466 Groups Urge Biden to Fill FERC Seat With Environmental, Energy Justice Champion

WASHINGTON — More than 460 environmental and energy justice, racial justice, faith and youth organizations from across the United States sent a letter today urging President Joe Biden to appoint a nominee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who will champion environmental and energy justice.

The letter names three candidates to replace Republican commissioner Neil Chatterjee, whose term has expired. One is Daniel Blackman, a previous contender for the Georgia Service Commission and critic of the fossil fuel-focused utility giant Georgia Power. Another is Marquita Bradshaw, the first Black woman to win the Democrat nomination for a Tennessee Senate seat and a victorious opponent of the Byhalia Pipeline. The third pick is Nidhi Thakar, a long-time renewable energy lawyer and national co-chair of Clean Energy for Biden.

The Biden White House’s climate and environmental justice legacy will hinge on this nomination, the groups say. As the federal agency that oversees interstate gas infrastructure and wholesale electricity markets, FERC has immense power to curtail the growth of fossil fuels and integration of just renewable energies.

“The Biden administration will not achieve its goal of rooting out systemic racism in energy and environmental decision-making with a status quo appointment to FERC,” said Dana Johnson, federal policy director with WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “We urge President Biden to nominate a commissioner that is concerned about FERC’s legacy of prioritizing projects over people, has the courage to apply an equity and justice lens to their work, and will be accountable to the people and communities that are disproportionately harmed by the energy industry.”

“We must seize this consequential opportunity to appoint a visionary commissioner who can enact federal change to our racist and ecocidal energy system,” said Jean Su, energy justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With people dying from coast to coast of extreme heat waves and hurricanes, the climate emergency is undeniably here. FERC has a critical role to play in making sure we prioritize renewable and just energy before it’s too late.”

“The Biden administration must uplift a FERC candidate that will uphold justice for Indigenous and frontline communities. The impacts of the fossil fuel industries, pipeline infrastructure, including at Enbridge Line 3, are putting our people in prison. A Justice-based FERC candidate could be a first step in showing good faith on meeting the unmet promises of the Biden Administration,” said Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

“If the world is going to prevent escalating climate and social disruption, the U.S.’s FERC agency must play a key role,” said Ted Glick, organizer with Beyond Extreme Energy.  “It needs to stop being a rubber-stamp agency for gas industry expansion, and it needs to upgrade the electrical grid to rapidly advance renewables and battery storage. This FERC nomination, if a strong one, can make that a reality.”

“We don’t need little changes at FERC: we need a whole new agency and new leadership,” said Drew Hudson, senior national organizer at Friends of the Earth. “If President Biden is serious about achieving 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035, he must look beyond the industry insiders and utility sympathizers who got us into the climate crisis.”

“It’s past time for President Biden to name a new FERC commissioner. Every day he waits on this appointment — and others at crucial independent agencies — is a missed opportunity for climate action,” said Jeff Hauser, executive director at the Revolving Door Project. “We look forward to Biden choosing a commissioner who aligns with his stated campaign goals of securing environmental justice and accountability to the people, not to polluters and corporations.”

“After six months in office, President Biden’s climate and environmental platform hangs in the balance. If he doesn’t act decisively now, he could doom us to a future of unlivable climate chaos. Choosing a FERC nominee that will reject new fossil fuel development would be a strong sign that Biden intends to take our climate crisis seriously,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

“For too long FERC has been a rubber stamp for pipeline companies, helping to accelerate the destruction of communities throughout the Gulf South. If President Biden is serious about his commitments to environmental justice, he must nominate a commissioner who will put people first,” said Kendall Dix, policy lead at Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy.

The letter notes that this coalition of groups was able to identify the three individuals who center justice in their work with far fewer resources and less time than the White House. It encourages the Biden administration to consider these candidates as part of widening their own search for a candidate.

Communications contact: Brittany Miller, (202) 222-0746, [email protected]

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