Protestors Refuse to Be Silenced at FERC Meeting

A protestor is escorted from the FERC Commissioners' meeting on March 19, 2015/Photo by Scott Mahaskey
A protestor is escorted from the FERC Commissioners’ meeting on March 19, 2015/Photo by Scott Mahaskey

By Rich Heidorn, Jr., RTO Insider

WASHINGTON — About 10 protesters were led or carried out of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s open meeting Thursday after defying the commission’s “no interruptions” rule with chants of “Stop construction at Cove Point!”

Last week, the commission issued an order saying it no longer will allow protesters to read statements before its meetings, as Chairman Cheryl LaFleur previously had permitted since the activists began appearing regularly at commission meetings last fall.

The new policy came after protesters — no longer content to read a statement before the session — disrupted January’s open meeting and a February technical conference on the Clean Power Plan. (See FERC Cracks Down on Protesters.)

Last week’s order also ended the commission’s ban on the use of cameras — which meant that the first test of the new policy was captured by photographers, including those from Politico and RTO Insider.

The commission’s secretary began the meeting by reading a summary of the new policy, which also was posted on a large sign outside the meeting room.

Immediately thereafter, two protesters stood up, facing the commissioners, but were confronted by security as they attempted to speak. One of the protesters was Ted Glick, national campaign coordinator at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Glick had previously said he did not think the order expressly prohibited unscheduled speakers.

As the two were being ejected, seated protesters — like the others, wearing red T-shirts with slogans such as “FERC Doesn’t Work” — took up the chant and were led from the room.

Finally, a group that had taken seats on the floor in front of the audience were forced to leave.

A protestor is carried out of the FERC Commissioners' meeting on March 19, 2015/Photo by Scott Mahaskey
A protestor is carried out of the FERC Commissioners’ meeting on March 19, 2015/Photo by Scott Mahaskey

The commission briefly left the meeting room during the episode, which lasted for about four minutes. Security guards said later that the protesters were escorted out of the building. No one was arrested.

Over the past year, FERC has been the target of environmental activists over its approval of natural gas pipelines and export terminals, including Dominion’s Cove Point site on the Chesapeake Bay near Lusby, Md., which is now under construction.

The challenge of dealing with the protesters now falls to Commissioner Norman Bay, who is scheduled to replace LaFleur as chairman on April 15. Beyond Extreme Energy, the organization that has been coordinating the protests, said it is hoping to attract more than 500 demonstrators to FERC in May.

In November, about 100 climate change protesters blockaded FERC headquarters, snarling traffic on First St. N.E.  About 25 were arrested. (See Federal Briefs.)

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