Dossier of the Abuses of Power and Law of FERC
**Page under construction to be completed in two weeks**
Communities across America are being abused by the use and misuse of powers granted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) pursuant to the Natural Gas Act. And so communities from across the nation are banding together to demand that Congress:
- Hold congressional hearings to learn the many ways communities are being harmed by FERC’s implementation of the Natural Gas Act as currently written;
- Take swift affirmative action to reform the Natural Gas Act so as to better protect communities including eliminating the threats associated with natural gas infrastructure; and
- Oppose restoration of a quorum at FERC until such time as these two actions have been complete.
With the Department of Energy Organization Act of 1977 (S.826) Congress reorganized the Department of Energy and created FERC, an independent executive agency. During Senate hearings on the bill, a rightfully skeptical Senator William V. Roth of Delaware had this to say about the critical role that an equitable energy policy plays in our society:
If there is a single area where it is necessary for the American people to believe implicitly in the fairness and honesty of Government, where there can be no doubts whatsoever, it is in the field of energy…A sweetheart relationship between those who regulate and those who are regulated will strain the credibility of the most trusting citizens.
Unfortunately, after four decades of FERC’s unaccountable and irresponsible approach to energy development, the trust of the American people has been strained beyond the breaking point. As it currently stands, the language of the Natural Gas Act is being misused by FERC to strip people of their legal and constitutional rights, to strip the legal authority of states, to undermine the authority of other federal agencies, to prevent fair public participation in the pipeline review process, to ignore the mandates of the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, to take from residents and citizens their private property rights, to take from communities the protection of public parks, forests and conserved lands that they have invested heavily in protecting, to take jobs and destroy small businesses, to inflict on our communities health, safety and environmental harms, all for the benefit of a single industry seeking to advance its own corporate profits and business edge over its competitors.
Nearly 40 years ago, members of Congress expressed significant concern over the level of autonomy that was being given to FERC and its relationship with the Department of Energy (DOE) – there were some that referred to the new structure enacted in 1977 as creating a “two-headed horse.” And so, at that time, there was already acknowledgement that there would come a time when the FERC/DOE structure would need to be revisited. As Senator Henry M. Jackson remarked during the 1977 DOE Act debates:
This has been a hard assignment; it will continue to be. I think all of us agree that it is not the final word in a Department of Energy. The Senator from Connecticut, the distinguished chairman, observed from time to time that there had to be trial and error in this kind of operation. After this department has functioned awhile and has gone through a shake-down period, we will be in a better position to determine whether any changes are necessary and will be able to deal with those issues at an appropriate time.
The time has now come for Congress to investigate how FERC is using its authority and to recognize that major changes are in fact necessary in order to protect people, including future generations, from the ramifications of FERC’s misuse of its power and implementation of the Natural Gas Act.
This Dossier of the Abuses of Power and Law of FERC documents the many abuses experienced, routinely by communities across the nation and demonstrates the need for both Congressional Hearings and reform.
As this Dossier demonstrates, the abuses resulting from the language and implementation of the Natural Gas Act and the grant of authority to industry and FERC are clearly demonstrated in the public record. Congressional hearings are essential to inform Congress of the abuses of power and law that FERC is inflicting on people, states and businesses of all kinds with the uncontrolled and irresponsible proliferation of unneeded natural gas pipelines; to demonstrate how FERC’s current funding mechanism is denying Congress the ability to oversee this increasingly damaging agency; and to help identify smart and meaningful reforms that can accomplish the nation’s energy goals without sacrificing people, communities, the law, and the environment at the same time. Until Congress has learned about the abuses already taking place, and how the wheels have already been greased by FERC for the inappropriate advancement of natural gas pipelines, it would be irresponsible for Congress to restore a quorum in the FERC Commissioners thereby allowing the greased wheels of pipeline approvals to continue.
The letter signed by 182 community organizations representing impacted communities nationwide can be found here.