Pipeline protesters return to FERC energized by recent wins, Trump backlash Exclusive

By  Sean Sullivan, S&P Global Blog
September 20, 2017

Returning to protest the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at its first meeting in months, opponents of natural gas pipelines said protests at the agency and a backlash against President Donald Trump helped set the stage for a recent string of victories at the state level and in federal appeals courts.

“We are starting to see with Trump as president that there are state regulatory agencies and federal court judges who seem to be now acting a little differently,” said Ted Glick, a leader at Beyond Extreme Energy. “Maybe it is because if Obama is no longer president, they feel more responsibility.” Beyond Extreme Energy would like to lead the country away from gas transportation infrastructure and fossil fuels because of climate and community impacts.

“The fact is that state environmental agencies in New York, West Virginia and North Carolina in the last month have all made decisions very much to the displeasure of the pipeline industry,” including extra scrutiny and even denial of Clean Water Act permits issued by the states, Glick said. In a Sept. 20 interview, he also pointed to a Delaware River Basin Commission move toward a ban on hydraulic fracturing and the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit’s decision to vacate an approval of the Enbridge Inc.-led Sabal Trail gas pipeline, which sent the matter back to FERC for more analysis of downstream greenhouse gas emissions.

“All those things are going against what Trump wants to do” and against FERC, which Beyond Extreme Energy and others believe is thwarting the transition to a clean, efficient energy future by approving pipelines, compressor stations and LNG terminals, Glick said.

“I think there is a connection between the protests that have been happening at FERC over the last three years and [protests] that happened at the Senate in relationship to the Trump appointees … and the growth of this movement,” Glick said.

Protesters from Beyond Extreme Energy and Delaware Riverkeeper Network interrupted the FERC monthly meeting Sept. 20, singing “We Shall Overcome.” Delaware Riverkeeper leader Maya van Rossum warned of dangers that fossil fuels pose to the climate as she was escorted out of the chamber by security. A display in front of the commission showed the gas industry as a puppeteer with the commissioners on strings.

A protest display shows FERC commissioners dancing to the demands of the natural gas industry.
Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence

Members of these groups and others then moved to Capitol Hill to try to win support for their cause. They asked legislators to place a moratorium on FERC approvals of pipelines and other gas infrastructure until Congress makes changes to the commission, and they urged Congress to write bills to turn the country’s priorities toward renewable energy and away from fossil fuels.

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