Last week, we became aware of a rare opportunity that will assist us on our efforts to oppose the various pipeline projects across the state and region. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has a vacant position, since Chairman Norman Bay resigned. Until this position is filled, FERC will lack the necessary quorum to make decisions on approving pipelines. Since FERC’s history tells us they are primarily a “rubber stamp” organization and have only denied one pipeline application over the past 30 years, this is very good news to our ears.
Even if not required by NEPA, in light of the heightened public interest and in the interests of good government, I believe the Commission should analyze the environmental effects of increased regional gas production from the Marcellus and Utica… Where it is possible to do so, the Commission should also be open to analyzing the downstream impacts of the use of natural gas and to performing a life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions study…
We need to be vigilant, in making sure that the current political powers do not circumvent or rush approval of another chairman and/or of any pipeline proposals currently in the FERC review process. Therefore, we urge you to contact “friendly” Federal congresspersons and/or senators in order to persuade them to oppose and delay the nomination processes, as much as they possibly can. You may choose to include West Virginia elected leaders in your communications about this, but you may also want to contact “friendly” leaders from other states, such as Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Contact your preferred congressional leaders here, and Senators here .
Here are some talking points, summarized from our friends at Delaware Riverkeeper :
FERC has unchecked bias due to these practices:
• FERC hires contractors to do reviews for FERC while at the same time they are working for the pipeline companies.
• FERC Commissioners and employees have been shown to benefit directly and indirectly from their pro-industry approval rate.
• There exists a revolving door between FERC the agency and the pipeline and energy industry.
• The law allows FERC to operate with no real oversight from other branches of government; and FERC is funded by the industries it regulates.
• FERC misuses its authority to abuse communities in the process. It uses a legal loopholes that prevents communities from challenging pipeline projects before FERC gives them the power of eminent domain and approves construction.
• FERC strips states over their legal authority to say “no” by leapfrogging over them in the review and approval process.
Thus, please help us defend our communities from the onslaught of pipeline projects we are facing. Our state – West Virginia – has at least 15 pipelines in various stages of the FERC approval process right now. If all of these are approved, we know that the accompanying increase in deep shale drilling will be unlike anything we’ve ever experienced in this state or region; this increase will also lead to such an increase in methane emissions that the United States will be unable to reach our climate goals. We also have the head water streams for much of the Ohio, James and Potomac River watersheds. It should be a national priority to keep our headwater streams and rivers as clean and well preserved as possible.
If you are a member of a group other than OVEC, please, ASAP, make sure your group is signed on to this letter (OVEC is signed on):