Protesters Demand Federal Energy Commission Stop Rubber-Stamping Gas Industry Projects

Posted June 3, 2015

MP3 Interview with Sydney Grange, Warren Wilson College student, conducted by Melinda Tuhus


From May 21 to 29, about 200 people from all over the eastern U.S. participated in protest actions called Stop the FERCus!, which was organized by the group Beyond Extreme Energy. Climate activists protested each morning outside the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. FERC was the target of protests because the agency has approved almost all corporate applications seeking permits for interstate fracked gas pipelines, polluting compressor stations, gas storage facilities and liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals. The rush to drill, transport and burn "natural" gas through the resource-intensive and dangerous practice of fracking is putting communities and families at risk all over the country. Climate activists believe natural gas is a dangerous climate killer, because the main component of natural gas is methane, which has 86 times more impact on global warming than does carbon dioxide.

On May 27, five people were arrested when they refused police orders to move from blocking the FERC office door in an effort to keep employees out – and bring home to them the harmful impacts of fracking. One of those arrested was Sydney Grange, a 19-year-old student at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina. Grange and four other protesters were held in jail for 30 hours – a much longer time than dozens of others who were arrested at FERC last fall. Ultimately charges were dropped against the five when the head of the federal police agency responsible for arresting them stated that the arrests had been a mistake.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Sydney Grange outside of FERC’s offices just before the student activist returned to North Carolina. Here, Grange explains why she participated in the civil disobedience action and the importance of the climate change movement to future generations.

Find more information on local and national campaigns targeting the natural gas industry by visiting Beyond Extreme Energy at

SYDNEY GRANGE: My name's Sydney Grange. I'm originally from California, San Francisco area, and now I'm living in North Carolina where I'm studying conservation biology and environmental policy.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Okay. So, you were one of five people who was arrested. You were blocking the doors to FERC with a bigger group of other people and when the police announced that they would start arresting people if they didn't move on the third warning, and also said that it would not be what the police did last fall – which was just take people to the building next door, process them in ten minutes and fine them $50, but that you would actually be arrested and taken to jail for processing – you decided to stand your ground. Explain what your thought process was, and your emotional process.

SYDNEY GRANGE: Yeah, well, it was definitely a hard decision to make. I wasn't sure about what was at stake, but I looked over and saw Steve and others standing strong despite these consequences that were mentioned. And I just decided I wanted to stand up for what I knew was right, and stand in solidarity with them and with all the communities that are being affected by FERC, so I decided to just stay.

BETWEEN THE LINES: And then just describe a little bit what happened, because you were held quite a bit longer even than other people who have been arrested in these situations.

SYDNEY GRANGE: Yeah, I was expecting to be released within two to five hours after they finished processing. However, the processing took longer than they intended, or expected, and because we missed the processing deadline we ended up being held overnight. And I was pretty unaware of what was going on throughout the whole time; the system wasn't very good about informing us of where we were going or when we would be going there, etc.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Of the five people arrested, there were three males and two females. So were you with your fellow arrestee?

SYDNEY GRANGE: Yeah, luckily I was with Geri the whole time. It was great to get to reflect and talk with her and be together in the situation.

BETWEEN THE LINES: And I know that a lot of people who do these kind of actions have certain dietary restrictions or commitments. I don't know if you do, but I know that can be a challenge.

SYDNEY GRANGE: Yeah, definitely. They only had one meal to serve us the whole time: baloney sandwiches or cheese sandwiches. I'm a vegetarian who prefers to eat vegan, so it wasn't that flexible of a meal to deal with. I ended up just eating the bread, which was fine. I feel bad for those who are gluten-free or have celiac's or something. Definitely not many meal options available.

BETWEEN THE LINES: So even though you're a vegetarian, not thoroughly vegan, you chose not to eat the cheese in the sandwich. You must have been hungry!

SYDNEY GRANGE: Yeah, I was a bit hungry, but the bread sustained me.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Talk a little bit about your commitment, why you came to this action, and what you hope will come out of it.

SYDNEY GRANGE: Well, the climate crisis is just so present; it's affecting everyone everywhere. And to hear about FERC and what it's doing to all these communities, it's just devastating. And to see that these pipelines and this infrastructure is coming from this one specific agency makes it pretty clear that we should be standing here, right at their headquarters. And I just wanted to stand in solidarity with the frontline communities that are most affected as well as take a stand for climate justice and the more general perspective, too.

BETWEEN THE LINES: This particular part of the movement is made up, not totally, but heavily of people under 30 and people over 60, and I'm in one demographic and you're in the other. It's a little hard...I mean, I feel horrible about it, but I definitely have a different timeline than somebody who's 19. So how do you feel about it? Do you feel hopeless? Do you feel there's still a chance? Do you feel like enough of your peers are involved?

SYDNEY GRANGE: The issue of climate change is definitely daunting. However, being here and being with this group has actually been very empowering. I love the mix of different generations and how we can each use our knowledge and come together for a common cause. I found that pretty powerful. So, although I can definitely get down on climate change sometimes, it's important to connect with those who care about the same issues and take a stand.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What do you think will be your next step?

SYDNEY GRANGE: Just to continue to be involved with the people I've met here and the issues I've learned about here. And to remain involved at school and draw some resources I've learned about and gained here and bring those back to school and hopefully get some more students involved.

Related Links: