But then once in a while you win – or at least you slow the bastards down, which can provide organizing time and breathing room toward an eventual win. In the past few weeks FERC – the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – voted to put the brakes on two of the biggest and most passionately contested fracked gas pipelines currently under construction – the 600-mile Atlantic Coast pipeline from West Virginia through Virginia and North Carolina, and the 300-mile Mountain Valley pipeline, from West Virginia to Virginia. FERC responded to pipeline critics’ courtroom successes regarding forest crossings, water crossings, eminent domain and endangered species.
Having spent time in West Virginia reporting on another filthy and dangerous fossil fuel extraction process – mountaintop removal coal mining – I really fear for the safety and quality of life of my friends who live in the Mountain State if the pipeline – through steep inclines and unstable rock formations – is allowed to proceed.
It doesn’t mean the pipelines won’t be finished, but these decisions are giving people hope. Another thing that’s giving us hope is that a federal judge just ruled that the Trump administration must conduct an environmental review of the new proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska. Last November the Nebraska public service commission approved TransCanada’s application to build the pipeline, but significantly changed the route. This could delay construction of the pipeline a year or more, making almost a decade since the thing was first proposed. You can listen/read an interview I did right after last fall’s decision with one of the leading ranchers opposing the pipeline, working in beautiful collaboration with indigenous activists and environmentalists.
But there’s always plenty of bad news, too. The folks I wrote about last month fighting the Bayou Bridge pipeline in Louisiana are facing increasing oppression. A new state law that just went into effect led to three water protectors being scooped up from their canoes while on public waters. They were arrested and charged with felonies. You can listen to/read my interview with Anne White Hat about that. And Ellen Gerhart (pictured at top), a retired special ed teacher and grandmother, was thrown in the slammer for two to six months, found guilty by a judge of indirect criminal contempt that included baiting a bear to come onto the pipeline route on her property as a means of delaying construction. It’s pretty unbelievable that a judge would rule this way, considering the Gerharts live in the woods and have very consciously protected the flora and fauna on their land – so of course it’s not surprising that bears would be about.
The common denominator in these two cases of intimidation and oppression is that both pipelines are being built by Energy Transfer Partners – the same company that pushed through the Dakota Access Pipeline. Both state actors (judges, police) and private security (like Tiger Swan) work hand in glove with fossil fuel companies to bring about these results. Click here for a damning video of "security" taking down Cherri Foytlin in Louisiana.
You can learn more about their cases and support them by going to