By Angel Vogel, Beyond Extreme Energy
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, gas, and oil. FERC also reviews proposals to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and interstate natural gas pipelines as well as licensing hydro-power projects. Since 1935 when it first became an independent regulatory agency it has done little to protect citizens from exploitation. Instead, the agency uses its vast powers to facilitate the expansion of dirty and deadly extraction for export to international markets. FERC ensures that toxic energy projects create greater profits for rich developers while leaving poisoned communities with the lie of so-called U.S. energy independence through fossil fuels.
Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE), a frontline and activist network that formed in 2014 to fight FERC’s facilitation of dirty energy projects, has put constant “unprecedented” pressure on this industry-funded agency leading FERC Chair Cheryl LaFleur to say in reference to BXE, “We have a situation here.” BXE believes that direct action plays a crucial role in supporting frontline communities to take their battles to FERC’s doorstep, face them in person, bring attention to the life and death struggles these communities have been waging for years.
“Here in rural Pennsylvania, there are many families who are facing a horrible fate. FERC would like to approve massive natural gas pipelines that will destroy countless generations-old family farms and homes. For many of these families the option to move elsewhere does not exist due to financial burdens or long-time connections to the land and community,” says Deirdre Lally, a volunteer with Shalefield Organizing Committee.
“Our numbers are small but powerful,” says Maria Kretschmann of anti-fracking group E.D.G.E. (Ending Dirty Gas Exploitation) whose family-owned organic farm is threatened by expanding fracking infrastructure. “Communities must join together because we have enemies with fat pockets, dozens of lawyers on hand and no moral compass. We fight not just for ourselves and our friends but for those who cannot defend themselves or come to DC.”
BXE is partnering with community-focused groups to echo the frontline fights in DC and to present a fully-rounded strategy against the industry-funded, rubber stamping behemoth FERC. This battle must escalate to reflect the enormity of what is at stake, and what is, quite literally, coming down the pipe. The coalition has outlined a nine-point short-term plan for reforming FERC. However, long-term goals may look a little different. According to Faith Meckley of the frontline group We Are Seneca Lake, “The system is no longer made for the people but for the benefit of the companies. We need to make it really clear that we can no longer be ignored, and it’s time for a new system to be built.”
But while it is important that frontline communities separated by geography and culture come together with support from the broader environmental movement, it’s equally important that the issue of global warming and impending climate chaos not get lost. Since Cornell University first released findings in 2011 that unexpectedly large methane releases from fracking may make it as dangerous for the climate as coal, the scientific community has found even more evidence supporting this conclusion. Many are left wondering now about the industry’s snake-oil promise of a ‘natural’ bridge fuel. How we will reach the greenhouse gas emission goals necessary for ongoing life on the planet if fracked gas extraction continues to expand with the help of agencies like FERC?
“We are all downstream and downwind,” says Shalefield Organizing’s Deirdre Lally, “and we must continue to support each other in this struggle, because eventually we will win, but only if we do it together.”
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