by Melinda Tuhus, environmental activist and journalist
The bad news is that fracked gas pipelines exist and more are proposed all over the country. The good news is the same, meaning the front lines of the battle are everywhere, involving thousands of people – property owners, students, climate activists. Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) was born in July 2014 when a group sat in and was arrested in D.C. at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a quasi-governmental agency (funded by the industries that it regulates) that approves gas infrastructure, including interstate pipelines, storage facilities, compressor stations and super-high polluting liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. We have done three multi-day actions at FERC in the past year. From September 8-25, a dozen members of BXE conducted an 18-day, water-only fast in front of FERC headquarters, demanding No New Permits.
Why a fast? Despite opponents attending meetings, speaking at public hearings, filing comments on dockets of proposed pipelines, carrying out civil disobedience in which hundreds of people have been arrested both at FERC and at various sites – all without having much of an impact – members of BXE determined that a fast would be a different kind of action and could reach the hearts of people in a way these other actions hadn’t. We distributed thousands of handouts and talked to hundreds of people, including FERC employees and even the chairman of the Commission.
I provided logistical support for the fast, including driving the van, writing flyers and contacting the media. We all stayed together at night at a D.C. church. And we didn’t just sit around at FERC – we were very active in supporting other issues and events, like the culmination of the NAACP’s Journey for Justice from Selma to D.C.; a major press conference to support Bernie Sanders’s Keep It in the Ground bill in the Senate to end permitting for fossil fuel extraction on public lands; a climate-conscious Yom Kippur service at the Lincoln Memorial and events related to Pope Francis’s visit to D.C.
No, FERC didn’t stop issuing permits – yet. But we feel we changed the tone of the conversation, solidified our commitment to stopping fracked gas and its infrastructure, and mutually expanded our connections with many other groups like Black Lives Matter, faith-based communities, and climate justice workers around the country.
For more information about BXE or groups in CT working on this issue, email me at [email protected].