Newsletter: Policies For The People

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By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. Political economist C. J. Polychroniou recently interviewed David M. Kotz, author of “The Rise and Fall of Neoliberal Capitalism,” about the transition in the US from a regulated capitalism instituted under FDR that protected workers and the vulnerable to some extent to a financialized global neoliberal capitalism that started in the 1970s. Under neoliberalism, the rich got richer while protections for workers in the form of unions and and the vulnerable in the form of a social safety net were dismantled. In addition, the environmental impacts of industry and fossil fuels are barely considered despite the reality of climate change. Neoliberalism crashed in 2008 and has remained in a crisis state ever since with a stagnating economy, growing wealth divide and political turmoil. Crises are turning points.

Fossil Fuel Corruption Shown In ‘Vote’ To Restore FERC Quorum

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By Drew Hudson and the Beyond Extreme Energy crew. Standing alone in the Well of the Senate on Thursday night, just after 6pm and moments before the Senate adjourned for August recess, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski committed a deft coup d’etat on behalf of the oil and gas industry. The vote to confirm Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was anything but un-controversial, and was a serious breach of regular order. Just hours earlier, seven activists were arrested in front of Senator Chuck Schumer’s office. They had refused to leave until the Minority Leader spoke out about the dangers of FERC nominees and an energy bill that would dramatically expand FERC’s powers. The activists, including several of Schumer’s constituents, had delivered a letter backed by more than 30,000 comments of support asking him to vote no on FERC nominees and no on the energy bill. Hours later, Schumer and every member of the Democratic Caucus, including 3 senators who had previously voted against the nominees in committee, stood silent as Murkowski rammed through the nominations on a voice vote with no other members present, no accountability, and no opportunity for citizens to call or contact their senators to voice concerns.

FERC Quorum Restored In Night Vote After Protests

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By Staff for Popular Resistance. Washington, DC – On Thursday, August 3, climate protectors and New York residents occupied Senator Chuck Schumer’s office to shut it down in protest of the upcoming senate vote to confirm Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) commissioners. The FERC has not had a quorum, and thus has not been able to issue permits, since the inauguration in January. Protesters stated that they would “not leave until he [Schumer] opposes Trump’s nominations to #FERC and vows to fight the #DirtyEnergyBill, which if passed, would give FERC more power. FERC has been working as an arm of the oil and gas industry to rubber stamp unneeded and harmful fossil fuel infrastructure for decades. The #Senate must take steps to replace FERC with an agency dedicated to a just transition off fossil fuels.”

Landowners Along Pipeline Route Sue FERC And Mountain Valley Pipeline

The Roanoke Times

By Duncan Adams for The Roanoke Times – Participants in the lawsuit hope it will protect their private property from what they describe as “a government-sanctioned land grab” for the financial gain of a private pipeline company. A Roanoke-based lawyer representing 17 plaintiffs who own 10 properties along the current route of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline contend that the federal agency tasked with reviewing interstate pipelines should not be able to grant the power of eminent domain to a private company for its pursuit of “private pecuniary gain.” A lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Roanoke challenges the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to “sub-delegate” the power of eminent domain to a company like Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC. And it seeks a preliminary injunction that would prevent FERC from granting that power to Mountain Valley to acquire easements if the commission issues the certificate the company needs to begin constructing a pipeline. Justin Lugar, a lawyer with the firm of Gentry Locke, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court. Defendants include: FERC, Cheryl LaFleur, the commission’s acting chairwoman, and Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC.

“Ralph Northam – Your Support For The Pipeline Is Grotesque!”

A sign held at an anti-Enbridge protest in Vancouver. (Photo: travis blanston/flickr/cc)

By Josh Stanfield for Blue Virginia – To the sensitive ear of the Virginia Democrat, perhaps the protestor sounded a bit harsh. Grotesque? Seriously? Dr. Northam made his position on the proposed pipelines clear at the debate: if the DEQ and Corps of Engineers approve, he’s on board. So if we understand the grotesque as the incongruous, the absurdly or disgustingly distorted, this courageous protestor may be onto something. Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently reversed its pre-primary statement and – instead of conducting site-specific environmental reviews – will defer to blanket permitting from the Army Corps of Engineers. In essence, the projects are being fast-tracked with only cursory analyses of their likely effects. The DEQ, however, is itself deeply entangled in Dominion’s tentacles. The Director of the DEQ, David Paylor, was paid by Dominion to attend the 2013 PGA Masters Tournament in Georgia – a trip valued at $2,370. Not to mention a $1,200 dinner on Dominion’s dime. The DEQ’s Water Permitting Division Director Melanie Davenport reportedly represented Dominion as an attorney prior to joining the DEQ. And the DEQ has outsourced part of its environmental review of the ACP to a contractor already working for Dominion.

Outraged By FERC “Abuses,” Communities Demand Senators Block Trump Nominees

Activists serve potluck dinner at former FERC Chairman Norman Bay’s house, June 2016./Photo by John Zangas

By Anne Meador for DC Media Group – Opponents to the GOP healthcare plan weren’t the only ones paying visits to U.S. Senators on Capitol Hill today. Fracking and gas pipelines are also proving to be contentious issues leading up to a key vote on confirmations to a federal agency. Communities facing the construction of interstate gas pipelines, compressor stations and storage facilities have been raising a ruckus for several years now about the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The agency has been at a virtual standstill since February when Chairman Norman Bay resigned, leaving too few commissioners to approve major projects. Opponents would like to keep it that way. Environmentalists from organizations including Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Echo Action NH and representatives of communities impacted by gas infrastructure dropped off letters and held meetings with Senators, demanding that they block confirmations of Commissioners to FERC until the agency is reformed. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is abusing its authority and the law in alarming ways,” says the letter delivered to lawmakers today. “After three decades of FERC’s unaccountable and irresponsible approach to energy development, the trust of the American people has been strained beyond the breaking point.”

FERC’s Revolving Door: Former Commissioner Joins Pipeline Lobby Firm

From desmogblog.com

By Itai Vardi for Desmog – Only one week after leaving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), former commissioner Colette Honorable has joined a law firm lobbying for Dominion Energy, the company behind the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Honorable is joining Reed Smith LLP, a firm lobbying in the state of Virginia for Dominion, the energy giant leading the proposed natural gas project. The Atlantic Coast pipeline, a 550-mile three-state line, still requires FERC’s approval. Virginia lobbying disclosures show that Reed Smith has been lobbying for Dominion since at least 2015. The firm has so far assigned three lobbyists to work on Dominion’s behalf: William Thomas, Jeffrey Palmore, and Edward Mullen. Honorable, a Democrat, was appointed as FERC commissioner by former President Obama in August 2014. Previously she served as chairperson of the Arkansas Public Service Commission. Reed Smith hired Honorable as a partner in its international energy & natural resources practice. As DeSmog previously reported, Honorable has ties to a senior executive at Southern Company, a minority stakeholder in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Resistance Growing As 180 Groups Call For ‘No’ Vote On FERC Nominees

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By Melinda Tuhus for Beyond Extreme Energy. Faced with the growing scourge of pipeline expansion nationwide, 180 groups — including Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch, Green America, the Center for Biological Diversity, and community-level organizations — are calling for the full Senate to vote “no” on President Trump’s nominees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The coalition of organizations is opposing the nominations of Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson because both nominees would increase FERC’s bias towards the fossil fuel industry and further marginalize communities that oppose pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure that damage people’s homes, livelihoods and communities. Natural gas pipelines and infrastructure represent a clear danger to communities nationwide, and in just the past two years, explosions at transmission pipelines have caused 12 deaths and 10 injuries, as well as extensive property damage. In addition, the construction process puts communities at risk. Recently, the Rover pipeline, under construction and approved by FERC, resulted in two million gallons of drilling fluids leaking into Ohio wetlands.

Enviros Disrupt Senate Energy Committee For Second Time Over Trump Nominees

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By John Zangas for DC Media Group – A group of environmentalists disrupted the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources as it attempted to vote on two key Trump nominees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). It was the second time in two weeks the Senate Committee was disrupted by environmentalists. Three activists representing a coalition of 170 green groups were arrested early Tuesday after interrupting the Committee vote, delaying it for a brief time. Ted Glick and Sid Madison, environmental activists from New Jersey, and Jess Rechtschaffer, an activist from New York, were arrested and charged with incommoding and blocking an exit during a Senate hearing. Glick was also charged with resisting arrest and held overnight and will be arraigned Wednesday. Both Rechtschaffer and Madison paid a $50 post and forfeit fine and were released a short time later. By posting the fine, they admit guilt and avoid a court hearing. The Senate Energy Committee meeting ended after voting 20-3 to forward the nominees anyway. The approvals of Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson, who have worked as fossil energy insiders, will come to a full Senate vote.

Three Arrested Blocking Fast-Tracked FERC Commissioner Approvals

Ted Glick remains in DC jail overnight due to additional charges from the nonviolent disruptive direct action today at the #SenateENR confirmation vote for new #FERC commissioners. Please send love to Ted and follow along for updates, get involved with the resistance & abolition of rogue agencies, and please donate to the #ResistFERC campaign legal fund: http://bit.ly/VacateFERC

By Jimmy Betts for Beyond Extreme Energy. The week following Trump’s announcement that he will pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, three individuals representing a coalition of nearly 170 groups opposing Trump’s nominees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) disrupted a committee vote to advance the candidates. Three individuals were arrested during the committee vote. They stood up and spoke out about FERC’s abusive practices and disregard for the environment. Jess Rechtschaffer arrested at Senate hearing protesting FERC appointees June 6, 2017 by BXE. Jess Rechtschaffer arrested at Senate hearing protesting FERC appointees June 6, 2017 by BXE. The coalition, made up of local and national groups focused on various issues, is demanding that senators vote no on Trump’s nominations until the Senate holds investigations into FERC’s the abuses of power and law. The campaign has been building for more than five months and has included call-in’s, letter-writing drives, Twitter storms, lobby days, and civil resistance focused on educating senators and pressuring them to oppose the nominations.

Environmentalists Disrupt Senate Energy Committee Hearing Over Trump Nominations

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By John Zangas for DC Media Group – Strickler spoke from her home in Virginia Thursday evening. “The fossil fuel industry has a stranglehold on the Senate with the money it gives to control the political process,” she said. Strickler is concerned that energy policy cannot begin to change toward renewable options as promised in the Paris Climate accords, while FERC and the fossil fuel industry lobby controls Congress.Four of the protesters were arrested, while one was detained. Strickler was the only one released from custody Thursday afternoon after paying a $50 post-and-forfeit fine. The others were held over night. Ellen Barfield from Baltimore and Randy Fenstermacher from Massachusetts were also arrested. All four were initially charged with disrupting a Senate hearing. But at their arraignment on Friday, the charges were dropped for all but Lee Stewart. Stewart was also charged with destruction of government property, involving his attachment to the chair. His court date is set for June 26. BXE has been battling FERC over its approval of virtually every fossil project put before it by the gas industry. As a result, BXE activists have nicknamed FERC the “rubber stamp agency.”

Beyond Extreme Energy Disrupts Senate Hearing For FERC Commissioner

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By Jimmy Betts for Beyond Extreme Energy. WASHINGTON, DC – Once accustomed to operating in the shadows, controversy around the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and its role in the permitting of harmful and unnecessary fracked gas infrastructure was thrown into the limelight on Thursday morning when five people disrupted the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s confirmation hearing for President Trump’s nominations to the Commission, causing delay while speakers tried to proceed. After the hearing was called to order, and introductions occurred, protesters methodically, yet unpredictably, loudly exclaimed “FERC hurts families, Shut FERC down!” and “FERC hurts families, FERC hurt towns” and “The future is watching”. One protester said “I am compelled to interrupt this because I have seen the damage of climate change”. The protesters were ejected, four arrested and one detained.

Residents Demand Dominion Stop Treating Them As A Sacrifice Zone

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By Donny Williams for We Are Cove Point. “I don’t know a lot about the existing permit.” Those words shocked the crowd gathered last night for Maryland Department of the Environment’s “informational meeting” regarding Dominion’s permit to dump an average of 45,000 gallons every day into the wetlands around Cove Point. Spoken by Marjorie Mewbourn, MDE’s project manager overseeing this permit application, this sentence summed up a lot about the amount of information our state regulators had or were able to share. MDE seemed nervous as it tried to give a presentation about this permit to a crowd of about 60, which overflowed the “Dominion Cove Point LNG” meeting room where it was held in the Prince Frederick library and had people sitting on tables or wherever they could find space. However, residents didn’t let MDE get very far.

Trump Nominates New FERC Commissioners

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Washington, DC – The Hill reports that the Trump administration announced on Monday its two Republican nominees, Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson, f0r the vacant seats in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). If confirmed, the FERC would once again have a quorum and would be able to resume rubber stamping its backlog of fossil fuel project permits. A coalition of around 160 local, state, regional and national organizations is calling upon the Senate to reject both nominations announced yesterday by President Donald Trump to be Commissioners of FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “FERC has been abusing communities for decades, abusing their power and authority in ways that undermines the rights of both people and the states. While biased FERC Commissioners with industry ties is nothing new, Donald Trump’s picks, if confirmed by the Senate, would take us to a whole new and dangerous level of conflict and bias.

Pipeline Protest Serves Half Ton Of Sweet Potatoes

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By Anne Meador of DC Media Group. What could be better for breakfast than sweet potato pie? Employees of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission got a free piece of sweet potato pie on their way to work this morning when a group of activists tried to make a point about a pipeline’s potential impact on the North Carolina sweet potato crop. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a project of Dominion Transmission and Duke Energy, is currently under review by FERC. The activists say the ACP, which would traverse 550 miles from West Virginia through Virginia to North Carolina, would, among other things, harm agricultural producers, such as sweet potato farmers in eastern North Carolina.