The Public Has Been Ignored for Too Long on Pipelines

In school, we’re taught that the U.S. is a nation of laws, and no one is above the law. But for communities nationwide fighting natural gas pipelines, they quickly find that the law is stacked against them.

Imagine receiving notice one day that a pipeline is going to cut through your property — maybe just yards away from your home, mowing down old growth trees, and cutting through pristine springs. The pipeline will endanger your family, damage your business, threaten your drinking water, and lower the value of your home. It could leak or even explode.

But when you go through the process of objecting to the permitting of the pipeline, or file a case in court when that doesn’t work, you discover that the pipeline company is allowed to tear down trees on your property and begin work before your case is ever decided.

That’s why communities let down by officials, regulators, and courts are turning to direct action to fight pipelines.

Last year, a group of Pennsylvania nuns from the Adorers of the Blood of Christ Order built an open-air chapel in a corn field. Their chapel sat right in the path of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in a bid to raise awareness of complaint they filed against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to keep the pipeline off their land.

This year, in Virginia and West Virginia, other protesters — mostly women — have been sitting in trees for as long as 57 days straight, to protest the fact that state and federal regulators have repeatedly sided with the builders of the Mountain Valley Pipeline over the local communities in the pipelines’ path.

Most of the blame for the rubber stamping of pipelines across the country lies with FERC. The little-known agency wields immense power when it comes to natural gas infrastructure. All new interstate natural gas pipelines come before FERC for review. And over the past three decades, FERC has approved almost every pipeline that’s come before it.

These approvals are handed down even when communities show compelling evidence that the pipeline isn’t needed, that it’s a danger to their community, and that it will exacerbate climate change by increasing fracked natural gas. FERC consistently ignores the voices of the communities impacted by its decisions.

That’s not just the opinion of community activists — it’s also the findings of a report issued by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General. The report found that FERC makes it difficult for the public to weigh in on pipelines and isn’t listening to the concerns of communities, particularly poor communities.

Ironically, the report was issued at a moment when FERC itself is calling for feedback on its pipeline process (which has been extended to July 25). Tens of thousands of people will be weighing in to tell FERC all the ways in which its current processes are broken — and how the agency could reform the pipeline review process to value people, communities, consumers, and the environment, rather than always siding with industry.

Recently, after receiving an outpouring of concern from the public, all five of FERC’s commissioners opposed the Trump administration’s call to preference coal and nuclear power on the electric grid — a move that would harm American consumers. If FERC hears from enough Americans that the agency’s rubber-stamping of natural gas pipelines is also not in the national interest, maybe it’ll start to reform its review practices.

If not, FERC will see increasing protests nationwide as communities do everything they can to protect their health and well-being from pipelines and fracking.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Justin Anderson
Don’t Count the Left Out Just Yet
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings