Activists Turn FERC Fake ‘Public’ Meetings Into People’s Hearings

Public meetings on oil and gas infrastructure have become a major problem for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as people in communities turn out to express their concerns and opposition. The public meetings have become a place where people can organize their communities to stop oil and gas infrastructure.

Public opposition has become the major problem for the oil and gas industry and when that opposition gets mobilized the people can slow, delay, increase costs and stop infrastructure from being built. At these hearings people learn how the industry is threatening their neighbors with having their land seized by eminent domain. They learn about the unfair deals being offered for land and why the deals are not good for landowners. They learn about neighbors farms, crops, orchards, water and live stock being hurt by carbon infrastructure. They hear stories of other communities hurt by the oil and gas industry. People get educated, organized and mobilized — that means trouble for the industry.

In 2016 FERC began to recommend steps the industry should take to prevent community organizing. One approach has been to turn public meetings where people speak out and hear from their neighbors into non-public meetings. People are ushered into one-on-one meetings with officials or industry representatives so that no one else hears their testimony. This keeps people isolated and feeling alone, not realizing they are part of the majority of their community and not giving people the opportunity to discuss these issues with their neighbors. This is becoming an increasingly common tactic.

Steve Norris of Beyond Extreme Energy reports how a community in North Carolina responded to this tactic being used for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP):

FERC scheduled one-on-one isolating and dis empowering listening  sessions in doubletree hotel in Fayetteville, home of Fort Bragg a huge military base.  So APPPL and CWFNC and others organized public hearings next door in a Rodeway Inn. A multiracial multigenerational group of native Americans, Afro Americans, Latinos, whites, veterans, farmers, long term and recently inspired activists came together to challenge Duke and dominion’s $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline. There will be other people’s hearings on Tuesday in Wilson,NC and Wednesday in Roanoke Rapids, NC TO challenge FERCs plutocratic attempt to bully the people and ram this monster through.

The ACP is proposed to be a nearly 600 mile highly pressurized gas line from West Virginia to North Carolina, including a compressor station in Northampton County, Virginia.

In Roanoke on February 15, FERC is trying the tactic again and Concerned Citizens of Northampton County, Clean Water for NC have scheduled a People’s Hearing, nearby. The local newspaper, the Roanoke News Herald, is reporting

The public is urged to attend the FERC sessions to give short oral comments to FERC staff, then to join the nearby public meetings sponsored by local organizations.  At these “Peoples’ Hearings” the public can learn more about the pipeline’s impacts and share comments with others in your region.

The concerns of the community are being made public to prepare for FERC and the People’s Hearing: “Summaries of key concerns will be posted at cwfnc.org and FrackFreeNC.org on Friday, Feb. 10.

We hope communities across the country duplicate this approach and turn the industries fear of people organizing into an opportunity for people to organize.