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Pipeline opponents call for FERC reforms

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 9:41 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Opponents of natural gas pipeline projects across the country are calling for changes at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Wednesday, a coalition of environmental groups said the agency is aligned with the natural gas industry, and fails to protect the environment and the interests of landowners.

Irene Leech said what many others echoed during the online conference.

“Based on my experience, FERC is broken,” Leech said during the virtual “People’s Hearing,” organized by the VOICES Coalition.

Federal regulators, they argued, are a rubber stamp for the natural gas industry, and dismissive of landowners' and environmentalists' concerns.

“And the whole process is set up so that the industry has an advantage over landowners every step of the way,” Leech said.

The VOICES Coalition claims the support of 250 environmental groups in 35 states, including a number here in western Virginia.

Mary Beth Coffey lives on Bent Mountain, where she offered some alternate names for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“Friends of Extracting Resources from Citizens, Former Energy Executives Rubber Stamping Corruption, Friends of Energy Requiring Combustion,” she said.

Almost 30 pipeline opponents, including Monroe County West Virginia landowner Maury Johnson, spoke during the six-hour conference.

“Most landowners, citizens and many other groups that I know, feel they are being ignored by FERC, to the benefit of the energy firms that FERC is supposed to regulate,” Johnson said. “There is nothing fair about this at all.”

Industry representatives defend the permitting process, saying it’s a rigorous review that does weigh the impact on the environment, communities and landowners.

We asked FERC for a response, but a representative said the agency doesn’t comment on matters pending before the commission or in litigation.

Supporters of the VOICES Coalition say they hope to get the attention of Congress, and build support for major FERC reforms.

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