Rural environmentalists protest abuses at FERC Rally
Washington, D.C. — On September 20, a monthly crowd of protesters gathered in front of the Federal Energy Reserve Commission (FERC) building. The last time groups like the Stop the Pipeline met it was before the FERC had instituted a No-Quorum Period between February 9, 2017 through August 9, 2017. During this period, much of FERC’s orders and settlements were completed by the staff. Today’s meeting of the FERC Commissioners was scheduled at 10:00am and the public was intent upon being present.
Earlier in September two new Commissioners had moved to Senate consideration, Kevin McIntyre (nominated by President Trump) and Rick Glick (nominated by Senator Cantwell and Senator Schumer), however their confirmations remain to be set.
At 8:30am, protesters began brandishing their signs, banners, and even paper-sculptures. Leaflets were handed out detailing how FERC abuses its power, people, states, the climate and the law. Over 143 environmental groups and organizations endorsed letters to Congress demanding a halt to Trump’s Dirty Energy Agenda which includes advancing pro-industry Commissioners, rolling back environmental regulations, and speeding up review timelines.
Environmentalists, rural landowners, and experts claim that issues regarding FERC conflicts of interest, and gas companies harming or endangering public health are being ignored. Trump’s America First Energy policy also promotes energy development as a public good while limiting public hearings.
At the pre-meeting rally, environmental leaders and group representatives spoke out on how rampant gas line development in their states or counties are affecting their property rights. According to Drew Hudson of 198 Methods, today’s theme is focused on the harm pipeline companies are causing particularly in rural areas in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
It is difficult to grasp the concentration and extent of pipe development because much of it is kept out of the mainstream media. However according to Desmog Blog there are roughly 150,000 miles of crude pipelines in the United States, and over 305,000 miles of natural gas lines. Furthermore there are more than 2 million miles of natural gas distribution lines and service pipelines.
But since 2011, the number of pipelines transporting “dilbit” (a flowing blend of thick raw bitumem from the tarsands) as well as liquid natural gas have vastly increased. Recent maps show the area in the vicinity between Pittsburg, Pennsylvania and Morgantown, West Virginia as a congealed spiders web of interstate trunk lines, coal mines, and gas storage facilities.
With hundreds of private companies operating over 210 distinct pipeline systems in the United States, is it any wonder that small rural landowners are concerned about being forced into providing pipeline easements or living within interstate pipeline hazard zones? Is it any wonder that citizens are concerned about their property rights when they refuse to compromise with large gas companies and may have their property publicly acquired under eminent domain?
Even while the Fourth International maintains that pipelines are safer than oil trains, the long-term impacts of rampant pipeline development and the costs of oil spills need to be more carefully considered, along with considerations for worker safety and pipeline construction inspection.
Here is a small sample of what organizers had to say during today’s rally:
“Fossil fuels are a dead end. Most of the world is moving to clean energy. Putting pipelines over people is immoral, and we continuing to stay stuck when this is the 21st century. Pipeline explosions happen far more often than people know.”
—Quote from Todd Larsen, Executive Co-Director, Green America
“I am from Maryland, and we are concerned about the Transco Company’s Atlantic Sunrise expansion project. We are in the vicinity of station 190. We are going to see a lot of particulates spewing from the compressor station when the blowdowns happen. Compressor stations are to help keep the pipeline clear. What happens when they have a blowdown is that methane and other particulates go out into the community, and air pollution. Very dangerous. A lot of million dollar homes are going to be affected whenever there is a blowdown….Also the Atlantic Sunrise facility along the Chesapeake Bay will be located only 4 miles from a nuclear power plant. So they are both within each other’s danger [evacuation] zone. So if one goes, the other is going to go.”
—Interview with Jerra, Howard County, Md.
“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be coming through our small African American Community of rural farms. It will contaminate our waterways, water sources, drinking water, destroy the ecosystem. North Carolina natural gas easements will steal from our land, mostly 15 acre farms, divide lands, restrict property rights, not to mention devastating explosions…Let us continue to make our voices heard by standing together. Freedom shout of Halifax County and ask FERC ‘Stand with the People.'”
—Statement by Normandy Blackman from North Carolina
“I am here representing young people. I am concerned about protecting my future. We are fighting the Millennium Pipeline construction in upstate New York. We want to be heard now.”
—Annica Walsh, University graduate
“As a Franciscan, we believe in caring for all of God’s creation. We believe that all of the birds, the animals, the trees are all our brothers and sisters, and so we think that it is time that FERC start caring about creation and that we stop thinking that we have a right to just take what we want out of creation, and destroy whatever we want for our own benefit.”
—Interview with Patrick Carroll, Franciscan Action Network, Cofounder Global Catholic Climate Movement
“We are at the forefront of what is hopefully a growing movement.”
—Quote from Ted Glick, Beyond Extreme Energy
Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr., who has been involved in a number of high profile campaigns including human rights leadership in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, gave a rousing speech that concluded with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and leading the audience in the civil rights gospel song “We Shall Overcome.”
Following the rally, Delaware River Keepers and other organizers led environmental and citizen advocates on visits to their legislators on Capitol Hill. One of the letters they carried had been signed by over 25,000 people.
To read the letters delivered to Senators and Representatives, visit http://bit.ly/FERCLettersSep20.
Event photos by AGN