Chair Frank Pallone House Energy & Commerce Committee
Chair Raul GrijalvaHouse Committee on Natural Resources
Chair Elijah CummingsHouse Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Chair Peter DeFazioHouse Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Members of Congress
RE: Congressional Hearings to Investigate Abuses of Power and Law by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Must be a 2019 Top Priority
Dear Chair Frank Pallone, Chair Raul Grijalva, Chair Elijah Cummings, Chair Peter DeFazio,and other members of Congress:
FERC has a near 100% approval rate for proposed pipeline projects. This shocking statistic, coupled with the many documented examples of how FERC misuses its authority, benefiting pipeline companies while disempowering and harming human and natural communities, and delegitimizing states and other agencies, warrants quick and thorough investigation, oversight, and possibly censure and reform by Congress.
As representatives of communities who are being harmed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) misuse of authority, we urge you to:
⇒ Hold congressional hearings that include members of the harmed communities as well as scientists, journalists, and other knowledgeable non-energy-industry-connected experts, to learn the many ways FERC is misusing its authority granted by the Natural Gas Act, and how that abuse of power is harming communities and our environment; ⇒ Take swift affirmative action to amend the Natural Gas Act so as to protect communities including eliminating the threats and harms associated with natural gas infrastructure; ⇒ Oppose the proposed Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2018, S. 3303/H.R. 6889, which seeks to diminish the rights of states to have a role in pipeline reviews, approvals, and/or permitting; and seek, support and advance only legislation that strengthens the rights of states and people to decide whether pipeline infrastructure should be permitted to advance through their states, communities, and/or private properties; and⇒ Ensure that any new infrastructure legislation pursued by Congress or other federal officials does not cause increased proliferation of fossil fuel pipelines and infrastructure, which would increase and exacerbate climate change and the environmental and community harms already experienced.FERC is misusing its authority in myriad ways. Among its most egregious conduct are the following:
⇒ Allowing premature use of the legal construct of eminent domain to seize property rights, even before a pipeline project has met all legal obligations, thereby allowing the taking of private property for a pipeline that may never be constructed (which has in fact happened – once taken, the property rights do not return even if approvals for a pipeline are subsequently denied);⇒ Stripping people of their legal and due process rights to challenge FERC approval of natural gas pipelines and infrastructure before the power of eminent domain is used to seize their property rights, and construction is allowed to proceed, thereby inflicting irreparable harm on communities and the environment;⇒ Undermining the legal authority of states to determine whether natural gas pipelines and infrastructure would violate state water quality standards and should be approved, denied or modified prior to construction;⇒ Undermining the authority of other federal agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to determine if the project would comply with federal law under their jurisdiction and therefore should be approved, denied or modified before FERC approval is granted and construction started;⇒ Advancing pipeline projects based on demonstrably false and misleading facts, claims and “data”; i.e., FERC approval is granted despite demonstrated proof (such as legitimate scientific data, photographs, agency documentation, and factual proof) that information provided by the pipeline company, key to its proposal, is false, misleading and/or intentionally not provided;⇒ Advancing pipeline projects without genuine demonstration of need, instead allowing companies to claim “need” simply by producing contracts with affiliates of the pipeline company itself and/or asserting the project is needed in order to enhance a company’s private profits or competitive edge;⇒ Allowing third party contractors with demonstrated conflicts of interest and an obvious vested interest in the outcome to lead review of the proposed project. This includes contractors who are working for the company at issue on other or related projects, and/or those working for the pipeline companies on directly related projects that will be affected by the actions and recommendations of the contractor; and⇒ Allowing FERC employees and Commissioners with demonstrated conflicts of interest, including financial, to work on project review and decision making for proposed pipeline projects.
This is but a shortlist of malfeasance by this agency.
Evidence and additional demonstrations of FERC’s abuses of its authority can be found in the Dossier of FERC’s Abuses of Power and Law, found at: http://bit.ly/DossierofFERCAbuse. In addition, you can review video testimony from the 2016 People’s Hearing at http://bit.ly/PeoplesHearingReFERC, at which impacted community members testify to the impact FERC’s abuses have had on their property rights, legal rights, health, safety, property values, small businesses, jobs and communities.
We, communities across the nation who are losing our property rights and suffering the environmental, economic, health, safety and quality of life harms being inflicted by FERC’s abuses of its authority urge you to hold Congressional hearings to investigate and take necessary steps to halt this harm.