Broad coalition of conservation groups oppose measure that could speed approval of natural gas export terminals
Pro-fossil fuel legislators in Congress hope they can help their campaign donors by putting the cart before the fracking horse. An amended version of the Senate’s Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 (S. 2012) includes provisions that would speed up the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of liquefied natural gas export terminals.
According to critics of the measure, that artificially increases the demand for U.S. natural gas and hits communities with additional health and climate risks. More than 370 organizations are urging the Senate to reject provisions in the bill that would encourage oil and gas fracking.
The groups delivered a letter to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski and ranking member Maria Cantwell demanding an energy bill that transitions the country to a truly clean, safe, renewable energy future.
Requiring the commission to undertake expedited reviews of these terminals “undermines the very transparency and prudence that federal actions should be premised on to protect our communities and environment,” the letter states. The groups also opposed the bill because it would require all state and other federal agencies conducting authorizations for these facilities to give deference to FERC.
For years, pollution-affected communities across the country have struggled against FERC’s rubber-stamping of fracked gas infrastructure projects like pipelines and compressor stations.
Environmental and community groups have lined up to oppose the measure. Following are statements from a press release with conservation leaders expressing opposition to the measures:
“As communities across the country seek to prevent the numerous threats to their health, safety and wellbeing that fossil fuel infrastructure projects bring, one oppressive roadblock keeps their voices silenced: FERC,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “This bad energy bill would expand and entrench FERC’s power over local and state democracy. We won’t stand for it.”
“The Senate energy bill makes it easier for companies to dig more dirty fossil fuels from the ground and ship them overseas,” said Jean Su, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “For Californians, who live in the third largest oil-drilling state in this country, this federal bill is a bright green light for fracking companies to pollute our air and water and threaten farms and food safety in a state that grows much of the nation’s fruits and vegetables. This bill takes our country in exactly the wrong direction at a time when we urgently need to transition to a low-carbon future.”
“New York rightly banned fracking years ago in order to protect residents from the inherent dangers it would have brought. But New Yorkers are still at risk from fracking infrastructure projects throughout the state, rubber-stamped by FERC,” said Julia Walsh, campaign director at Frack Action. “A new energy bill should be curtailing FERC’s power, not expanding it.”
“FERC is facing mounting protests and lawsuits for turning a blind eye to the climate and community harm of new pipelines and gas export terminals, from the mountains of Virginia to the shores of Cove Point, Maryland,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Congress should be reining in this rogue agency and pushing it to embrace clean energy, not giving FERC a broader license to act in lockstep with the gas industry.”