Workers in OH assess a spill by Rover Pipeline affecting approx. 500,000 square feet of wetlands. photo Ohio EPA
Mitch McConnell is getting desperate. He has failed time and time again to get a healthcare bill passed and needs to get *something* done, so he’s conjured up a plan to move on the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017, a.k.a. the energy bill (S. 1460), without sending it to committee first. That’s right. The 850+ page bill would go straight to the full Senate for a vote. Word is that it could happen as early as this week.
It probably doesn’t take a vivid imagination to picture what a GOP energy bill looks like. Yes, it’s fossil-fuel friendly. Keep going. Yep, it has a renewable energy section that doesn’t mention wind or solar. Good! What else? Offshore exploration for even more fossil fuels, you say? Bingo! Increased fossil fuel extraction on public lands? It’s in there! It’s got all those things and more!
Some of the wonkier issues that are nonetheless terrifying include expanding the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) authority over natural gas infrastructure. The Commission currently reviews proposed interstate natural gas transmission pipeline projects. Even though FERC is really in the business of regulating energy markets, it was tasked years ago with studying the potential environmental impacts of the projects as they’re proposed. In 30 years, FERC has said no to exactly one pipeline and that was days after being sued by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network for conflict of interest. The FERC website provides a list of all the projects it has approved in the past twenty years. In that time, it has approved 450 pipelines.
For more than a year, a coalition of more than 200 organizations has called for a Congressional investigation into abuses of power at FERC. Among the issues cited by the coalition is the use of eminent domain bypipeline companies when the goal is not serving the public good, but fattening their own bottom lines. The companies can take private property under the law, but FERC takes it many steps farther by allowing those companies to take land so they can do some preparatory work, like felling trees to create rights-of-way, long before the pipelines are approved. Of course, that seems logical enough, given that FERC’s approval is almost guaranteed before the project is even proposed, but state environmental agencies must issue a set of water permits before a pipeline can be built. If the state denies the permits, however, the pipeline project is dead, but much of the damage to the landscape has already been done.
The energy bill would make all other agencies involved in pipeline approvals defer to FERC and would require all decisions by other agencies within 90 days. Pipeline approvals often last years and they still get it wrong. (See Rover Pipeline)
The bill also expedites the review of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export terminals. The big problem here is that the government should not be enabling the industry’s ability to develop a new market for natural gas given that we MUST leave 80% of fossil fuels in the ground if we have any chance of averting climate disaster. If you’ve seen a proliferation of pipeline projects in your area, it’s not because there are huge natural gas shortages happening all over the place. It’s because the very openly-stated goal of the industry is to export natural gas to the highest bidder overseas. Since it’s hard to put gas on a ship, it’s got to be liquefied first. The process is an incredibly dangerous one, as is shipping the gas once it’s in liquid form, yet the GOP wants to cut the review process for the export terminals to a mere 45 days. Even if climate was not the issue, rapid approvals of LNG terminals would be cause enough for concern.
There’s a lot more to the bill and none if it’s good. Suffice it to say that this bill is to the planet what Trumpcare is to your body. You must continue to speak up and show up the way you have to defeat every bad iteration of the healthcare bill to let your Senators know that they must vote "NO" on S. 1460 whenever McConnell brings it to the floor.
McConnell failed on healthcare because of you and it’s up to you to make
sure he fails on energy, too!
posted by Karen Feridun