Protests Target FERC for Penalizing Renewable Energy Sources

Interview with Ted Glick, co-founder Beyond Extreme Energy, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

Since 2014, a group of East Coast climate activists, Beyond Extreme Energy, have been carrying out creative, non-violent direct actions targeting FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, in Washington, D.C. Their most recent action took place on Feb. 20, when seven activists entered the monthly commissioners’ meeting and spoke out against its all-but-inevitable approvals of fracked gas pipelines, liquefied natural gas storage and export facilities and polluting compressor stations, before being forced out of the room.

In a related action at the same time, five activists blocked a stairwell near the meeting room and chanted and sang until being removed from the building. There were no arrests. FERC has turned down only two of more than 400 proposed energy projects over the past 30 years.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Ted Glick, a co-founder of Beyond Extreme Energy, who participated in the sit-in protest. Here, he explains to Melinda, also a member of BXE, why activists felt it was important to raise the level of protest now, in light of  the FERC commissioners’ recent rulings.

TED GLICK: So, we decided we needed to take stronger action. One of the things they’ve recently done – is twice they’ve made decisions that penalize – there’s a whole process for producers of electricity from different sources, whether it be from coal, from gas, from the wind, from the sun, whatever – they bid into a whole market to then provide electricity to the companies that get out the electricity and distribute it. So twice now, FERC has made decisions that penalize new wind and solar renewable energy providers of electricity that make it more expensive for them to bid into this market. It is so obviously going against the way things have generally worked. Generally, there’s been more or less an open market for electricity coming from any fuel source to bid into this market, and they are so clearly switching up the rules of the game.

So, what we did was that, first of all, we had seven people who went into the meeting and got up and spoke out, and all of them, one by one, were shepherded out of the room and out of the building. There were some really powerful statements made by some in the 15 to 20 seconds they have to do so. And these disruptions went on all throughout the meeting.

And in addition, there were five of us who were not able to get into the meeting because we have done the speak-out before. We were put into what they call an overflow room under the watchful eyes of FERC security, and at a certain point, after people had spoken out at the meeting from our team, we began singing, we got up and left the room, started walking down the hallway, then had a sit-in in the hallway, not far from where the meeting was. We continued to sing. We started to chant. We chanted “FERC permits climate crimes. FREC sustains communities and the earth.” FREC refers to the Federal Renewable Energy Commission, which is what we are calling for, that FERC be replaced by a different entity that has the mandate to help lead the shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy and that should happen as soon as possible. It’s just essential that we move in that direction.

So, we were calling for FREC – the Federal Renewable Energy Commission – to replace FERC.

And we were pushed and shoved and manhandled and some of us dragged out of the building. They didn’t arrest us. That’s what we did and we intend to keep up this focus, this fight, because it’s just too important not to.

MELINDA TUHUS: Ted Glick, all three current commissioners of FERC were appointed by Trump, even the Democrat Richard Glick, who so often opposes these fracked gas projects, especially due to climate concerns. We should mention he’s no relation to you. BXE – Beyond Extreme Energy – has done all kinds of creative, NVDA actions over the past five years, yet FERC continues its rubber-stamping ways, under both Democratic and Republican administrations. So how do you see BXE’s work moving forward?

TED GLICK: All of us in BXE, we don’t see any possibility that FERC as it exists can become what’s needed. Let’s say Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination and becomes president and he starts moving to enact a Green New Deal. If FERC is not fundamentally transformed, FERC will frustrate any efforts to move that forward, because FERC is the entity that makes the decisions about the whole electrical grid. Their overall job is to oversee and regulate the electrical grid in the US, and we see what they’re doing. We see the kinds of decisions they’re making which are making it harder now for renewable energy to get onto the grid, even though the prices of renewables has come down so far they are very competitive with every other fuel source. The reality is that if these things weren’t happening, not only coal would be in big trouble – which it is, coal is in very big trouble in definitely the US market as far as a fuel source for electricity — but also gas, even gas being as low in price as it is. There are just so many other reasons why wind and solar are much more the long-term energy source for sure, and even right now in terms of price. They are competitive with gas, even with gas at very low prices. So, we really need to replace this agency. We need to build a movement that demands that and at the same time that they stop making these decisions. Maybe what we need to do is try to get Richard Glick to absent himself from the meetings of FERC because if they don’t have three people in a meeting, they can’t make any decisions. That’s part of their rules in terms of a quorum. So maybe that’s a campaign we need to pick up.

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