Protesters on Saturday descended on the Wellselly, Massachusetts home of federal regulator Cheryl LaFleur, demanding she reject new energy infrastructure projects.
LaFleur is a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which has the power to approve projects such as oil and gas pipelines that cross state lines. FERC can, of course, reject these projects as well.
Activists from the group Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) dropped banners reading "You can't be neutral on a burning planet" and "Vote for the future you want for your grandchildren." The group is demanding LaFleur reject every project that comes before the commission through the end of her term, which is up in August.
Because FERC has only four of its five commissioners seated, LaFleur has recently been the swing vote on natural gas projects. The regulator will not return to the commission after August, leaving her replacement appointment in the hands of President Donald Trump, who has been hostile to solving the climate crisis and to environmental issues.
"FERC has no system for evaluating the impact of new fossil fuel infrastructure's greenhouse gas emissions or cumulative effects of climate change on communities," said BXE's Sam Delaney. "This is unacceptable conduct for a government agency tasked with protecting communities and regulating the energy industry."
LaFleur has expressed concern in the past over emissions from energy projects, but has been loathe to have those concerns dictate her votes on infrastructure.
That should change, activists said, even if she only has a month or so left to weigh in.
"The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released a report that indicates we have less than 11 years to prevent catastrophic climate change," said Delaney. "We cannot lock our national energy grid into decades more of fossil fuels such as natural gas and oil. We must take steps to move to 100 percent renewables as quickly as possible."