Betrayed Again: Senators Shaheen & Hassan absent when FERC commissioners confirmed in Senate, qu
Washington D.C. - On August 20th, I joined the Stop The Pipelines Coalition (over 200 national organizations are members) in Washington, D.C. to lobby our senators, asking them to oppose Trump's Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) nominees to restore a quorum.
FERC normally has 5 commissioners and needs 3 for a quorum to approve pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure projects. They have been running on one commissioner for months, creating a backlog of pipelines and relief for those opposed to pipelines and compressor stations nationwide.
While in Washington, I visited the offices of Senators Shaheen & Hassan, who would have the opportunity to speak in opposition to the FERC nominees for commissioner and to vote against their approval. While neither of the Senators were able to meet with me, I left my card and a message asking them to oppose FERC commissioners and restoration of a quorum.
Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter's office not only made time for a meeting, but her staffer expressed genuine interest and concern. The Congresswoman has a reputation for a strong voting record on environmental issues. The staff person I met with was up-to-date on information about progress in the movement to bring an offshore wind farm to the Gulf of Maine.
A group from the coalition wandered the halls of the Senate all day with discreetly held signs (upon entry, we were told having signs warranted being bounced from the building), dropping into offices and asking for support. Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii made a point of engaging the group in the hall to extend her support and thank them for their work.
Maya van Rossum, Karen Feridun and members of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network visited key senators where they had appointments to discuss opposition to the FERC quorum, including Senator Bernie Sanders.
At the end of the day, all felt they had made some positive connections, shown a presence on behalf of the coalition, and were hopeful for support.
On August 3rd, we were betrayed by our legislators who have left us without protections from FERC, the agency that forces the fossil fuel industry upon communities in every corner of our nation, seizing land, putting health, safety, air, water, food, families, wildlife and future at risk.
We watched the live feed as a seemingly empty Senate silently pushed through two new FERC commissioners without comment, opposition or even a vote in the final hour before the August recess.
Senators Hassan and Shaheen were silent, did not vote, in fact, they were absent. They allowed the nominations and confirmations of FERC commissioners to go unchecked, unopposed and without comment.
Despite verbal support from some key senators, it appears that no senators from either party were in attendance at the Senate hearing, indicating a possible back room deal made in advance of the nominees being put forth.
I followed up with both of NH's senators the day after the vote. I asked if they were present in the Senate for the vote. If they were there, why they did not comment or oppose the nominations and if they weren't there, why. (I also called MA senators and received no response.)
I received 3 follow up calls from Senator Hassan's office. My concerns were patiently heard, but the end message was that Senator Hassan did not feel the FERC commissioners who were nominated and confirmed in the 11th hour, were controversial. I was told that Senator Hassan "was in Washington during the vote".
More than a week later, Senator Shaheen's office left a message on my voicemail reminding me that she has been leading on legislation to increase public input with FERC.
Yes, we were disappointed, but our work continues. We pledge our dedication to continue to oppose the actions of FERC in every way possible, from near and far, with our written words, our voices and our bodies. We will educate, encourage divestment from fossil fuels and speak truth to power to ensure the commitment to climate action is upheld.
We promise to support clean energy candidates and replace those who are not true to defending our future. We stand by our mission, our mantra and our hashtag with the goal of a #FossilFree603 and a 100% renewable, clean energy, fossil-free planet for all.