Public barred from meeting as protests loom

By Hannah Northey | 05/19/2016 07:45 AM EDT

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is barring the public from its monthly meeting today in downtown Washington, D.C., in light of planned climate and anti-fracking protests.

FERC Chairman Norman Bay and Commissioners Tony Clark, Cheryl LaFleur and Colette Honorable agreed yesterday in a unanimous vote that the meeting should be "open to the public via webcast only."

The notice was posted on the agency’s website at 6:13 p.m. Credentialed press will still be able to attend, according to FERC.


FERC has ramped up security in recent months to combat disruptions at its monthly meetings by protesters opposed to hydraulic fracturing and the agency’s approval of interstate natural gas infrastructure.

The commission made the decision to webcast the meeting only as members of the activist group, Beyond Extreme Energy, conducted a weeklong demonstration targeting commissioners’ private homes, as well as congressional offices and the headquarters of several oil and gas companies in Washington, D.C. (Greenwire, May 16).

BXE’s activities were also centered around today’s meeting. About 40 or more protesters are expected to gather outside FERC, including Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska; Mike Tidwell, head of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network; the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus; and residents directly affected by approved gas projects, according to Melinda Tuhus, a spokeswoman for BXE.

Activists last night accused FERC of turning its public meeting into a "TV show" and vowed to continue protesting. But agency watchers said the decision to bar the public while keeping it "open" via webcast was prudent given that protesters were showing up at the commissioners’ private homes.