proving that they have customers should not nearly automatically guarantee approval. What we need is a true regulatory structure – an agency that looks at project impact to public health and safety, impacts of eminent domain on landowners, impact of environmental effects in the vicinity of pipeline infrastructure, including compressor and metering stations, and the impacts of each project to climate – not in a vacuum, but cumulatively – taking total GHG output over project lifetime. This critical juncture is the time to seize the opportunity to stop, recalibrate and restructure,” said Rosemary Wessel, Founder & Program Director of No Fracked Gas in Mass.
To undertake decision making, including approval of pipelines and other infrastructure, FERC requires a minimum of three of five Commissioners be in power. Powelson and Chatterjee have received approval from the Senate Committee to advance with a 20-3 vote and are currently awaiting a full Senate vote on their nominations. If accepted, then FERC will have it’s necessary three sitting commissioners to hold a quorum and vote on the multiple proposed pipeline projects that have been put on hold since February.