Hundreds of Groups Demand Biden Name Climate-Focused FERC Commissioner

With a Biden nominee on the way, climate activists want the White House to prioritize a shift off fossil fuels

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Climate and Energy

Over 320 community, climate and environmental groups from across the country sent a letter to President Biden today demanding that he nominate a commissioner to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) who will prioritize climate action by stopping the approval of fossil fuel projects. 

The letter was organized by Food & Water Watch, Beyond Extreme Energy, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and Berks Gas Truth. Signatories include Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Indigenous Environmental Network, Progressive Democrats of America, Sierra Club, and 350.org.  

With Republican commissioner Neil Chatterjee leaving the agency on June 30, much of the Biden White House’s climate legacy will hinge on this nomination. As the federal agency that oversees interstate gas infrastructure, FERC has immense power to curtail the growth of the industry. Recent lawsuits — including Food & Water Watch and Berkshire Environmental Action Team v Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — have challenged the agency to consider the greenhouse gas emissions associated with fracked gas expansion projects. 

On June 22, a D.C. Circuit court panel vacated FERC’s approval of a gas pipeline in Missouri, ruling that the commission took an “ostrich-like approach” instead of evaluating the necessity of the project.

The pressure to properly account for the climate impacts of gas infrastructure has been a recent source of disagreement among the commissioners. FERC’s reputation as a rubber stamp for the dirty energy industry has only bolstered climate advocates’ demand that the White House nominate a commissioner who will break from this tradition.

The letter to the White House cites the recent report from the International Energy Agency, which warned that the climate crisis does not allow for any new fossil fuel development. The letter goes on point out that Biden’s own rhetoric on climate requires a bold pick:

“This FERC appointment will be instrumental in helping to fulfill your commitment to addressing this crisis. We urge you to appoint a new commissioner committed to following climate science, stopping new fossil fuel infrastructure, and transitioning the country to 100% renewable energy.“

“History may record that President Biden’s 2021 appointment of a strong climate champion to be a FERC commissioner was one of the most consequential actions he took to slow, stop and reverse global heating over the course of the 21st century,” said Ted Glick of Beyond Extreme Energy. “History may also record that humankind failed this urgent, existential test in part because Biden didn’t do so. This is the importance of this nomination.”

“Through this appointment President Biden has an opportunity to make a lasting impact on our energy future,” said Mitch Jones, Policy Director at Food & Water Watch. “We need a strong climate advocate on FERC helping to steer the commission away from its past as a rubber stamp for the fossil fuel industry, and towards supporting a robust expansion of renewable energy. President Biden needs to seize this opportunity to cement a strong climate legacy through this appointment.”

“President Biden correctly calls climate change the ‘existential crisis of our time.’ Only bold actions commensurate with challenges we face will do now. Biden appointees must be leaders capable of carrying out those actions. That is especially true at FERC, where generations of commissioners have taken a pro-fossil fuels stance that has set us back immeasurably,” said Karen Feridun, Founder of Berks Gas Truth.

“FERC has failed to drive the transition to renewables for too long,” said Donna Chavis, Senior Climate Campaigner at Friends of the Earth US. “Biden has a golden opportunity to install a qualified climate champion to build the clean and resilient electricity grid the US so desperately needs.”

“FERC needs to change course by recognizing the direct connection between fossil fuel infrastructure projects and the proliferation of greenhouse gas emissions and factor these impacts into all its decisions by halting projects that worsen the climate crisis. President Biden’s appointment to FERC must comport with his stated recognition of the urgency of climate change by ensuring a majority on the Commission who will finally make climate impacts the priority,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. 

“There’s no time like the present for the FERC and the President to act to defend the Gulf of Mexico coast, where dozens of fossil gas export terminals and pipelines loom and threaten our communities and ecosystems. In the name of the pitcher-plant bogs and alligators, in the name of the culture bearers and subsistence fishing communities, on behalf of all those who will be affected by FERC continuing to ignore the climate crisis, we implore the President to appoint a climate justice champion to FERC,” said Naomi Yoder, Staff Scientist at Healthy Gulf.