Honorable Members of Congress and the Senate:
President Donald Trump is fast tracking a Dirty Energy Agenda that is putting our country at grave risk. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have put an exclamation point on the realities of how harmful climate change will be for our present and future communities if we do not swiftly transition from coal, oil, and fracked gas to a clean energy path. The damage will be to human life and safety, to our local and national economies, to businesses large and small, and to our healthy environments necessary to sustain food, air, water, and flood protection for present and future generations.
President Trump is seeking multiple avenues to increase use of coal, gas and oil fracked from shale, and other dirty fossil fuels. Among President Trump’s Dirty Energy Agenda is:
---> advancing three pro-industry representatives as Commissioners to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC);---> advocating rollback of environmental regulations and project review requirements, including rollback of guidance that ensured consideration of climate changing impacts of FERC regulated fossil fuel projects; and---> increasing the power of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to advance dirty fossil fuel pipelines despite its documented abuses of power and law.
Congress needs to be a check on the Dirty Energy Agenda of Donald Trump, not a rubber stamp. Rather than bring rationality to the President’s Dirty Energy plans, the Senate is considering Senate Bill 1460.
S 1460, sponsored by Senator Murkowski,
---> would increase greenhouse gas emissions and harm the environment and public health by furthering U.S. dependence on fossil fuel-based energy;---> expedite review of new mining, oil, and gas permits, and drilling;---> hasten approvals for liquified natural gas (LNG) export facilities, resulting in more pipelines and devastation to communities in the US in order to provide energy to foreign nations; ---> expanding research and development for extracting methane hydrates.
S1460 does nothing to increase renewable energy production in the U.S. and instead would further solidify our dependence on foreign nations who are taking the lead on ensuring their ability to supply this clean energy of the future.
Among the biggest concerns of the signers of this letter is that S1460 would make FERC the lead agency in the authorization of fracked gas projects, requiring other agencies to give “deference” to FERC. FERC is already recognized as failing to provide independent, thoughtful, and rational review to infrastructure projects. Greenhouse gas emissions, property rights impacts, environmental harms, and job loss are all given short shrift in FERC’s reviews. FERC is now well known for its misuse of eminent domain authority, its efforts to undermine state authority, and its misuse of a legal loophole to rob communities of their ability to challenge pipeline projects before their property rights are taken and construction is allowed to begin.
It is bewildering that so many Senators who took a strong stance in support of the Paris Climate Agreement, who touted the need for U.S. climate leadership and transitioning to renewable energy, who consistently assert a concern for environmental protection, and who have been vocal critics of FERC’s project reviews, are now poised to support S1460 and other dirty energy legislation.
The signers of this letter have all experienced, first hand, the abuses of fracked gas infrastructure and the abuses of authority carried out by FERC. And so we urge you to reject S1460, to reject all legislation that seeks to further empower and embolden FERC and that rolls back environmental protections.
Instead we urge you to advance and support legislation that:
---> advances clean energy industries, jobs and technologies and seeks to position the United States as a clean energy leader, and that---> calls for hearings into FERC’s abuses of power and law and to use those findings to identify and advance needed reforms to the Natural Gas Act.
Advancing President Trumps Dirty Energy Agenda, and legislation like S1460, the Energy Modernization Act of 2015, HR 1900 (of the past) and other such legislation, is damaging to our nation. Oil and gas pipelines are damaging to our nation’s economy. By contrast, advancement of clean energy industries are a job creator and economic driver. Pipeline investments suck up financial resources and political energy that could and should be used for business investments that will maximize near term and long term job benefits. Investment in clean energy generates a greater number of long term jobs that bring greater capacity for worker learning and advancement. In fact, for every million dollars invested in clean energy jobs (including wind, solar, eco-friendly water, and efficiency) we generate 6 to 8 times the number of direct jobs, and 3 times the number of direct, indirect and induced jobs collectively. (1)
The claim of economic benefits from FERC approved pipelines (including jobs, local tax revenue and savings on energy) are dwarfed by the economic costs those pipelines inflict. For example---> While Millennium Pipeline company claims its ESU project will generate $2 billion of economic value it will cost between $4.7 billion to $18.8 billion in economic harm;---> While the PennEast pipeline company asserts it will provide $2.3 billion of economic value over 30 years, analysis shows it will cost communities between $13.3 billion to $56.6 billion in economic harm.
Pipelines reduce the market value of our homes, sometimes by as much as 5 to 40% (2), while at the same time reducing the marketability of homes. Unable to sell their homes for fair value or at all, people, kids and families are forced to live next to the pipeline infrastructure forced upon them by eminent domain that endangers and disturbs them or to sell their property at a loss, a loss which most people can ill afford to bear. The fear of living next to a pipeline is well founded. The rate of accident, incidents and explosions of recently built pipelines exceeds rates of the past with gas transmission lines installed in the 2010s having annual average incident rates exceeding that of pre-1940s pipes (3). In the past 20 years, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has recorded 5,679 “significant” pipeline incidents (i.e., resulting in $50,000 or more in costs), 310 fatalities, 1,301 injuries, and nearly $8 billion in costs and damages. That works out to an average, every year, of 284 incidents (including explosions) 65 injuries, 16 deaths, and nearly $390 in annual costs and damages.
Even the industry recognizes that pipeline infrastructure is advancing too fast, with too many pipelines being built in an unplanned fashion to make sense.
“Speaking to attendees at the 21st Annual LDC Gas Forums Northeast conference in Boston Tuesday, [RBN Energy LLC President Rusty] Braziel said an evaluation of price and production scenarios through 2021 suggests the industry is planning too many pipelines to relieve the region’s current capacity constraints.” (4) “We believe that the Appalachian Basin’s takeaway capacity will be largely overbuilt by the 2016-2017 time frame,” said Elle G. Atme, Vice President, Marketing and Midstream operations for independent producer Range Resources. (5)
According to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) “The pipeline capacity being proposed exceeds the amount of natural gas likely to be produced from the Marcellus and Utica formations over the lifetime of the pipelines.” “…[T]he regulatory environment created by FERC encourages pipeline overbuild.” (6)
All the way around – jobs, economics, environment, health, property values, quality of life, climate change, and honoring our obligation to future generations – continuing investments in dirty fossil fuels, and its infrastructure, is a fool’s errand.
We write to urge you to oppose Donald Trump’s Dirty Energy Agenda and instead to: 1. Oppose any legislation before you that does anything but strengthen review of, and protections from, fossil fuel development including infrastructure, including S1460; 2. Call for Congressional hearings into the abuses of law and power by FERC, and to, as a result of the hearing process, identify and advance needed legislative and regulatory reforms; 3. Put in place a moratorium on new fracked gas infrastructure approvals by FERC until identified reforms from the hearing process are put in to place; 4. Advance legislation and agency mandates that fast track advancement of clean energy alternatives and strive to position the United States as an international clean energy leader.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------(1) See e.g. The Economic Benefits of Investing in Clean Energy, Dept of Economics and Pollitical Economy Research Institute, Univ of Massachusetts, Amherst, June 2009 (2) E.g. http://www.ldnews.com/story/news/local/2016/01/02/pipelines-could-affect-property-values/77984160/; http://www.forensic-appraisal.com/gas_pipelines_q_a (3) http://pstrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Incidents-by-age-of-pipes-PST-spring2015-newsletter-excerpt.pdf(4) See Failure to Demonstrate Need Attachment 2, Jeremiah Shelor, Marcellus/Utica on Pace for Pipeline Overbuild, Says Braziel, Natural Gas Intelligence, June 8, 2016.(5) Marcellus-Utica could soon be overpiped, Kallanish Energy, February 2, 2016.(6) IEEFA, Risks Associated with Natural Gas Pipeline Expansion in Appalachia, April 2016.
(List singers and orgs in same order as above)