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FERC Abuses of Law and Power Investigated at People’s Hearing

Maya van Rossum
Dec 9, 2016 · 3 min read
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Sixty-three testified before a panel of judges selected for the event

On December 2nd, people from across America descended on Washington, D.C., to share their experiences being abused by the federal government. Specifically, a federal agency seemingly in league with the multi-billion natural gas pipeline industry. These people told their stories in the hopes of convincing Congress to hold hearings and to learn from each other, at a People’s Hearing held at the National Press Club.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is supposed to regulate the natural gas pipeline industry. But at the People’s Hearing, we heard that the agency acts otherwise, in town after town, forest after forest, creek after creek, and community after community. We learned that FERC does not regulate the pipeline industry — the agency empowers them to use the laws of this nation against us.

At the Peoples Hearing, I repeatedly had to choke back tears or expressions of anger in response to the testimony and messages we heard. Some of the shocking testimony included the following:

→ Our police wear double-sided lanyards — one side says ‘police,’ the other side says ‘Dominion employee’;

→ FERC employees joked about all the pipelines we were being subjected to and the loss of our 300 trees, including some that were a hundred years old;

→ FERC treated our input with contempt;

→ Native American communities are being abused by FERC;

→ FERC allows foreign corporations to use the power of eminent domain for their pipelines and profit;

→ FERC ignored testimony that the pipeline company was using stolen identities to support their project in comments on the record;

→ FERC uses our own police force against us;

→ Today there is no greater threat to Virginia’s forests than the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines;

→ Regulatory agencies are supposed to protect our natural resources and people. FERC doesn’t;

→ We the people have no voice with FERC on these projects;

→ FERC is a domestic threat;

→ FERC ignores science;

→ The AIM Pipeline being built by Indian Point nuclear plant is a weapon of mass destruction;

→ FERC uses tombstone regulation. They regulate after the catastrophe when they have counted the tombstones;

→ Every person who spoke was betrayed by a federal agency that should have been looking out for them.

(Testimony and video of the hearing can be found at

Senators and Congressional representatives were urged and invited to attend. This wasn’t the first time they had heard from us. I and others have written these elected officials, called them, and met with their staff in person and over the phone. We told them how communities were being abused by FERC and asked their help and attention. How many do you think send staff to our People’s Hearing? Just four, as well as a staffer from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Only four! We thank those four:

→ Congressman Frank Pallone (Democrat from NJ, Ranking member on the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce);

→ Congressman Morgan Griffith (Republican from Virginia);

→ Senator Maria Cantwell (Democrat from Washington, Ranking member on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources);

→ Senator Bob Casey (Democrat from Pennsylvania).

I understand that Senator Bernie Sanders said he wanted to watch the video after the fact. Hopefully he will.

The letter we sent to Congress asking for Congressional hearings, was signed by 182 organizations representing communities in 35 states and the District of Columbia. Of our 63 testifiers, we had 15 states and DC represented. People came from as far as Oregon, Florida, Oregon, and Massachusetts, to name a few.

And yet somehow our Congress and Senate could only send staff from four of their offices to attend an event at the National Press club, down the road from them.

We have a new President coming into office, supported by a slew of Senators and Representatives, Republicans and Democrats, who are committed to increasing pipeline construction. We also have communities across the nation being badly abused by FERC. Surely We the People deserve to be heard by Congress before this gets any worse and FERC’s abuses of power and law continue?

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