Protesters launch hunger strike at FERC

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Protesters angry about the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of infrastructure related to hydraulic fracturing are kicking off a monthlong fast in front of the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters today.

Members of Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE), a group known for disrupting FERC’s monthly meetings and picketing the agency in clown costumes, are aiming to occupy the sidewalk in front of FERC’s building through Sept. 25 to demand a stop to the approval of all gas-related infrastructure.

BXE said its members plan to gather in front of the agency’s headquarters during daytime hours with signs, banners and leaflets for FERC employees and other passersby. The group said it will also provide medical support and transportation for protesters.

A spokeswoman for the commission declined to comment.

The demonstration is slated to coincide with climate demonstrations across Washington this week ahead of Pope Francis’ address to Congress.

Francis is scheduled to speak to lawmakers Sept. 24 and has “expressed an interest” in addressing the public afterward from the Capitol’s West Front, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said (Greenwire, Aug. 26).

BXE on its website said continued disruptions at FERC are necessary because the commission has proved itself “intransigent,” even though groups have tried to use the agency’s procedures to stop the expansion of gas pipelines, compressor stations, storage terminals and export terminals.

The group, according to its website, met with FERC Chairman Norman Bay three times to call for a stop to all permit approvals.

“FERC must stop rubber-stamping gas industry permit applications and change the way it operates,” the group wrote. “FERC must prioritize the emergence of wind, solar and other renewables above fossil fuels. We say: No New Permits!”

Bay and his colleagues in the past have taken actions to thwart outbursts at meetings, including stepping up security and providing what have become routine announcements warning activists against attempting to directly address commissioners or disrupt the proceedings as they’ve regularly done in recent months.

In May, the chairman reiterated to protesters that they need to adhere to a formal process for providing comments and that states — not FERC — regulate hydraulic fracturing (Greenwire, May 26).

“It’s a turnoff, it’s ineffective and unpersuasive as a matter of advocacy,” Bay said. “FERC does not regulate the production of natural gas. If someone is upset with fracking, they should probably talk to the states.”