FERC doesn’t follow its own rules requiring public benefits for pipelines, so it’s not surprising it doesn’t follow its own rules on public meetings. This time FERC is well into lawsuit territory.
Anne Meador and John Zangas, DC Media Group, 14 May 2015, Dozens Denied Access to FERC Public Meeting,
Federal Protective Services took extraordinary measures to prevent disruption of the Commission meeting by planned protests, barring access to about 30 members of the public. FPS also banned the use of recording devices, brushing aside FERC’s own rule expressly permitting it. Two people were escorted out of the meeting room, five detained and three arrested.
That’s arrested for exercising their First Amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”, not to mention the freedom of the press guaranteed by the same Amendment.
FERC’s actions occurred after the last several Commission meetings were disrupted by protesters who object to FERC’s no holds barred approval of gas infrastructure projects, such as interstate gas pipelines. May’s meeting was originally scheduled for Thursday, May 21, but it was moved up a week to thwart a protest planned by coalition group Beyond Extreme Energy, which has stepped up the pressure on the formerly obscure agency.
Denied entry to the auditorium, demonstrators took it to the lobby. Their loud chants of “Shut FERC down! Shut FERC down!” were heard in the background.
Well, they were prevented from entering the room to petition the government….
Security for the “open” meeting was tight. FPS officers recorded each person’s name and phone number and searched bags thoroughly. Dozens of peoples were not allowed into the meeting room are were instead directed to overflow rooms, even though empty seats remained in the auditorium. Security personnel had singled them out by affixing blue dots to their name tags.
So much for the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Back to the story:
People from several states, including Virginia, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, had come to FERC headquarters to voice their concerns. Norris said that about half of those barred had never been there before. He speculated that electronic surveillance of BXE communication may have put those people on a list to be culled from the crowd. “Someone is looking over their shoulders,” he said.
Could it be the FBI, which did just that when spying on Keystone XL opponents, violating its own internal rules in the process? Remember the FBI wrote:
Many of these extremists believe the debates over pollution, protection of wildlife, safety, and property rights have been overshadowed by the promise of jobs and cheaper oil prices.
Well, FERC just blocked people wanting to raise such issues from petitioning for redress of their grievances. Seems to me FERC is the extremist here. The protesters are patriots standing up for their homes and their constitutional rights against pipeline invaders from far away. Molon Labe!
First Amendment, Fourth Amendment: somebody ought to sue FERC, FPS, and every other party involved in blocking access to that open meeting.