FERC’s rubberstamp machine may yet be held accountable by the citizens, and by other government agencies and courts that are taxpayer-funded, not by the industries they regulate like FERC.
Sane Energy Project posted 4 May 2014, Reportback: The Minisink Hearing, or, FERC Gets a Clue,
A court officer was asked if similar hearings were always as crowded. “Never,” he said. This is a trend that’s building. Before Spectra, the average number of interveners on any project was about 19. Now, it’s typical for there to be 300-500 interveners, and for thousands of comments to be filed. Lately, activists are getting under FERC’s skin even more, showing up repeatedly at hearings, Commission meetings, and soon, a rally in front of their offices.
Ted Glick, coordinator for Cheseapeake Climate Action Network, one of the main groups fighting the Cove Point LNG export terminal in Maryland, said, “FERC has got to be starting to wonder what more our movement is going to come after them with, or maybe they know: July 13th, when thousands of us will march from Capitol Hill to the FERC headquarters, and the next day, July 14th, when many of us will risk arrest, underlining the urgency of our call for FERC to start protecting the public interest instead of the interests of the oil and gas industry.”
The public interest in the Minisink case did not appear to go unnoticed by the judges at Thursday’s hearing, either. When FERC’s attorney dismissively characterized the massive compressor station as a “rather small project” by FERC standards, audible gasps from the assembled audience prompted one judge to respond, “I hope the commission can understand why comments like that would give people pause.”
THE LEGAL ARGUMENTS
Among the 4 main points addressed by Minisink’s lawyer, Carolyn Elefant, was the question of whether FERC exhibits a predisposition towards applicants (in this case, Millennium). Because FERC approves 99% of all projects unanimously, one could suppose a prejudice in favor of pipeline and compressor station builders. (Or, as activists who later delivered a singing telegram in front of FERC headquarters, put it (to the tune of “Yellow Submarine”), “We all know FERC’s a rubberstamp machine, a rubberstamp machine, a rubberstamp machine . . . “)
There’s a lot more in the article, much of it eerily familiar.
And there’s an explicit tie-in:
Already, the message seems to be making headway, with agencies taking a cue from citizen comments: The DEC requested an extension of the comment deadline on the Constitution pipeline after residents pressed for the same; the EPA requested FERC to include upstream impacts after citizens from NY to Florida repeatedly denounced FERC for not looking at the cumulative impacts of fracking on infrastructure.
Frack that, FERC!