FERC announced Wednesday that its public meeting scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. EST Thursday (Jan. 19) would be "open to the public via webcast only."
The meeting room at Federal Energy Regulatory Commission headquarters in Washington, DC, will be closed to the public "just for safety," though there were no specific threats, a FERC spokesman told NGI. The meeting will remain open to credentialed reporters, the spokesperson said.
There were reports that a number of protest groups are converging on the capital for the the presidential inauguration. FERC commissioners are slated to vote at Thursday’s meeting on Columbia Gas Transmission’s application for a certificate for its Leach XPress project, including about 160 miles of pipeline through Ohio and West Virginia that would add up to 1.53 million Dth/d of capacity to "more liquid markets" for gas from Appalachia.
Security in the capital is ratcheting up for the inauguration on Friday and the Women's March on Washington planned for the following day. Parking restrictions began going into effect at midday Wednesday, and bridges and tunnels into the city will begin closing at 3 a.m. EST Thursday.
FERC headquarters, located at 888 First St. NE, is just outside the "Green Zone," a downtown area restricted to residents and businesses during the inauguration. "The city is closing parts of First Street," the spokesperson said.
FERC similarly held a meeting before an audience of staffers and journalists, with no members of the general public present, last May. The decision in both cases was made by a unanimous vote of Commissioners to make the meetings "open to the public via webcast only." In 2015, FERC rescheduled an open meeting in an effort to sidestep large groups of protesters expected to gather outside its headquarters.
The decision last year came after months of FERC meetings interrupted by protesters who shouted their objections to the Commission "rubber-stamping" approval of energy projects. Protests at FERC meetings have continued, but have been less obtrusive since FERC adopted a rule specifying "the roles available to the public at the Commission's open meetings" in March 2015.