By Fritz Mayer
REGION — Some 165 environmental and citizens organizations have written a letter to Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren to use their seats on the Senate Committee on Energy and National Resources to order an investigation of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
“We know first-hand that FERC is attempting to bypass our rights to judicial review and fair public participation in the decision-making process,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “FERC has time and again prioritized the advancement of gas infrastructure projects over the well-being of the communities it should be protecting—misusing legal loopholes and ignoring court orders while ordinary citizens play by the rules. The GAO must take immediate action to ensure that FERC’s malfeasance does not go unchecked.”
The groups claim that FERC has approved 100% of the pipeline proposals submitted by the industry, which is unique to FERC as a federal agency.
This has included three such projects in this region: a compressor station in Hancock, a compressor station in Minisink and the expansion of a compressor station in Milford. In each of these cases, the neighbors asked for alterations to the projects that would be somewhat more expensive for the pipeline companies, but would significantly decrease the adverse impacts to the neighbor. In each case, FERC sided with the pipeline companies and ruled against the interest of the neighbors. Soon, FERC will be considering a permit for another compressor station, this one in the Town of Highland.
The groups say there are four areas that are “ripe” for investigation regarding FERC. One is that FERC is the only federal agency that is 100% funded by fees from the industry it regulates, which has “resulted in blatant bias in favor of pipeline companies and against the public.”
Another problem seen by the groups is that, “The revolving door between employment with FERC and the industry it regulates contributes to agency bias in the project review and certification process, the unjustifiably high approval rate of proposed projects, and the lack of oversight and enforcement for FERC-approved pipeline projects.”
The groups also charge that FERC abuses the law by allowing construction to begin while neighbors are pursuing legal challenges, and by allowing pipeline projects to begin before all of the necessary permits have been issued.