Fractivists Ask FERC to Fund Them!

Marcellus Pipelines - Jim Willis reportsJim Willis
Editor & Publisher, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN)

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You’re a thief and ask your victim to fund your defense; such is the position of fractivists regarding FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

We live in a day and age when we see our country slipping away from us at an alarming rate. We witness outrage after outrage and when yet a new outage appears, it’s hard to focus attention on it and get worked up about it. We’ve told you, of course, about the latest angle of attack against the fossil fuel industry by fossil haters like THE Delaware Riverkeeper. That angle is to attack the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) with multiple lawsuits, hoping to tie it up in knots and make it dysfunctional (see here and here, for example). But, the latest outrage has us hopping mad. They want FERC (us) to pay for their radical activities.

FERCSome 30 big green groups have filed a petition with FERC asking the agency to set up an Office of Public Participation. The groups, including such luminaries as the Sierra Clubbers, National Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund, want to be able to aggressively challenge pipeline (and other) projects that come before FERC.

And, get this, they want to be compensated for the work they do to challenge those projects! Can you believe it!! They want taxpayers – you and me – to pay their staffers and lawyers to try and stop the very projects that benefit us! Simply amazing. We’ve truly fallen “Through the Looking Glass, Alice.”

These corrupt big green groups are attempting to use legislation passed in the 1970s to enforce their bizarre philosophy on the entire country – a philosophy that eschews the use of any fossil fuels. The way they plan to enforce their will on the country is by stopping any new pipeline projects. When will our side start to unload and file lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit against these groups?

More than 30 groups representing consumer advocates and environmental organizations have filed a petition asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to create an office of public participation.

In 1978 Congress directed FERC to create the office, but it never happened.

FERC regulates the interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity. In Pennsylvania it has been at the center of the controversy around the building boom of pipelines to transport Marcellus Shale gas.

Tyson Slocum is Energy Program Director at Public Citizen, a Washington D.C. group that filed the petition. He says when it comes to FERC, the deck is stacked against the public interest.

“It’s not because FERC is corrupt, as some allege,” says Slocum. “But in order to meaningfully participate in the numerous and complex dockets one must possess significant financial resources.”

If FERC sides with the petitioners, the 1978 statute provides for what’s known as “intervenor compensation.” It allows entities that substantially contribute to a proceeding to receive payment to cover their legal costs for intervening. The state of California has a similar program.

“That is groundbreaking. There is no other federal program where intervenor compensation is available,” Slocum says. “Not every advocate is due compensation. Not just any Joe Schmo can put together a petition. Only those who substantially contribute. You can’t spam FERC and then say you’d like to be paid. Your intervention has to impact a final order.”

He says it would allow public interest groups like his to get a seat at the table.

“We would be eligible under the statute to get some of our costs back,” he says. “Presently, we have no capacity to hire any expert witnesses, like an economist or an analyst.”

Editor’s Note: We can’t thank Jim enough for this article. He reads StateImpactPA because someone has to keep on eye on these Haas and Heinz family shills for the fractivist movement and he does a very effective job of it. Three things come to mind reading his piece.

First, its important to understand the original concept for a Office of Public Participation derives from 1978 legislation. It was the NIxon-Ford-Carter era of big government doing big stupid things and one of the ideas then prevalent was this dumb idea that government should fund people to attack itself. It was then a way of softening the impact of big decisions already made.

I first became aware of it as a young county planner trying to save a line of railroad in our area as the six big northeast railroads were, by fiat, being combined into one new Consolidated Rail Corporation (“Conrail”) with numerous communities losing rail service. An Office of Public Counsel was created to ease the pain by helping community representatives make their case for saving their lines during public hearings. We did save our line, eventually, through private action, with no help from the Office of Public Counsel, which was nothing more than a ruse. It gave birth to similar superficial initiatives in other legislation that empowered antis of every persuasion. It was a case of politicians doing CYA, nothing more.

Secondly, it’s important to realize this sort of crass political craziness is also in place in ever politically correct New York State. New York State’s Public Service Commission already funds opposition to projects in the crumbling Empire State. The details are found on pages 11-12 of this program description. This “Intervenor Funding” is a way for opposition groups to fund their radical agendas under the false banner of “consumerism” – a complete ripoff of consumers, of course. Some $46,407 in such funding was, for example, allocated to the “Citizens Campaign for the Environment” to help fight an application by National Grid to repower a power plant in the Town of Hempstead, Nassau County with cleaner, more efficient, lower CO2 producing natural gas. You can read what they did with the money in this report from the “Super Law Group, LLC.” I’m not making this up – this is how absurd things have become in New York.

Finally, it’s important to understand who is behind this campaign to have FERC fund opposition to itself. The campaign is led by a group known as the Public Citizen Foundation. It is yet another of these elitist special interest organizations funded to advance cronyism and power grabs by pretending to be advocates of the people. It is really two organizations, a 501(c)(3) charity and a 501(c)(4) political group, which allows it to transfer money around and raise money through tax-exempt contributions to fund its political activity – a common ruse among these types of entities and one that desperately needs challenging. It’s not hard to figure out what Public Citizen is all about when you research its funders. 

Public Citizen had slightly under $12 million in revenues in 2014 of which $219,821 was supposedly spent on its “energy program.” It received $350,000 for 2014 from the Energy Foundation to “build markets for renewable energy” and related activities. Readers of this blog, of course, know all about the Energy Foundation and its funder, the dark money outfit Sea Change Foundation run by Nat Simons, a hedge fund investor in renewable energy. The Energy Foundation is all about promoting the type of green energy cronyism that resulted in the Ivanpah fiasco and many others and that’s why Ivanpah’s investors (e.g., Google) love the Energy Foundation. Take a look also at the list of 30 big green radicals Jim refers to as being behind Public Citizen’s initiative. No less than half of those 30 groups are funded by the Energy Foundation.

FERC Nat-Simons-yacht-lg

Nat Simons and the gaz-guzzling yacht he used to go to work across the San Francisco Bay

The cronyism behind the supposed altruism is incredible and that’s what this latest effort is all about; furthering the ambitions of power-hungry, money grubbing crony capitalists such as Nat Simons to build more Ivanpahs and make themselves even richer while putting on a show of environmentalism. Jim is absolutely correct; the time is long past for a major assault on these groups and their tax-exemptions, the abuse of which has led to this latest outrage. 

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