Victory for Climate Justice Activists

2014.12.1.FERC.MainFERC Protest, Washington DC, November 3, 2014. The protesters created blockades at all three entrances to the FERC building. (Photo: A Jones / Flickr)

In a successful court appearance this morning, government prosecutors were unable to proceed with charges against six activists involved in the week-long blockade in early November of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Headquarters (FERC) in Washington, DC. The blockade of FERC is part of a growing resistance movement demanding an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure and an immediate shift to community-controlled renewable energy sources.

FERC is the government agency which regulates the interstate transmission of gas, oil and electricity in the US, and in this role is facilitating an unprecedented build-out of new fossil fuel infrastructure resulting from Obama’s “All of the above” energy strategy. In recognition that this course is disastrous for mitigating the climate crisis, communities across the nation are rising up to fight FERC-approved pipelines, gas storage facilities, compressor stations and fracked gas export facilities. Thus far, FERC has remained unmoved, unresponsive and unaccountable to the devastating public health and environmental impacts created by these projects.

In the first week of November, people from across the country led by residents living in heavily fracked communities in Pennsylvania, student activists and participants in the Great March For Climate Action blockaded the entrances to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) building. They demanded an end to new permits and investigations into recent permits of major shale gas infrastructure projects. Each morning, activists linked arms to form a human chain while others held up massive banners displaying the faces of families affected by fracking. On the fifth day activists shut down FERC offices for several hours while impacted community members spoke to an audience of hundreds of silent and listening FERC employees about the human toll that FERC’s ongoing rubber-stamping of new fracking infrastructure has caused.

The majority of the more than 100 arrestees were ticketed and not required to appear in court. Today was the first of several court appearances for the thirteen activists who were arrested as part of the week-long blockade. Six cases were presented today and the other seven will appear either December 3 or 11.

The group’s attorney, Mark Goldstone, said today, “We are witnessing a new generation of climate justice activists who are taking bold nonviolent actions to defend their right to a healthy, just and livable future.”

Mackenzie McDonald of Michigan added, “Fighting climate change and ecocide is not only a battle for global peace and justice, for a sustainable and equitable future and for meaningful relationships with each other and the Earth, but it is also a battle for survival, to protect life itself and to preserve as much of the remaining biodiversity as possible. It is our obligation to end the destruction of life and create a new world.”

“The struggles of communities living on the front lines of extreme energy development is a harbinger for what all of us face with runaway climate change” stated Matt Smith of New Jersey, one of the climate justice activists who appeared in court today. “We’re building a global movement to keep Earth’s remaining fossil fuels in the ground.”

Undeterred by their arrests, activists involved in the FERC blockade continue to escalate their actions against extreme energy development. Some recently stood with residents in Seneca Lake, NY to block the construction of a methane storage facility in an unstable salt cavern which threatens to contaminate the drinking water for more than 100,000 people. Others are working with residents of Cove Point, MD who are fighting a liquefied fracked gas export terminal which will drive more fracking in the Marcellus Shale Fields. And they vow to return to the FERC in the Spring.