By John Zangas and Anne Meador
Protests against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission heated up as more than 80 activists blocked the doors and streets in front of and behind the agency, delaying employees from entering the building for a few hours. They also blockaded North Capitol St. directly behind the agency by erecting an 18-foot metal tripod from which a woman was suspended by a climbing harness. They held large banners saying, “No Fracking #StopGasExports” and “The United States of Fracking.”
Department of Homeland Security officers, who were assembled in front of the building, seemed caught by surprise by the blockade on North Capitol St. and were slow to react. After several warnings, protesters removed the tripod before arrests were made.
The protest was part of a campaign called “Stop the FERCus,” organized by coalition group Beyond Extreme Energy. Protests had also taken place at the agency headquarters last Thursday and Friday. Activists and community members affected by pipelines, compressor stations, gas storage facilities and LNG terminals say that FERC promotes fracking and doesn’t regulate the gas industry as it should.
Jessica Rechtschaffer spoke to onlookers from her perch high above North Capitol Street. “FERC is an industry-dominated rubber stamp on behalf of the Federal Government [which approves] any energy project, no matter how dangerous,” she said. “It’s not just an environmental issue; it’s a health issue. Climate justice is health justice.”
Many protesters came from distant communities affected by gas pipelines and infrastructure projects, including Vermont, Virginia, New York, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Ohio. In Oregon, there was a solidarity action planned to oppose the proposed LNG export terminal at Coos Bay.
“From Maryland to New York to Oregon, there’s a mad rush going on right now to build LNG facilities across the country,” said Patrick Robbins from Sane Energy Project, a group fighting the proposed Port Ambrose LNG facility off the shores of Long Island. “Fortunately, communities all over the country are rising up in resistance.”
Residents from a community closer to Washington came to FERC to voice their opposition to Cove Point LNG, an export terminal already under construction on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. “Actions like this can create the space to make change, including changing FERC’s mind and changing their direction to stop construction at Cove Point,” said Tracey Eno of Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community. “Dominion does not have the consent of the people.”
Beyond Extreme Energy plans to continue protests at FERC for the rest of the week.