From Jan. 28 to Feb. 7 my wife and I were in Vieques, Puerto Rico, helping as best we could with recovery from Hurricane Maria, which hit on Sept. 20, 2017 almost five months ago. Help is very much still needed.
I don't think I realized how much that is true until I got home to New Jersey and experienced all of the things I didn't experience during those 10 days:
- the lights and everything electrical turning on or being on all day and night whenever I need it;
- a hot, not cold, water shower;
- not worrying about hitting something or falling when I had to get up and go to the bathroom or move around at night;
- not hearing (or smelling) loud gas generators behind the house where I was staying and several other places in the neighborhood as day turned into night;
- not having to do extra-special filtering of the tap water because of concerns about its quality;
- reliably accessing my cell phone apps, telephone and the internet whenever I want to.
These were the main differences.
I was staying at Casa de Kathy in Esperanza, the second largest town in Vieques. The only street in Esperanza that fully had electrical power when we were there was the Malecon, the downtown street next to the water where bars, restaurants and hotels are, and they didn't get that power until the fifth day we were there. What electrical power there was elsewhere in town came from gas-powered generators bought by residents who could afford them.
There was concern about the tap water. Neither the EPA nor anyone else had done tests to determine how safe it is to drink.
There were still piles of debris and branches that had been blown down by the storm, as well as collections of stoves and refrigerators disabled by it.
Despite all of these serious problems, the sense I had was that people in general were pulling together, some more than others, to climb out of the hole the hurricane put them in. They were doing so even though there was a lot of criticism of FEMA for its slowness and for it denying aid to a number of people whose homes had been damaged.
I was glad to learn that the use of solar energy, in different forms, is growing, from small solar lights, which are popular, to solar panels on roofs to provide an alternative to an unreliable electric grid.
One of the big takeaways for me was the reinforcement of something I have known intellectually for years, that extreme weather events, like the climate changing which makes them worse and more frequent, hurts low-income people the most. Middle- and upper-class people who have access to financial and other resources had found ways to lessen their suffering or discomfort, like through personal generators. But those without those resources were in a different situation. I heard of at least one family that was sleeping in a tent in their living room because there had been serious damage to their roof that they had not yet been able to afford getting fixed.
Unfortunately, it's not just recovery from the big storm that is a big problem. The pro-statehood Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, announced just before we got there that he wanted to privatize the electrical system, currently publicly owned, which would certainly lead to higher electrical rates for many struggling Puerto Rican consumers as the corporate buyer looks to make its profits.
Then there is the relatively large Puerto Rican debt (though hugely smaller than the U.S. debt) of $73 billion. There have been calls for that debt to be forgiven, for obvious reasons. Lin-Manual Miranda, for example, creator and star of the Broadway hit Hamilton, called for that in a December opinion piece in the Washington Post. He wrote:
"Puerto Rico's creditors should do the right thing and walk away. It is the only way forward. Anything short of full debt forgiveness would be a brutal form of economic punishment to a people already suffering."
But to add insult to injury, the Republican tax bill passed at the end of 2017, unless challenged and changed, will make things even worse.
A Dec. 20 Washington Post story reported that the Puerto Rican Governor "is calling on lawmakers to rewrite a key part of the tax bill that he says might cause the island's hefty manufacturing sector to contract, jeopardizing hundreds of thousands of jobs. [It] includes a new 12.5 percent tax on profits derived from intellectual property held by foreign companies—a move designed to compel those companies to move back to the U.S. The new tax "is a big hit, and Puerto Rico both fiscally and economically is downtrodden, and this is the last thing they need," said Federico de Jesus, a former Puerto Rico government official who has been tracking congressional relief efforts for the island."
U.S. citizens have a special responsibility to help Puerto Rico, which has been a colony of the U.S. since 1898. It is our humanitarian and moral responsibility, and it is our duty as citizens of the nation which has the power to help Puerto Rico either move forward or backwards after Maria. We must do what we can as far as practical hurricane recovery support but also support groups calling for a cancellation of the debt, changes to the Republican tax bill and reform of the electric power system, not its privatization.
Ted Glick is a former activist with the Puerto Rico Solidarity Committee in the 1970's. He was a supporter of the historic civil disobedience campaign in Vieques in the early 2000's which led to the removal of the U.S. Navy. He has been a progressive activist and organizer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found here, and he can be followed on Twitter.
Since April 2014, 10 fracking infrastructure projects have been canceled or delayed.
Here's the list:
April 2014: The Bluegrass Pipeline in Kentucky was stopped by a court decision upholding landowners’ rights against the use of eminent domain to take their land for private profit.
November 2015: The Port Ambrose liquified natural gas (LNG) project was vetoed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The project was proposed by Liberty Natural Gas off the shores of New York and New Jersey.
BREAKING: @NYGovCuomo Vetoes Port Ambrose LNG Project https://t.co/MVIn17Km9C #NoLNG @MarkRuffalo @riverkeeper @350 ⊕https://t.co/GSzm3ADeA9— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1447356170.0
March 2016: The Jordan Cove LNG export terminal and 223-mile Pacific Connector pipeline in Oregon were rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), signifying FERC’s first gas infrastructure rejection in 30 years.
HUGE VICTORY! #FERC Denies #JordanCove #LNG Export Terminal & Pacific Connector https://t.co/g0DH8JY3Zm @sierraclub https://t.co/XYsPkartYZ— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1457794986.0
March 2016: The Republican-dominated Georgia legislature voted overwhelming for a one-year moratorium on any new gas pipelines, setting back efforts to build the Palmetto Pipeline.
March 2016: FERC announced a seven month delay on making a decision about the Penn East pipeline in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and a 10 month delay for the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
April 2016: The Oregon LNG company announced that it's ending its years-long effort to build an export terminal and pipeline.
April 2016: Kinder Morgan announced it is suspending its efforts to build the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline, which would have run from Pennsylvania through New York into Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
April 2016: Dominion Resources announces that the start time for beginning construction on the Atlantic Coast pipeline, going from West Virginia through Virginia into North Carolina, is being moved back from this fall to summer 2017.
April 2016: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation rejected the application of the Constitution Pipeline company for a water quality permit, a permit it must have in order to begin construction.
Gov. Cuomo Rejects the Constitution Pipeline, Huge Win for the Anti-Fracking Movement https://t.co/kArrW17d0h via @ecowatch— Mark Ruffalo (@Mark Ruffalo)1461411919.0
“We are actually experiencing the clean energy revolution, it’s really happening right now,” I said to my wife when I heard the news about the Constitution Pipeline.
It's very significant that the movement against fracking and fracking infrastructure projects is winning these victories, but it does not mean we can take a break. As of March 24, FERC's lists 58 interstate gas pipelines on their website.
New #pipelines in a decarbonizing world: like new buggy whip factories to celebrate the car. https://t.co/e4RvBCX0Ww https://t.co/VvtxUUMUhi— Environment Hamilton (@Environment Hamilton)1460734723.0
We need to gain strength from these victories and, with the wind shifting from a headwind to being more at our back, step up our pressure on FERC, and the gas and pipeline industry. Join Beyond Extreme Energy from May 15 to May 22 in Washington, DC for the Rubber Stamp Rebellion.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Florida has shown a dedicated investment in solar energy in recent years, leading it to become the third most popular state in the country for solar installations. Because of this, a number of new companies have popped up across the state, leaving it difficult for consumers to narrow the best solar companies in Florida.
In this article, we'll introduce you to the top 10 Florida solar installers so you can make the best decision for your home's clean energy needs.
Our Picks for Top Florida Solar Companies
- Sunpro Solar
- Solar Source
- Goldin Solar
- Solar Bear
- Blue Raven Solar
- Unicity Solar
- May Electric Solar
For many Florida homeowners, the decision to go with one provider over another comes down to solar panel costs. Interested in seeing how much you would pay to install a solar system on your roof? Fill out the form below to get a free, no-obligation quote from a top Florida solar installer that services your area.
Comparing Top Florida Installers
Florida is the perfect example of bigger solar companies not always being better.
Industry giants like SunPower and Sunpro Solar may top our list, but a large number of local providers in Florida have decades of experience tailored to the climate of the state. Some customers with older roofs may prefer to work with technicians experienced in preventing rain or wind damage, for example. Whether you're looking for a nationally recognized top solar company or a family-owned installer, pay special attention to each provider's customer service and warranties, which are of particular importance in Florida.
SunPower has been an industry leader since 1985, designing all-in-one residential and commercial solutions backed by personalized customer service and the industry's most comprehensive warranty. Over 35 years of professional solar experience makes SunPower one of the most trusted solar installers available in Florida. Offering both an online design studio and virtual consultations, SunPower has an industry-leading process that provides customers with reliable installations of custom-designed solar energy and backup solar battery systems.
Sunpro Solar is another national solar provider with an excellent track record in Florida. Sunpro has a proven history and reputation for providing attentive service, long-lasting warranties and comprehensive solar solutions. We recommend Sunpro if you're looking for top-notch customer care throughout the entire lifespan of your solar panels.
The first installer on our list that operates solely within Florida, Solar Source is a favorite solar company of local roofers, builders and homeowners. A commitment to top-quality products, exceptional service and reliable support has earned the company many positive reviews from customers. In a region frequently hit by tropical storms and severe weather, this solar installer offers 37 years of expertise you can trust to install your system securely.
SunVena is another one of the most local Florida solar installers. SunVena's goal is to deliver an exceptional solar experience without any lengthy, confusing sales pitches. An educational, friendly and simple process is essential in making customers feel comfortable in making a sizable investment; SunVena's stellar customer reviews prove the company has this down pat.
Goldin Solar is a young company that has made a quick impact. Since 2014, its installations have generated over 65 million kWh of energy, helped homeowners save over $8 million in electric bills and offset over 100 million tons of emissions. With $0-down financing options, comprehensive energy storage solutions and exceptional customer reviews, we expect Goldin Solar to quickly rise in the ranks of the best solar companies in Florida.
This family business has grown from serving just the Orlando and Tampa Bay areas to the entire state. Solar Bear evolved from home energy contracting into renewable energy services, now offering solar PV, storage, solar thermal and even geothermal heat pumps in Florida. The most reviewed solar provider in the state, customers can trust Solar Bear's transparency in its business practices. For customers looking to support local, family-owned businesses without sacrificing quality, Solar Bear may be the option for you.
Blue Raven Solar
Recently purchased by industry titan SunPower for its promising growth, Blue Raven Solar still operates in Florida, along with 16 other states. The company offers innovative financing models structured with $0-down and flexible payment methods, making it an exceptional choice for customers interested in solar financing and a low solar panel payback period.
Solar-Ray is a local solar installer committed to superior customer service and providing the best PV equipment available at the lowest price possible. A preferred solar service provider of Duke Energy, Orange County Public Schools, Orlando Utility Commission and the University of Central Florida, Solar-Ray has 14 years of local knowledge and experience to ensure Floridians secure the maximum value from their solar investment.
Unicity Solar's focus on providing customers with simple, affordable solar panel systems has made it a leader in Florida's renewable energy space. Unicity's strengths come in providing some of the best solar panels in the industry and guaranteeing 25 years of no-cost warranty protection for all products and installations. The Unicity Guarantee makes the company an ideal choice for Florida residents primarily concerned about the longevity of their solar power system.
May Electric Solar
Our final best Florida solar installer is May Electric, which is local to Central Florida. Founded in 2004, May Electric has grown into a full-service solar installer rooted in values of quality workmanship and solar industry expertise. Offering comprehensive warranties, product assurance and high-quality customer relations, May Electric has yet to receive a review below a five-star rating on its Better Business Bureau profile.
How We Chose the Best Solar Companies in Florida
There are a number of factors that differentiate the quality and benefits offered by different solar providers. These are some of the considerations we used to evaluate the best Florida solar companies.
Different solar companies may provide varying services. We understand that every customer has unique energy needs, so we tend to favor companies that offer a breadth of services and product options. Before speaking to a company, consider add-ons you may be interested in like backup solar batteries, panel monitoring services, home energy efficiency packages and electric vehicle chargers.
We checked out each company's solar installation process, but when doing your own due diligence and meeting with consultants from various solar companies, we recommend asking questions such as: What kind of customizations can you expect? Does the provider hire subcontractors or install with in-house technicians? How often will you be updated on the status of permits and other paperwork? These answers can further inform you on how knowledgeable the company is.
Florida is one of the most popular states for solar panels, so there are a lot of regional providers to choose from. You can narrow down your search by looking for the best solar installer near you. If you live in Miami, it doesn't do you much good to research a solar company that's active only in Jacksonville. The companies discussed in this article have wide service ranges, so you're more likely to find one that fits your needs.
Pricing and Financing
The initial cost of solar panel installation can be significant. Some solar companies are certainly more affordable than others, and you can also ask about solar financing options that are available through your installer. Some companies on our list, like Blue Raven Solar and Goldin Solar, focus their businesses on catering to customers who prioritize flexible financing.
To guarantee that the renewable energy provider you select is reputable and has both the integrity and the expertise you require, we've assessed each company's status in the industry. The simplest way to do this is to check to see whether the company has North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) technicians or belongs to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or other industry groups.
Types of Panels
To make sure you have a wide variety of options to choose from, our researchers looked into the types of panels and products our top Florida solar companies offer. If you're interested in learning more, during your consultation, don't hesitate to inquire about a company's tech portfolio and see if it is certified to install leading brands like Tesla, Enphase or Panasonic.
Rebates and Tax Credits
Most top solar providers give guidance navigating different savings opportunities you're eligible for. The reputable solar providers on this list offer assistance in applying for the federal solar tax credit and local incentives.
Going solar is a big investment, but a warranty can help you trust that your system will work for decades. A lot of solar providers provide a 25-year warranty on their technology and workmanship, but you'll definitely want to ask about this on the front end.
Cost of Solar in Florida
We found the current cost of solar in Florida to be about $2.53 per watt. This means that, after the federal tax credit is applied, a 5-kW system would cost around $9,361 and a 10-kW system would cost around $18,722.
Floridians can also use the following incentives and solar tax exemptions to reduce costs:
|Florida Solar Incentive||Florida Solar Incentive Overview|
|Net Metering||Net energy metering (NEM) credits solar panel owners for any excess electricity fed back to the energy grid. In Florida, Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light offer the best net metering programs.|
|Florida offers exemptions from the 6% sales tax when you purchase a solar energy system.|
|Installing solar panels increases your property's value, but tax exemptions in Florida allow customers to avoid paying local property taxes on that added value.|
|With the PACE program, loans are available to fund the cost of solar in certain areas, sometimes in full.|
How to Find the Best Solar Installer in Florida
Given the high number of solar panel companies operating in Florida, it can be difficult to find one that stands out for your needs. This is why we advise readers to get quotes from several competing companies. Not only can you see the benefits each offers in its proposals, but you can secure the most competitive price available in the crowded Florida market.
To start getting free, no-obligation quotes from the best solar companies in Florida, fill out the 30-second form below.
Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
Over a seven day period last week there was a flurry of step-it-up activity on the East Coast in opposition to the planned expansion of fracking and fracking infrastructure.
It began with a three-day walk over the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend in sub-freezing, wintry weather in rural western Massachusetts against Kinder Morgan’s proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline. Upwards of 200 people took part in the walk, with an average of about 80 people walking 11-12 miles each day. The spirit and energy of the group was powerful.
It continued on Wednesday in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with a successful disruption of the last meeting of Gov. Tom Wolf’s gas-industry-stacked pipeline infrastructure commission. The commission was set up to sell the plan to build even more gas pipelines and expand fracking in the state.
And it ended on Thursday in Washington, DC with the 15th consecutive Beyond Extreme Energy disruption of the monthly Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Commissioners’ meeting. This action was followed by one right near the White House at a Bank of America branch. Bank of America is a major funder of the being-built Cove Point, Maryland Liquified Natural Gas export terminal.
Also this past week, on Monday, seven people were arrested at the latest blockade organized by We Are Seneca Lake in Ithaca, New York at the Crestwood gas storage facility; many hundreds have been arrested over the last year and a half in a campaign that shows no signs of letting up.
The movement against FERC and the expansion of fracked gas pipelines, compressor stations and storage and export terminals has made great strides over the past year and this past week’s actions are an indication of what will be happening this year.
FERC’s outrageous behavior—it has rejected only one proposed interstate gas pipeline in the last 10 years, according to former FERC employee and attorney Carolyn Elefant—and the broad and growing movement against it are prompting senators, congresspeople, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton to speak out and take action:
• Bernie Sanders has come out against the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline.
• Hillary Clinton, at a town hall meeting in Keene, New Hampshire last October, said, “If we’re going to have a national commitment to do something about climate change, FERC needs to be part of that commitment. It’s not just the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that needs to be focused on combating climate change, every part of the federal government needs to be focused.”
• Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) wrote about FERC in September to the Department of Energy Inspector General, leading to an audit of the FERC permitting process, currently underway.
• In late November five Congresspeople from New England wrote to FERC calling upon them to review all proposed energy projects across the region in tandem to determine how New England’s energy markets will best be served and to prevent any potential overbuild.
• In late October four members of the Georgia Congressional delegation “sent a letter to FERC asking the commission to change the route of a 516-mile natural gas pipeline slated to run through impoverished communities in Georgia.” (Politico’s Morning Energy, Oct. 27, 2015)
• On Nov. 18, 2015 Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey published a study which concluded that there is no need for increased gas capacity to meet the state’s electric reliability needs for at least 15 years to come.
• Also in Massachusetts, State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg wrote to FERC Chairman Norman Bay, writing that federal regulators “should consider the interest of the Massachusetts citizens in establishing an energy sector based substantially on reduced emissions and clean and renewable energy as an initial test for determining whether any proposed project is in the public interest.”
• And then there is President Obama, a big booster of fracking throughout his Presidency, not mentioning fracking or natural gas or all-of-the-above during his final State of the Union speech. When added to other developments over the past year, it is clear that the White House is at least having doubts about its strong support for fracking all these past years, a process which needs to deepen and accelerate this year.
There is more:
• On Jan. 14 a letter signed by 165 organizations was sent to Senators Sanders and Elizabeth Warren asking them, in their role as members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to formally request a U.S. Government Accountability Office investigation of FERC. The groups said that “the request for an investigation notes that FERC is entirely funded by the industry it regulates, resulting in a demonstrable bias in favor of the energy industry’s agenda over community and environmental concerns.”
• At an early December Congressional hearing, “FERC Commissioner Tony Clark told members of Congress that ... a recent increase in opposition to infrastructure projects under review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission threatens to further impede this development.
“FERC Chairman Norman Bay, fielding a question from an Energy and Power Subcommittee member, noted the increase in opposition to infrastructure projects, including protesters attempts to disrupt recent FERC meetings.
“‘I think at FERC we have clearly seen increased opposition to infrastructure. One of the things that has happened at FERC over the last, at this point it’s probably been 15 months or so, is that our open meetings have been interrupted by protesters who will suddenly stand up during our meeting and try to interfere with our meeting, so we are clearly seeing that," Bay said. "Even in the field when we’re holding scoping hearings, it is not uncommon for the staff who do those hearings to report back that there seems to be a great deal of opposition in many communities to the construction of more infrastructure."
• There are the beginnings of signs that all of this pressure may be causing small cracks in FERC’s rigid unwillingness to serve the public interest rather than the interests of the gas industry.
One example is something which happened in October. In an unprecedented move for FERC, they suggested that two proposed pipelines in a similar area in the northeast should combine together. As one long-time FERC observer wrote in an email, “Something seems to be happening behind the scenes because it was FERC which first raised the issue of combining them.”
• And just a few days ago as this is written, the EPA called upon FERC to “require applicants seeking approval under the Natural Gas Act to provide more information on a project’s indirect impacts, including potential increases in gas production and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The EPA submitted comments on FERC’s Draft Guidance Manual for Environmental Report Preparation for Applications Filed Under the Natural Gas Act. FERC released a revised version of its guidance manual, which had not been updated since 2002, last month ... The recommendation echoes calls from environmentalists for FERC to review cumulative regional impacts of the multiple transmission projects that have been proposed in response to the rapid growth of production from unconventional shale development.”
There is a growing wing of the climate movement that has been working over the last several years to prevent a build-out of fracked gas infrastructure, allied with widespread community opposition in localities where this infrastructure is proposed. Fracked gas pipelines, like all fossil fuel pipelines, are not popular. They lead to landowners being forced to deal with certain negative impacts if a pipeline would end up going through their land. They bring the threat of leakage of poisonous chemicals or explosions, particularly where compressor stations are built. Construction brings community and environmental disruption. That is why elected officials are speaking out, because they are hearing from voters who don’t like what the gas industry wants to force upon them.
The fracked gas industry, just like the coal, tar sands and fracked oil industries, is in deep debt and serious trouble. Part of this is due to wind and solar growing quickly as a percentage of new installed energy sources. It is also due to a huge drop in oil and gas prices, something which shows no sign of a rebound anytime soon. This is huge; it makes a rapid shift from fossil fuels to renewables and efficiency much more possible than it looked just a year ago. When all of the negatives about fracked gas lead to a realization on an even bigger scale that it is in no way a hopeful “bridge fuel” but a dangerous “bridge to climate catastrophe,” we can finally get very serious about that critically-needed shift right now.
With an infusion of energy, resources and people it is realistic, based upon all that exists at present and the way things are moving, to see some very real victories this year in the battle against FERC and new fracking infrastructure. It’s time for the climate movement to focus on FERC.
Ted Glick is a co-founder and one of the leaders of Beyond Extreme Energy. He has been a climate activist since 2003 and a progressive organizer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found here and he can be followed on Twitter.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
“The gift of the Earth with its fruits belongs to everyone.” — Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, paragraph 71.
There were many kind people, including some Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) employees, who thanked me or had supportive things to say during the 18 days that I fasted on water only in front of FERC with 11 other sisters and brothers from Sept. 8 - 25. But there are three people whose words I doubt I’ll ever forget.
In Washington, DC, 12 people that fasted and other supporters set up camp in front of FERC on the sidewalk every work day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
There was the young black woman whose job was to staff a small booth by the entrance to an underground parking lot just across from the main employee entrance to FERC. She was friendly and over the three weeks that I stood across from her during the work week, holding signs and distributing leaflets to FERC employees going into or leaving work, we often exchanged small talk and smiles. About a week before it ended she commended us on our courage. Then, on the 15th day, she told me, “Some women came by yesterday, asking me, ‘What are they doing here?’ and I told them, ‘They are taking action for all of us.’ Some of us have jobs and have to pay bills and can’t do what you’re doing, but I think what you are doing is important.”
Then there was the Homeland Security Federal Protective Services policeman, a tall, tough-looking, white guy, who came by to talk to me on day 18, asking how I was doing, clearly impacted by our willingness to suffer for what we believed in. After a couple of minutes he said, “I’ve seen lots of groups demonstrating on issues, but yours is the most persistent one I’ve ever seen.”
But the most profound interaction I had was with a woman who might not have known I was fasting. She was an old white woman, on crutches, looking like she was homeless, a beggar on the DC Metro subway. I had seen her earlier in the 18-day ordeal; she had come up to me asking for money. On day 16, the day the Pope was in town meeting with President Obama, on my way home from FERC in the evening to the church where we stayed every night, I saw her again. We were both standing on the Metro platform and I had a mounted, blown-up picture of the Pope holding a sign which said, “No al Fracking.”
She came over to me, our eyes connected and she said, to paraphrase, “You know, I know all about Jesus Christ and everything, but I just want to say that if it’s not about unity, it doesn’t mean crap.” I had listened carefully and what she said rang true, was genuine and deep, and I responded, “Yes, you’re right. That is absolutely true.”
The Beyond Extreme Energy-organized “Fast for No New Permits” was not explicitly about “unity.” It was the latest in a now-over-a-year campaign focused on what we call “the most dangerous federal agency most people have never heard of.” We are doing everything we can think of to throw a nonviolent wrench into the gears of the FERC machinery. This semi-independent agency has just kept grinding out permit after permit for the expansion of fracked gas infrastructure, with virtually no rejections of gas industry proposals, from what we’re able to tell, for many, many years.
The idea of doing a serious fast emerged a few months ago as some of us realized that the Pope was going to be in DC in late September, the Pope who has been outspoken about the need for action on the climate crisis and who, yes, had no problem being photographed a couple years ago with that “No al Fracking” sign.
And so on Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day, 12 of us, from ages 19 to 72, began a diet that consisted of water, salt and potassium. Ten of us continued on that diet until the 25th, the day after the Pope’s speech to the U.S. Congress. One faster had to end it around day 10 because of serious physical difficulties he was encountering; the other did so after about 14 days because of her need to build back some strength before joining a 900-mile walk from Rome to Paris beginning next week in connection with the early December UN Climate Conference.
There were at least 100 other people who fasted around the country, including several who fasted for 18 days also, as I understand it, in Oak Flat, Arizona, protesting federal plans to take land in Tonto National Forest sacred to local Apache nations and give it to multinational copper companies to mine.
In DC we 12 fasters and other supporters set up camp in front of FERC on the sidewalk every work day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. We passed out many thousands of leaflets and had hundreds of conversations with FERC employees and people passing by. Dutch TV came by and did interviews, as did a dozen or more other press outlets. We found a great deal of support and almost no overt hostility. One of the more interesting conversations we had was with Norman Bay, chair of FERC. I was able to talk with for a few minutes when he was spotted coming out of the FERC building while most of us on this very hot, sunny day were across the street in the shade of a 30-foot high stone wall. Little of direct substance came out of that discussion, though you never know.
On the 17th day, the day the Pope spoke to Congress, we had a breakthrough with the Washington Post when a reporter interviewed me on the mall and posted a blog about it that morning. The next day that blog post became a substantial part of a good and prominent article in the first section of the paper, taking up 2/3rds of a page and with a big picture. It was helpful to see that Post article reporting that our fast was “to protest what he said was the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s support for the use of fossil fuels and pipelines.”
I would expect lots of FERC employees, including Commissioners, as well as DC judges who will be hearing appeals of FERC’s rubber-stamping ways, see that article and smile.
There is no question this was an effective action. But it was more than that. In significant part because it was a fast—what Gandhi called “the most sincere form of prayer”—and connected to the visit of the people’s Pope, it was also, indeed, about unity, about what the wise, old, beggar woman on the Metro platform had said to me on day 16.
Yes, “the gift of the earth with its fruits belongs to everyone.” And yes, “a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach, it musts integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” (paragraph 49).
And more directly, to amplify the wise woman, “Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” (paragraph 91).
I lost 30 pounds over those 18 days. It is good to be eating again, slowly returning to normal eating habits. It is good to have energy to work, feel my strength beginning to return, to taste the delicious flavors of fruits and vegetables, the only things I am eating these first two days of my back-to-normal-eating, nine-day plan. It is good to be home after three weeks away. And it is good to know that the memories of those 18 days and the wonderful community of sister and brother fasters and supporters will be with me always, nourishing my commitment to keep taking action for a stable climate and a transformed world until the day I die.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Twelve members of Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE), ages 19 to 72—from California, Virginia, DC, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Nebraska, Michigan and North Carolina—are in the beginning days of a planned 18-day, water-only “Fast for No New Permits” for fossil fuel infrastructure in front of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a virtual rubber-stamp agency for the fracked gas industry.
Each weekday until Sept. 25 we will be on the sidewalk in front of FERC from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., leafletting FERC employees—over a thousand of them—as they arrive for or leave from work. We're also passing out leaflets to thousands of others who work or live in the area who walk by.
Day three of the No New Permits BXE fast opposing fossil fuel infrastructure. Photo Credit: Beyond Extreme Energy
It’s not a very aesthetic area, mostly high-rise office buildings and condominiums. There are some colorful begonias around the FERC building and about 15 young trees growing across the street just three blocks north of Union Station. Also across the street is a 30-foot high stone wall on top of which the red line trains of the DC Metro subway system come by loudly every 10 minutes or so, interrupting any and all street conversations.
For the 12 of us, joined by supporters and people fasting for shorter periods of time, this will be our “home” until Sep. 25, the day after Pope Francis speaks to a joint session of Congress. For some who have slept and will be sleeping here overnight, it’s a 24-hour “home.”
The first two days have actually been pretty brutal because of the high humidity and temperatures in the low- to mid-90’s. The heat index where we are could well have been more than 100 degrees because of all the concrete around us.
Every morning and late afternoon we check in with each other to see how we are doing and to finalize plans for the day. This morning one of the older fasters reported that he had almost fainted when he stood up too quickly; as I’ve learned from past fasts, it’s essential during an action like this to move deliberately and consciously, very aware of how your body is dealing with the lack of food.
Why are we putting ourselves through this?
One reason is the upcoming Sept. 22 - Sept. 27 visit of Pope Francis to the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. BXE is very supportive of his repeated calls for action on climate, environmental and social justice. Some of us have been reading the Pope’s historic encyclical, “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home,” on the FERC sidewalk. We see our fast and a series of other activities in DC leading up to and after the Pope’s speech before Congress on Sept. 24 as part of the process of forging a stronger and deeper climate justice movement, one capable of meeting the urgent challenges of this do-or-die decade.
We are fasting because the movement which we are representing has tried every other means available to get FERC to stop being a rubber-stamp agency for fracked gas infrastructure (pipelines, compressor stations, storage and export terminals). Fasts and hunger strikes are usually undertaken when the oppressors have refused to be moved and more serious tactics must be utilized.
We are calling upon FERC to put renewables first. It must break its alliance with the fossil fuel industry and issue "No New Permits" for fossil fuel infrastructure until it has prioritized wind, solar and renewable energy.
What do we hope to accomplish? We hope our message will reach FERC employees, as well as the general public and Pope Francis. We are openly calling for whistleblowers. We want to strengthen the movement fighting FERC’s corrupt ways and the overall movement for climate justice and positive social change.
BXE during this fast is also working to make connections between issues. Struggles for justice are related. For example, we support the Black Lives Matter movement and on one of the days of our fast we will be doing public education in front of FERC about the importance of their efforts.
How can you be supportive of this Fast for No New Permits?
1. Join us at our fast in Washington, DC or where you live, for anywhere from one day to a couple of weeks. More information, including on how to sign up can be found here.
2. Come to DC for the actions happening Sept. 22 - Sept. 25. The big one is the morning of Sept. 24 on the national mall, between 3rd and 7th Street and near the U.S. Capitol. There will be speakers and music before and after the Pope’s 9:30 a.m. address to Congress; the Pope’s speech will be broadcast to everyone on the mall and his office has announced that he will come out to address the crowd after he speaks inside.
On Sept. 25 at Noon in front of FERC, we will end our fast. Plans are still developing, but we intend to make an effort to deliver five copies of the Pope’s encyclical to the five FERC commissioners. We will walk in a serious procession around the FERC building. We will hear from fasters about what this 18 days without food has meant to them.
3. Participate in the “No New Permits Solidarity Fasting Quilt” project. We are putting together a quilt with stories of local struggles against FERC or for justice, as well as drawings and words from people who are fasting about why they are doing so. Squares will be 12 inches on each side, with an additional inch on each side for when they are all put together to make a beautiful mosaic of our movement. Any color fabric can be used. They should be sent no later than Sept. 16 to CCAN, 6930 Carroll Ave., Suite 720, Takoma Park, Maryland. 20912, Att: Quilt project.
4. And finally, you can call FERC at 1-888-715-9918 to demand that they stop being a rubber stamp for the fossil fuel industry, prioritize renewables and issue no new permits for fossil fuel infrastructure until these changes are made.
Let’s rise up now in defense of and in care of our common home!
Ted Glick is the National Campaign Coordinator of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com and he can be followed on twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Laudato Si’ came out at the beginning of this summer. This papal encyclical by Pope Francis, all 157 pages of it, addresses the climate crisis but so much more. It addresses it in the context of the overall environmental crisis as well as the crisis of economic inequality and poverty worldwide.
To Pope Francis, “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis, which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded and at the same time protecting nature.” (page 94)
“Yet all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning. No system can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful. I appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours. No one has the right to take it from us.” (pages 134-135)
I have heard this book described as reflecting an anti-capitalist analysis, but that word is found nowhere in its pages. Pope Francis does, however, make clear what he sees as the root of the “complex crisis” we are faced with. He describes it in these ways, among others, throughout the book:
- “current models of production and consumption” (page 23)
- “business interests and consumerism” (page 27)
- “huge global economic interests” (page 29)
- “present model of distribution, where a minority believes that is has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized” (page 35)
- “new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm” (page 38)
- “whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which becomes the only rule” (page 40)
- “powerful financial interests” (page 40)
- “When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society." (page 57)
- “The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods and thus the right of everyone to their use, is a golden rule of social conduct and ‘the first principle of the whole ethical and social order.’” (page 64)
- “The technocratic paradigm also tends to dominate economic and political life. The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings.” (page 74)
- “The culture of consumerism, which prioritizes short-term gain and private interest, can make it easy to rubber-stamp authorizations or to conceal information.” (page 122)
- “Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention.” (page 125)
For me, I find this kind of specificity about how the dominant system in the world operates refreshing and helpful.
The people’s Pope puts forward a wide range of ideas and proposals for how to effect the kind of fundamental social and economic transformation needed. Most of the ideas are not new. Here is an example of the kind of mix he sees as absolutely necessary:
“A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries. Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources and ensuring universal access to drinking water.” (page 110)
What I found of singular and great importance in Laudato Si’ is how the Pope personalizes the solution to our multiple, complex crises. He definitely doesn’t see the solution coming about via new technology or some new ideology or even an updated Catholicism, though, as the Pope, he certainly sees the importance of active Catholic participation in the process of change and renewal. Instead, he says, speaking of our individual responsibilities, that “our goal is not to amass information or satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.” (page 18)
He calls for “a bold cultural revolution ... we need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.” (page 78)
“Men and women are still capable of intervening positively. For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity and care cannot but well up within us, since we were made for love.” (page 41)
“Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” (page 63)
“It is no longer enough, then, simply to state that we should be concerned for future generations. We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity. Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.” (page 107)
“If we can overcome individualism, we will truly be able to develop a different lifestyle and bring about significant changes in society.” (page 136)
Just in time, from out of the Global South and an institution with many serious internal challenges, a new Pope has emerged to help lead that institution and the world away from the brink. Thank God.
Ted Glick will join with others in an 18-day, water-only fast in front of FERC starting on Sept. 8, continuing until the day after Pope Francis speaks to the U.S. Congress. Past writings and other information can be found here and he can be followed on Twitter.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
“Stop the #FERCus” was the theme of the 10 days of action in Washington, DC and Calvert County, Maryland, which ended yesterday, and that was the main focus, no doubt about it, but it was about so much more. These 10 days of action and organizing were all about building community—a community taking action and interacting with one another and with others in a way which builds people power.
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) May 28, 2015
45 years ago when I was young and new to progressive activism, “building power” wasn’t a phrase I remember hearing. “Taking power” was, however. For many of us, the realities of systemic oppressive power we experienced through our involvement in the civil rights, black liberation, anti-war, women’s, gay/lesbian rights or other movements of that time led us to see the need to take power away from the rich white men who were pulling the strings behind the scenes if we were to have any chance of building a truly democratic and just society.
I continue to believe that. The power and wealth of those rich white men has only gotten worse over all those years, as have obscene inequality and the climate and broader environmental crises. But the experiences of May 21-30 have made me see more clearly why “building power through building community for power” is a much sounder way to frame a key aspect of the historic task before us.
— DC Divest (@DCDivest) May 28, 2015
What took place over these 10 days to prompt these reflections? From May 21-29 Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) took action in Washington, DC focused on FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the most powerful federal agency most people have never heard of. And on May 30th Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community, We Are Cove Point and other groups organized a spirited and strong six-mile march of close to 200 people through Calvert County in opposition to the building of a massive and dangerous gas export terminal at Cove Point.
Calvert County March to #SaveCovePoint #nolngexports #fracking @nolngexports @wercovepoint @ccan @jlstewct pic.twitter.com/1pLE0HUrYI — BeyondExtremeEnergy (@BXEAction) May 30, 2015
BXE is a new, growing national network of 70 organizations focused on fighting extreme energy extraction in general and, right now, the “gas rush” expansion of fracking infrastructure which FERC is actively enabling. FERC is a rubber stamp for the gas industry as it moves to expand fracking and to build export terminals to ship that fracked gas around the world. Here are some of the highlights of our 10 days (for more info go here):
- Demonstrating in the rain on Capitol Hill and at the Department of Energy against proposed Fast Track trade legislation
- Loudly sitting in inside the lobby of the Department of the Interior to protest its decision allowing Shell to start drilling in the Arctic
- Creating “The United States of Fracking," a 50-foot long, colorful, emotionally moving banner with 16 panels depicting what the fracking gas rush is doing to us, illustrated by Seth Tobocman
- Participating in a well-received anti-oppression training led by long-time progressive leader George Friday
- Blocking heavily traveled North Capitol Street right behind the FERC building and just a handful of blocks away from the U.S. Capitol building. This was done via the raising up of a 20-foot high tripod for over an hour on the first workday after the Memorial Day weekend
- Occupying (FERCupying) the sidewalk in front of FERC for almost 72 straight hours, leading to many positive and supportive discussions with people passing by
- Witness Wednesday: a two-hour silent vigil of 75 people in the hot sun on the FERC sidewalk led by Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, followed by an inspiring interfaith program of speakers with lots of wonderful music led by Unitarian minister and singer Fred Small
- Deploying to great effect the FERC-GAS-GO-ROUND, a carousel creation of movement artist extraordinaire Kim Fraczak depicting the revolving door between FERC leaders and employees and the oil and gas industry they are supposed to be regulating
- Impacting, or inspiring, a huge percentage of FERC employees, perhaps as many as 90 percent on at least one day, to not report for work on the days we took action, or at least until we left
- Briefly flooding the lobby of the building where Spectra Energy has its DC office, the building lobby and the office of the American Natural Gas Alliance, and the lobby of fracking-ad-carrying National Public Radio
- Hearing supportive horn-honking and words of support from dozens and dozens of cars passing us during our Calvert County walk while experiencing just a very few hostile comments or gestures
These were the main actions which took place over these 10 days. It was possible to do them all because of the kind of personally supportive and participatory and love-filled culture which undergirded decision-making. This culture affected how we dealt with differences or conflicts and how we interacted with others on the street, including the Federal Protective Services police.
How did this gas get passed? Good question. Stop the #FERCus #SaveCovePoint pic.twitter.com/HkkMGDapFU — Chesapeake Climate (@CCAN) May 30, 2015
One of the concepts George Friday spoke about in her anti-oppression training was the concept of “the strategic use of privilege.” As far as our interactions with the police, this concept is relevant. The vast majority of participants in Stop the #FERCus were of European descent. This influenced how the police reacted to us, although it wasn’t just the white skin of most of us. It was also our level of organization, our nonviolent discipline (which, from all I saw and heard, was 100 percent effective) and our willingness to talk in a respectful if upfront way with the police when we needed to. It is no small thing that we were able to manifest this positive culture throughout 10 very intense and often stressful days of pretty kick-ass actions. They’re connected; without that culture of support and love, we would not have maintained the unity and organic discipline which we did.
And so we built community to build people’s power, and we showed that power. FERC employees who couldn’t get in the building or who stayed away felt it. So did the Federal Protective Services police who couldn’t help but smile when they saw the FERC-GAS-GO-ROUND and heard the new verses to “pop goes the weasel” with the final line being, “FERC is the weasel.” So did NPR management whose response to our loud flooding of their lobby was to send police to threaten us with immediate arrest if we didn’t immediately leave. So did the employees at the American Natural Gas Alliance who moved away from their desks and left a lone guy to keep saying, “you have to leave,” in response to our statements and our chants. Then there is the unknown person who was supportive of what we were doing who ended up by accident in the elevator with our ANGA “delegation” who used his electronic key to allow our delegation to get into ANGA’s 8th floor office.
Beyond Extreme Energy is feeling its power right now, and as we said loudly to anybody inside the FERC building who was there on our last day, “we’ll be back.” In our final debrief Friday on the sidewalk across from FERC, a number of ideas about what we should be doing going forward were put forward. We will be reaching out to frontline groups, BXE endorsers and other allies as we figure out next steps. We will be considering how we might relate to several initiatives that have been undertaken for actions in late summer and fall in the lead-up to the UN Climate Conference in Paris in December. We welcome input and look forward to figuring out together our next steps to Stop the #FERCus and build a strong climate justice movement. Si, se puede!
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
From the time I walked yesterday into the FERC building—that’s the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the most powerful and dangerous federal agency most people have never heard of—things felt and looked different.
Unlike most of the other FERC commissioners, Norman Bay does not have an extensive background of work with or for the fossil fuel industry. Photo credit: Flickr
First were the cops. There are always FERC security personnel at the front entrance, but it seemed like there were twice as many yesterday as I’d ever seen before in past visits. In addition, and ominously, there were also a couple of Department of Homeland Security/Federal Protective Services police prominently stationed where they could not be missed.
Then there was the atmosphere in the auditorium where the five FERC commissioners were soon going to be having their monthly meeting. There was a noticeable tenseness, a lot less smiles, more uptight FERC staff faces than I’ve seen before, and this was about my seventh time at one of these monthly meetings.
Of course, it is true that last month during the March meeting Beyond Extreme Energy did what has never before been done inside FERC: a loud and boisterous, though nonviolent, sit-in. I suppose they had reason to be uptight wondering what we were going to do yesterday.
Yesterday was day one of Norman Bay’s tenure as Chair of FERC. It was also the sixth straight monthly meeting where Beyond Extreme Energy has had a visible presence, calling them out for their rubber-stamping of permits for the gas industry to expand its fracking infrastructure—pipelines, compressor stations, storage terminal and export terminals. Our activities since last summer, combined with the growing and inspiring resistance in frontline communities to this tsunami of infrastructure expansion, led then-Chair Cheryl LaFleur in late January to publicly call attention to the “situation” that FERC now has.
Bay has an interesting background. Unlike most of the other FERC commissioners, he does not have an extensive background of work with or for the fossil fuel industry. Prior to coming to FERC in 2009 he was a federal prosecutor in U.S. Attorneys’ offices in DC and New Mexico and a professor of law at the University of New Mexico Law School. Since 2009 he has been the director of enforcement at FERC, and his record seems somewhat hopeful.
U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein said of Bay’s work that “(his) market oversight unit at FERC has taken significant actions to crack down on the type of Wall Street energy speculation and market abuse that led to the energy crisis and allowed traders to rob American consumers and darken cities. He has used authority that I worked to pass in 2005—prohibiting fraud and manipulation in electricity and natural gas markets—in order to catch major financial institutions manipulating California’s electricity markets.”
And in explaining his opposition last summer to Bay being named as FERC chair, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said, “There are factors that lead us to believe that Mr. Bay would reliably serve as a rubber stamp for this administration’s extreme anti-coal agenda.”
When Norman Bay began speaking to open the meeting yesterday, Beyond Extreme Energy activists, one by one, six of us, spoke up from where we were sitting throughout the room. Using Bay's own words from a statement released the day before, we called for him to support “the public interest,” not the interests of the fossil fuel industry. We also called for FERC to stop threatening the futures of young children, to stop its rubber stamping ways and for Bay to lead efforts to transform this industry-cozy, industry-financed agency.
Six Beyond Extreme Energy activists were arrested after speaking out at the FERC meeting yesterday. Photo credit: Beyond Extreme Energy
As we each did so, Bay stopped speaking and let the ample security in the room move into the rows where we were sitting and drag us out of our seats and out of the building. None of us were seriously injured, but some of us were handled by Federal Protective Service police in a pretty tough way.
Next up for the movement to stop and transform FERC: the Beyond Extreme Energy FERCus, beginning on May 21st, the date of FERC’s next monthly meeting, followed by stepping-it-up nonviolent but strong actions at their front doors every day they are open from then until May 29th. Let’s do it!
Watch the video of the six activists calling on FERC to support the public interest:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9NRfU0xEFI&feature=youtu.be expand=1]
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
For more than 15 years I’ve been writing these Future Hope columns. I’ve tried, as best as I can, to write about topics or in a way which helps readers have hope that yes, transformational change for the better is possible in this often-hard-to-be-hopeful world. In that time I’ve never once written about the coming of spring.
Spring brings the varied and often-beautiful songs of birds. New species of on-the-move birds can be seen as the sun moves higher in the southern sky (in the northern hemisphere) and the air, land and ocean warm. Photo credit: Shutterstock
In retrospect, that surprises me. In the natural world it’s hard to think of anything more hopeful, more life-giving, more inspiring than the arrival of spring.
Spring melts the snow, for the final time, ‘til next winter. That was a big deal this year in northern New Jersey where, for a month and a half, half-a-foot to a foot-and-half of snow, hard snow, frozen hard by colder-than-usual temperatures, stayed on the ground. It is a welcome relief to walk with much surer steps on snow- and ice-gone surfaces.
Spring brings the varied and often-beautiful songs of birds. New species of on-the-move birds can be seen as the sun moves higher in the southern sky (in the northern hemisphere) and the air, land and ocean warm. Where I live, spring brings mating couples of geese from the city pond behind my house onto our back and front lawns, as certain a spring occurrence as the daily rising of the sun.
In the several small gardens at the eastern front and southern side of our house, new shoots of green break through the Earth and buds begin to appear heralding the arrival of daffodils, hyacinths, honeysuckle, fennel, milkweed (for the monarchs which we pray we will see later in the summer) and much more. I begin to think about getting ready to plant our vegetable garden.
The grass is still pretty brown, but some green is beginning to show and I look forward to it filling out as the rain and the sun do what they have done for millennia.
Spring, of course, brings warmer temperatures, which means I can now do my early-morning bike rides without the experience of returning home with cold and hurting fingers and toes. It makes the rides more joyful. I see the skeleton-like trees, devoid of leaves or flowers, but with new spring eyes I see the limbs and branches reaching upward toward the sun, which with the rain will provide new growth and beauty in coming days, weeks and months.
As spring evolves, it will mean seeing more walkers, bikers and runners out sharing the early-morning quiet and expectation-of-dawn with me. Over time I will see them less weighed down with garments to protect from the cold. I will see more animals—deer, wild turkeys, raccoons, groundhogs, possums and an occasional fox.
Spring makes me feel much more often that I am lucky to be alive and relatively well for 65.
But spring sometimes brings other reasons to have hope and love life. Often over the 46 years that I have been an activist and organizer, a revolutionary, spring has brought with it major mobilizations of people into the streets for mass demonstrations around war and peace, justice, climate or other issues.
I am involved with one such initiative, Beyond Extreme Energy, which has had a productive winter building an escalating campaign against FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Two months from now we will be nonviolently blockading the FERC entrances for a week-plus, following up on our successful week-long blockades in November. We will keep demanding that they stop serving the fossil fuel industry and instead protect the American people and the world’s destabilizing climate. We expect many hundreds of people to take part from May 21-29.
Students active in the fossil fuel divestment movement are taking action. Just last week two divestment office occupations were initiated at Swarthmore College and the University of Mary Washington, and I will be very surprised if the spring doesn’t bring more, hopefully a swelling flood of them.
And in the political realm, an email arrived in my inbox as I was in the middle of writing this from Sen. Bernie Sanders, laying out the truth of what is happening in this country and with our climate. Once again, as he always does, Bernie makes very clear and effective connections between the climate crisis and the crisis of economic injustice and inequality. I hope we keep hearing more and more from Bernie as a declared Presidential candidate in the coming weeks and months.
So many reasons to have hope this spring!
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Last week at the monthly meeting of the five Commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Washington, DC, a group of 20 Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) activists took action. Two people, myself and Ellen Taylor, attempted to read the statement below just before the meeting began, but as Ellen began to speak FERC security moved on the two of us and moved us out of the room and out the front door of the building.
But BXE wasn’t done.
Protesters removed, one carried out, after disrupting @FERC commissioners meeting over #CovePoint #LNG exports in DC. pic.twitter.com/NqKfDovLae
— M. Scott Mahaskey (@smahaskey) March 19, 2015
Several minutes later, right after the pledge of allegiance, a dozen other red-shirted BXE’ers scrambled from their seats up to the front of the room, right next to the table where the commissioners sit. They sat down, locked arms and began chanting, “Stop construction at Cove Point.” As the FERC Commissioners hastily got up and left the room, the people chanting were also moved by security.
When we were all back together outside the front of the building, we walked down to the part of the building closest to where the meeting was being held and chanted once more for several minutes as loudly as we could.
The statement below explains why we took this action.
As has been true for every one since their November, 2014 meeting, we will be at their April meeting and then, in very large numbers, at the one on May 21, the first day of our nine days of action and getting organized in DC.
Beyond Extreme Energy statement at March 19, 2015 FERC Commissioners Meeting
Here we are again—Beyond Extreme Energy at your monthly meeting. We are here about the permit you granted on Sept. 29 last year to Dominion to build facilities for the liquefaction and export of natural gas at Cove Point in Lusby, Maryland.
On Oct. 15 FERC’s granting of this permit was appealed administratively, as it was necessary to do. By then Dominion had begun construction of their planned LNG export terminal, with FERC’s approval and blessing, and they have been doing so ever since.
By law, you were required to answer the administrative appeal within a month. You did so by giving yourself an extension of time to give an answer to this appeal, as you have done many, many times with other gas infrastructure expansion projects. And as has been true for those projects, it is now going on half a year of your coming to a decision on this appeal, and Dominion just keeps building and building.
As you know, the Cove Point residents cannot go to court to challenge the granting of this permit until you rule on the appeal. You also know that, to the best of our knowledge, you have rarely, if ever, in recent years certainly, decided to overturn your initial granting of a FERC gas infrastructure expansion permit.
And by the way, this issue was raised almost two years ago in a meeting Ted Glick took part in with then-Chair Jon Wellinghoff, and it was raised in meetings with Chair LaFleur last June and just two weeks ago, and nothing has changed.
Efforts have been made by the use of peaceful, nonviolent direct action at the construction sites to address this situation; 27 people who took action in this way last November and December were convicted and sentenced last month, and just last week they received a nasty letter from Dominion telling them that if they step onto Dominion property anywhere in the USA, they could face criminal prosecution.
You are continuing to allow Dominion to proceed with construction while simultaneously asking for a lot of new information from them—why didn’t you ask for this before you granted the permit in the first place? You are taking months to rule on local residents’ request for a rehearing. You are refusing to rule on a request from their legal team to stay all construction while FERC considers their request for a rehearing. The combined result of this is that Dominion gets to construct for many months before the case gets heard before the Court of Appeals. As has been true with other projects, that could make for a prejudicial situation when it finally gets into court.
We are here to demand that you do what is right by the people of Lusby, Md. and order Dominion to stop construction. We demand that you amend your agenda for this meeting to include that item. FERC, stop construction at Cove Point!
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
For the third time in less than two years, I met yesterday with the chair of FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. I was not alone. With me from the “good guys” side were Tracey Eno, leader of Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community in Cove Point, Maryland; Jocelyn D’Ambrosio of Earthjustice and; via phone because her plane arrived late due to weather, Sandra Steingraber from We Are Seneca Lake.
On the “power” side were FERC chair Cheryl LaFleur and literally eight other FERC staff from various parts of their bureaucracy.
My first time meeting with the then-FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff was in May of 2013. The second time was last June with Cheryl LaFleur. In both cases, as was true of this one, the meetings happened after I and others had gone to one of FERC’s monthly commissioners’ meetings and made our presence felt.
A month ago, after going to FERC with representatives of Green America for a meeting they had set up with Commissioner Phillip Moeller, I was “banned,” the security guard’s word, from the FERC building, escorted out of the meeting room on the 11th floor we had been taken to just as the meeting was about to start. However, several hours later, after contacting someone I knew in the press, I got a call from the executive director of FERC apologizing and telling me I was not banned.
The meeting yesterday was requested just before my temporary banishment. It was requested on behalf of Beyond Extreme Energy, which has been ratcheting up the pressure and putting a public spotlight on the many serious problems with the way FERC works. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has called it “a rogue agency.”
What was our hope in requesting the meeting? Our hope, slim as we knew it to be, was that perhaps in the context of a “civilized” sit-down in this way, we could see some signs that the campaign that has been building over the last couple of years to make FERC work for the people and not the fossil fuel industry has had some impact.
There was little sign of that yesterday. After we raised our well-reasoned criticisms of FERC, their rubber-stamping of proposed gas infrastructure expansion projects, their minimal efforts to prioritize wind and solar technologies, they didn’t have much to say. After we pushed it, LaFleur did reference some rule changes they had made to make it easier for those technologies to become part of the electrical grid, and another person did want to know more of our thinking about what they should be doing in the area of renewables. But as Steingraber said afterwards, LaFleur’s main response was to say, in effect, “We’re trying to take it in, we are listening,” little more.
The one exception to this was in the area of FERC’s processes—their website, the meetings they set up and how they deal with administrative appeals after granting a permit for gas infrastructure expansion. There was a bit more, not much, back and forth with FERC staff in these areas. Perhaps, over time, we will see some modifications. Time will tell.
The meeting made crystal clear that we need to sieze the time and ratchet up the pressure. Fortunately, Beyond Extreme Energy is doing so, moving forward with its week-plus of action at FERC from May 21-29. That’s when our growing movement can show our power and speak the truth in powerful ways to those using theirs wrongly. Our children and grandchildren are calling upon us to step it up right now!
Click here to read Sandra Steingraber's statement to Chair LaFleur.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
There is a lot to feel good about as far as the U.S. climate movement and what we accomplished in 2014. Without question, we are heading into 2015 with some wind at our back and, to continue the relevant metaphor, the sun to light our way forward.
In the order that I think were most important, here they are:
1. People’s Climate March, Sept. 21: How could anything else be more important than this? Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in New York City for action on climate, with many tens of thousands more around the U.S. and the world doing so in solidarity. Scores of constituencies were represented, from famous people to U.S. Senators to communities of color to trade unionists to a multi-faith religious contingent to tens of thousands of youth and so many more. Nearly everyone involved had positive things to say about it afterwards. And the next day, thousands took nonviolent direct action as part of Flood Wall Street.
2. Renewable Energy Growth: Wind and solar energy, in particular, just keep growing and growing. An analysis put out by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) right before Christmas reported that newly installed solar and wind electrical generating capacity increased between January - November 2013 and January - November 2014 from 4,166 megawatts (MW) to 4,728 MW, while new capacity for natural gas fell from 6,674 MW in 2013 to 5,513 MW in 2014 and coal fell from 1,543 MW to 106 MW. These figures are illustrative of what has been happening for several years in the U.S., and the percentage of new renewables worldwide is even better, more like 70-80 percent of all new electrical generating capacity.
3. New York Bans Fracking: What a great end-of-year development, brought about without question because of the strength of the popular movement against fracking throughout the state. From the close-to-200 local town, city and county resolutions and ordinances against fracking, to the year-after-year birddogging of Governor Cuomo, to the anti-fracking uprising at the Democratic Party primary ballot box this September, New Yorkers showed that there “ain’t no power like the power of the people,” if it is organized, visible and active.
On Dec. 17, the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation issued an order to ban fracking in New York.
4. Fighting Fracking Infrastructure and Gas Exports at Cove Point and Beyond: 2014 was the year that the growing movement against the expansion of fracked gas infrastructure from New England down to Georgia and beyond, from gas pipelines to compressor stations to export terminals, burst onto the national scene. The proposed Cove Point, Md. export terminal 50 miles from the White House—one of about 20 proposed export terminals—became a focal point for this movement. Though FERC granted Dominion Power a permit, it is under appeal and will end up in federal court, and the movement against it and all of the other fracking infrastructure is gaining in strength.
5. Still No Keystone XL Pipeline: Thanks to the on-going and consistent work of a coalition of Indigenous, farmer-and-rancher and environmental groups and the increasingly-challenging economics of tar sands oil extraction, it is looking less and less likely that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is ever going to be built. And ditto for other from-Alberta pipelines. The “new CIA,” the Cowboy-Indian Alliance, held a politically powerful week of action in Washington, DC, and continued to work together afterwards in the nation’s heartland.
6. And Still No West Coast Coal Exports: In the words of climatesolutions.org, “Stopping any new coal export off the West Coast continues to be a major stake in the ground for the climate movement. Our Power Past Coal coalition campaign has made major advances in the past year, with two proposals pulled off the table in Oregon, and the Washington Dept. of Ecology announcing a broad scope of review for the impacts of the proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point north of Bellingham, Washington. Now with three export proposals off the table, we continue to watchdog the remaining three proposals and partner with community leaders to build a powerful constituency for building a better, more prosperous future in the region.”
7. Seneca Lake Gas Storage: 170 Arrests and Counting: Since the beginning of November, We Are Seneca Lake has mounted a campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience, built upon widespread community support, that is an inspiring and instructive model for our entire movement. Every week, sometimes more than once, groups of people have been arrested blocking the road into the Crestwood Gas Storage Facility, building political pressure to stop their dangerous plans which could contaminate the drinking water supply for 100,000 people. There are no indications that the new year is going to slow this movement down.
8. Beyond Extreme Energy Shines a Spotlight on FERC: During the first week of November, for five straight days, close to 200 people blockaded the entrances to the DC headquarters of the FERC. Seventy people were arrested. FERC is the agency which rubber stamps permits for the gas industry to expand fracking infrastructure, including proposed gas export terminals. Every morning FERC employees felt the determination of the no-fracking movement, and FERC could not have been happy about the press coverage the actions received. In 2014, FERC became much more well-known, and not for doing good things.
9. Great March for Climate Action: From March to November, a core group of about 35 people, joined by thousands of others for a day or for weeks, walked from Los Angeles, California to Washington, DC calling for action at the scale of the climate crisis. Probably millions of people heard about this heroic action. They modeled the level of commitment needed if we are to turn things around in enough time to prevent climate catastrophe worldwide.
10. Good Climate Legislation Introduced in Congress: And last but not least, House Democratic leader Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced legislation in late July to put a price on carbon via a steadily-declining-cap on carbon emissions, with 100 percent of the money to be returned to U.S. families. Since endorsed by 14 other House members, 33 progressive organizations, the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post and to be reintroduced in the new Congress, this legislation offers a rallying point for our movement in 2015.
As 2014 ends, there is reason to believe that we may be in the midst of the political tipping point time period our world desperately needs. Let’s make 2015 the year that everyone, from the grassroots up to the political pundits and even the fossil fuel executives, realizes that we are too broad, too deep, too big, too determined, too willing to sacrifice and too smart to be turned aside.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE