Washington, DC – On February 20, members of the climate justice group Beyond Extreme Energy held a sit-in inside the offices of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Seven activists disrupted FERC’s monthly commissioner’s meeting, calling for FERC to be replaced with the ‘Federal Renewable Energy Commission’ (FREC). An additional five BXE members sat down blocking a staircase, before being forcibly removed.
Members of the group sang and unfurled banners reading “FERC Permits Climate Crimes” and “FREC sustains communities and the earth.” They sat peacefully in the FERC headquarters until forcibly removed by building security. BXE member Jerome Wagner said the action was necessary because, “Under the Trump administration, FERC has become even more rogue, brazenly prioritizing fossil fuels over renewables and continuing to serve as a rubber stamp for natural gas infrastructure expansion.”
At today’s meeting, FERC is scheduled to vote on the Jordan Cove LNG export terminal and fracked gas pipeline proposed in Oregon. In 2016, FERC took a near unprecedented step and denied this project because the pipeline company didn’t have enough customers. The project has faced widespread opposition from impacted tribal members, landowners, commercial fishermen, youth climate activists, and more across rural Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. More than 40,000 comments were sent to FERC in opposition to the project this summer.
“Oregon agencies have already denied critical permits for Jordan Cove LNG, making it clear that this project does not meet state standards that protect our water, climate, and communities,” said Allie Rosenbluth of Oregon-based community organization Rogue Climate. “FERC should deny Jordan Cove LNG again, so that our communities can focus on creating jobs in renewable energy, instead of fighting dirty fracked gas.”
BXE member Ellen Barfield said, “FERC is the government agency tasked with approving or rejecting permit applications for all interstate gas pipelines and infrastructure. This places FERC at the heart of the fossil fuel system. FERC is responsible for evaluating the final environmental impact statements of projects, their costs and benefits to the areas they go through, and further regulations. FERC commissioners and staff often have close ties to the industry they are supposed to regulate. Many come from industry and return to industry after serving in the agency.” In fact FERC has turned down only 2 out of more than 400 industry applications in the last 30 years1. FERC has become a partisan battleground for the Trump administration as he has nominated increasingly political candidates aimed at supporting his energy policy.
The activists were demanding not only simple changes within FERC, but the replacement of FERC itself with the Federal Renewable Energy Commission (FREC). FREC would be committed to “lead the urgent work of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and shifting to a renewable, jobs-creating, justice-based and energy efficient power grid and economy,” according to Beyond Extreme Energy. The idea of FREC has been picked up by presidential candidates Bernie Sanders (D), Elizabeth Warren (D), and Howie Hawkins (G) and endorsed by 220 local, state, regional and national organizations. Lately even FERC insiders have been discussing the possibility of FREC.