Over one thousand demonstrators marched to the office of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Washington D.C. on Sunday calling for an end to the "massive expansion" of fracked gas infrastructure under President Barack Obama and calling for a halt to the government-back push for liquid natural gas (LNG) export facilities nationwide.
Hoping to draw attention to the fast-approaching approval of the Dominion Cove Point LNG terminal, the protesters called the action a "People's environmental impact statement" on the project, saying that it is time the president prove his commitment to true clean energy solutions.
Following the mass demonstration, on Monday morning roughly twenty four protesters were arrested for holding a sit-in blocking the entrance to the FERC headquarters.
“For far too long, FERC has served as a facilitator for the oil and gas industry, rather than a regulator for the public good,” said Craig Stevens, a sixth-generation landowner Silver Lake Township, Pa., who took part in Sunday's rally. Stevens' property has been subjected to water, air and land contamination as a result of pipeline installation, as well as "disaster blowouts" in his backyard creek. “Private drilling corporations, private pipeline companies, and now private LNG facilities make all the money, while people suffer the consequences.”
“With LNG exports, the only things Americans get are terrifying new health and safety threats, worsening climate instability, and higher heating bills, all so that the gas industry can make bigger profits from fracking us,” noted ecologist and author Sandra Steingraber told the crowd.
Organizers estimate that well over a thousand people from up and down the east coast came to Washington D.C. to take part in the action. The rally began near the U.S. Capitol and culminated with a mile-long march to FERC headquarters, during which demonstrators carried a 100-foot-long “Stop Cove Point” pipeline.
The mounting actions have been called to raise awareness of the environmental threats posed by drilling for shale natural gas using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which are sure to increase significantly after the approval of numerous liquid natural gas export facilities. There are 13 such projects currently under FERC review, with Dominion's Cove Point terminal project in Lusby, Md. slated to be the first on the east coast and the only one near the Marcellus shale gas reserves.
"We’ll keep fighting until wind turbines and solar panels crisscross our coastlines, and LNG facilities like Cove Point are defunct monuments to a dinosaur industry.”
—Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus
In May, FERC released their environmental assessment of the Cove Point terminal project saying it can "be built and operated safely with no significant impact to the environment." However, activists note that the assessment blatantly omits such harmful impacts as the expansion of fracking wells, pipelines and compressor stations, and "enormous amounts of planet-warming pollution."
Over 150,000 comments have been submitted in opposition to the terminal. On August 13, FERC is expected to meet with coordinating agencies before submitting their final order for the project, after which construction may commence. At any point after FERC approval, the Department of Energy—which in September 2013 granted conditional authorization—can greenlight the export of LNG to countries without free trade agreements, namely Japan and India.
“We’re here today to deliver a ‘people’s’ environmental impact statement to President Obama and FERC,” Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, declared during the rally. “Any project that makes climate change significantly worse has no place on a livable planet, from Cove Point to Keystone XL. No matter what FERC decides in the near-term, the people will triumph in the long-term. We’ll keep fighting until wind turbines and solar panels crisscross our coastlines, and LNG facilities like Cove Point are defunct monuments to a dinosaur industry.”
"As long as our political leaders continue to fail to offer an energy plan that is appropriate for the climate crisis, we have to resist every new project that would lock us into decades of more dependence on fossil fuels," said climate activist Tim DeChristopher.
Images from Sunday's march and rally can be seen here and below.
The protest was organized by a coalition of regional and national environmental groups including Berks Gas Truth, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Energy Action Coalition, Environmental Action, Earthworks, Food & Water Watch, Greenpeace, Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, and 350.