June 16, 2016

Senate Hearing Underscores Disagreement Among Environmental Groups

The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee recently held a hearing examining oil and gas pipeline infrastructure and the many economic and environmental considerations related to our nation’s energy network. The hearing featured testimony from experts in the energy, manufacturing, and construction industries, including Andrew Black, President of the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, Ross Eisenberg, Vice President of Energy and Resources Policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, and Sean McGarvey, President of North America’s Building Trades Unions. Each spoke at length on their respective policy areas and the impacts of pipeline infrastructure.

Additionally, Jonathan Peress, Air Policy Director – Natural Gas of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) was given the opportunity to testify. Senator John Barasso (R-WY) questioned Mr. Peress about opposition to pipeline projects and the underhanded, invasive techniques employed to strong-arm regulators during the approval process.

Sen. Barrasso referenced a campaign in February 2016 by a group called Beyond Extreme Energy (BEE) in which protesters hand-delivered protest notes to FERC commissioners’ homes. These steps clearly represent an invasion of privacy, and Sen. Barrasso was right to draw a distinction on appropriate activities. Read the full exchange below:

Sen. Barrasso: Mr. Peress, you’re the air policy director at EDF. Protest mail is being delivered to FERC Commissioner’s home addresses and handed to them directly at their homes. I find these tactics to be extremely troubling. Environmental activists stormed the stage. Do you believe physically intimidating public officials is appropriate?

Mr. Peress: In our society…

Sen. Barrasso: Yes or no!?

Mr. Peress: Personally I do not agree with this but I cannot speak for EDF.

Sen. Barrasso: Why is your organization linking arms with groups that feel intimidating public officials is alright?

Mr. Peress: We work with a wide variety of groups and I’m not sure why a letter of support was distributed to them.

Mr. Peress’ comments characterize a level-headed approach to protesting, and demonstrate a more fundamental rift among groups opposed to energy infrastructure projects. Federal laws prohibit intimidation of government officials performing public duties, and such tactics prove counterproductive to the regulatory process altogether, drawing attention away from the proposed projects and actual stakeholders. Mr. Peress is right to acknowledge that BEE’s methodologies cross the line of decency, and yet his lack of awareness with regard to his own group’s support undermines these opposition efforts altogether.

The Coalition for the Expansion of Pipeline Infrastructure fully supports a robust review process for natural gas projects. This practice should include a thorough discussion of the merits of any given pipeline project with the inclusion of input from a variety of stakeholders. However, CEPI firmly believes that groups employing such intimidation tactics should not be considered stakeholders in that process.

Read more about the Beyond Extreme Energy tactics here.

You can view the Senate hearing in its entirety here.