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  November 6, 2014

50 Arrested in Protests Against Federal Agency "Rubber Stamping" Fracking

As a part of a week of actions, protestors push for a ban on fracking projects approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after four fracking ban ballots pass nationwide
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CROWD: Tell me what plutocracy looks like. This is what plutocracy looks like!

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Protesters in D.C. are pointing their finger at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, also known as FERC. They say the regulatory agency, under President Obama's administration, is rubberstamping fracking gas projects without proper oversight and will eventually be detrimental to the environment.

HATTIE NASTEL, FERC PROTESTER: I'm here to shut down FERC, because Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is not regulating anything. They're rubberstamping everything.

DESVARIEUX: This protest is a part of a week of actions called Beyond Extreme Energy. On Monday, protesters gathered in front of FERC, where 25 people were arrested. Then, on Tuesday, police arrested 16 protesters. And on Wednesday, 12 more people were arrested.

Demonstrators from across the country are looking to fight FERC-approved projects, like the plan to create a gas storage hub in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Fifteen protesters were arrested after they blocked the gates of Crestwood Midstream's gas facility on Tuesday. Cove Point in Maryland was also targeted. Protesters climbed onto a construction site to demand that FERC withdraw the permit for a fracked gas export facility. Protesters argue that this facility could be a big boom to the fracking industry if allowed to have an export facility to get liquefied natural gas to Asian markets. This would eventually drive up demand, which would mean more fracking. As a result of the blockade, 11 people were arrested. Margaret Flowers was one of them.

MARGARET FLOWERS, POPULARRESISTANCE.ORG: --where they're building a pier that's going to bring in heavy equipment to build a liquefied gas, fracked gas terminal in Cove Point, Maryland. And the communities and many people have been trying to stop this terminal from being built, and they've tried the courts, they've tried the city councils, they've tried appealing to the state government. Nothing is working. And so we've entered this new phase where we're really going to have to start just shutting it down and delaying them and trying to stop them that way.

We need to invest in renewables, which actually we can do. There are plans that show how each state can do it. It's affordable now. But instead what we're seeing is agencies like the FERC that are just rubberstamping permits for new oil and gas infrastructure. And we should be putting those dollars into renewable infrastructure. And it's the last gasp of this oil period where the big oil and gas industry is trying to squeeze whatever they can out and make money off it before we're not able to harvest it anymore.

DESVARIEUX: But pro-fracking groups promote natural gas as America's secure energy source. But new evidence found by Post Carbon Institute show that U.S. shale gas will peak and drop off swiftly. The top three shale gas fields will have production levels three times smaller than the government currently predicts, and four out of the top seven U.S. shale gas fields have peaked and are already in decline. That's more bad news for the industry after four ballot initiatives banned fracking in two Californian counties and one Ohio town. And in an ironic twist, Denton, Texas, which is known as the birthplace of fracking, with more than 250 wells, banned fracking in the city's limits. The measure passed overwhelmingly, with almost 60 percent of voters in favor of the ban.

FLOWERS: I think Denton is a really great example of a community. And this is not a partisan issue, fracking. People get it when their communities are fracked and they see these wells close to their house, they smell the chemicals, they're experiencing the physical symptoms. They know the facts about the water, the millions of gallons of water that are being used and the poisoning of their aquifers. They get it. And so Denton has been very hard hit with fracking Wells right in their residential areas. So they've been out organizing and speaking out, and they finally did get--they're the first city to ban fracking.

DESVARIEUX: Protester Maggie Henry says she sees the connection between all these actions. She lives in Pennsylvania, where a gas pipeline has being proposed to run through Lancaster County. Mary was an organic farmer, but after a fracking pipe was built 30 feet from her backyard, she got active.

MAGGIE HENRY, ORGANIC FARMER PROTESTING FERC: I was trying to run an organic farming operation. And with all of the pollution that the industry is spewing off into the atmosphere, I don't have the nerve to tell people my product's organic. Just because I don't spray it with herbicides and pesticides doesn't mean that it's not covered with all of the carcinogenic, endocrine-disrupting and neurotoxic chemicals that the industry spews off.

DESVARIEUX: Air quality is front and center in Pennsylvania after court documents revealed that key studies which are often cited by state regulators and the shale gas drilling industry omitted measurements of key toxins. They reveal that the state's Department of Environmental Protection misreported or did not report to administrators 25 airborne chemicals measured in the field. That's one reason local residents like Maggie say they must remain vigilant and have no plans of going away.

HENRY: I've been at this for five years, and I will do it to the day I die. They have no right. This farm has been in my husband's family for 100 years. A hundred years we've paid the taxes on this farm. No, I'm not going away. Not ever. They have no right to do this to me. My children can't live on the farm that they grew up because they don't want to expose their babies to contaminants that are in the air and--God forbid--the water. Water buffaloes dot the Pennsylvania landscape like new lawn ornaments. It's just it's ridiculous what is going on with the industry.

DESVARIEUX: More protests are scheduled this week in front of FERC, and protesters are hoping that others will join the chorus and say no to fracking.

For The Real News Network, Jessica Desvarieux, Washington.

CROWD: A rubber stamp machine, a rubber stamp machine!


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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