Just returned from an amazing, exhausting and uplifting week of direct action outside of FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) in D.C. We were there because FERC is the agency that approves almost all the fracked natural gas infrastructure projects that come before it, which is devastating communities around the country and creating an unsustainable surge in global warming emissions. (Natural gas is methane, a way more potent warming gas than carbon dioxide.) Hydraulic horizontal fracturing, or fracking, involves sending a million gallons of water, sand, and hundreds of chemicals (some of them suspected of causing cancer and birth defects) down each well to shatter the shale rock and extract the gas.
As the hand-out we used noted, "FERC does not consider the source of the gas for the projects it evaluates and approves, so the environmental and health concerns of fracking are not considered at all. Nor does FERC consider the impact on the climate of all that fracking." I thought after the first day we wouldn't hand out many more, as it's mostly the same people who walk by, but we passed out about 2,500 over the course of the week.
The week started with the final day of the Great March for Climate Action. A few dozen people walked across the country, leaving California on March 1 and walking from Bethesda to the White House on November 1. They talked to local people and local media all along the way, and took part in some actions, too, like at a pet coke plant in South Chicago that was polluting a poor community of color.
Folks were arrested Monday-Friday outside of FERC (I was wearing a fracking tower costume when I was arrested). The last day had the fewest arrests (6) but the most impact, as five people locked down (see my July 2013 post for more info on that) across the driveway to the parking garage. We also made a beautiful banner on beige painter's cloth with red letters made from duct tape that said, "FERC: Protect Our Kids" that was hung from the top of a parking garage across the street for about 15 minutes before it was hauled down. Dozens of protesters were mingling with about 150 FERC employees who couldn't get into their offices for a couple of hours. Many of us had one to one conversations with many of them, which was gratifying. Most of them seemed open to hearing what we had to say (we want FERC to turn its attention away from gas toward renewables), and some agreed with us while a few were pissed at us.
I was privileged to be on jail support Friday when we went to one of the precincts to wait for the five who locked down. Amazingly, they were released as soon as we got there. Three of them had also been arrested a few days before near Cove Point, 90 minutes from D.C. , where 11 people had run onto the site where Dominion is building a pier at the edge of Chesapeake Bay to bring in heavy equipment by water to start building a liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminal. (They're pictured fuzzily below, holding a sign reading "We are greater than Dominion profits.") There's ongoing direct action and legal efforts to stop it, but if it's built it will lead to a huge increase in fracked gas produced from the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania and neighboring states. (The photo above was taken on the road across from the action, depicting animals from the bay that will be at risk from the terminal.)
We were busy from 5 a.m. to 10 or 11 p.m. every day, doing a debriefing after each morning action at FERC, then doing separate afternoon and sometimes evening actions like a picket line at the Department of Justice calling for justice for Mike Brown and an end to mass incarceration; a visit to the Democratic National Committee to tell them not to count on automatic support from those concerned about the climate; and a live internet show in front of NPR headquarters to tell them we don't appreciate all the money they take from the gas industry (and now have cut their environmental reporting way back).
My hat's off to all the people who made the logistics work so smoothly, including three hot meals a day from Seeds of Peace. You guys rock!
I learned a few things from this week's efforts: people at Ground Zero for all these extreme energy projects (fracking, mountaintop removal, tar sands) often feel isolated, and they were so grateful for our joining with them to stand up to FERC; and even though I'm very pessimistic that we can turn back devastating climate change, working side by side with some of the most dedicated, smartest and most loving people in the world (most under 30 or over 60) is exactly what I want to be doing for the rest of my life.
For lots more photos and writeups, see https://www.popularresistance.org/popular-resistance-newsletter-link-arms-we-are-all-connected/