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With Large Protests Looming, FERC Reschedules May Meeting

In an effort to sidestep large groups of protesters expected to gather outside FERC headquarters later this month, the Commission has moved up by one week the date of its open meeting.

"At the recommendation of the Federal Protective Service [FPS], the Commission moved its regular monthly meeting to May 14 to better ensure the safety of its staff and the public during the protests planned for May 21 at FERC headquarters," Federal Energy Regulatory Commission spokesperson Celeste Miller told NGI.

The group Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE), which led a week-long series of protests outside FERC headquarters last year (see Daily GPI, Nov. 7, 2014), is organizing more protests there beginning May 21, when the monthly open meeting was originally planned.

"We must intensify our nonviolent campaign, now, while the oil and gas industry is reeling from the massive drop in fuel prices worldwide," BXE said in announcing the protests on its website. The group objects to "FERC's rubber-stamping of fracked-gas projects all over the country."

On Friday, BXE celebrated the change. "We successfully forced FERC to reschedule their monthly commission meeting," the group told followers in Twitter.

FERC's monthly open meetings have recently become the target of protesters, most of them disrupting the meetings to voice their opposition to Dominion's Cove Point liquefied natural gas (LNG) export project (see Daily GPI, May 5; April 16; March 19). BXE's planned protest doesn't appear to be tied to FERC's May open meeting agenda, which includes only one natural gas item that is not related to Cove Point.

FERC recently denied a request for rehearing of its prior facility approval of the Cove Point project (see Daily GPI, Sept. 30, 2014), and the U.S. Department of Energy granted Dominion Cove Point LNG LP final authorization to export LNG to non-free trade agreement countries (see Daily GPI, May 7).

Several environmental groups on Thursday filed a lawsuit against FERC over its approval of the project. They claim the Commission failed to conduct a thorough review, asserting that an environmental impact statement was called for when the Commission performed a less-rigorous environmental assessment.

The lawsuit, filed in the federal appeals court for the DC Circuit, charges that FERC circumvented the law by failing to consider how Cove Point "would trigger expanded fracking for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region, leading to significant new amounts of air, water and climate-disrupting pollution." The groups also contend that FERC failed to adequately consider the impact of foreign ships "dumping dirty wastewater" into the Chesapeake Bay. Earthjustice filed the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Patuxent Riverkeeper, and Sierra Club.

A week-long series of BXE-led protests outside FERC headquarters in November resulted in at least 63 arrests for blocking passage, according FPS, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security responsible for security at federal facilities. In addition, one person was arrested for assault and five people were arrested for unlawful entry, FPS said at the time. BXE said its supporters protested during the week at several energy industry locations it opposes, including the proposed Cove Point facility in Calvert County, MD, and National Public Radio (NPR) headquarters in Washington, DC. According to BXE, America's Natural Gas Alliance's corporate sponsorship of NPR had bought the gas industry preferential treatment from the network.

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