spectra energy

Former Inspectors Describe Dangerous Flaws in Construction of Major East Coast Gas Pipeline

In April, a massive explosion ripped through rural Salem Township, Pennsylvania when natural gas from a pipeline buried in a field suddenly ignited.

The Salem Township explosion offers a glimpse at how dangerous a natural gas pipeline accident can be — the blast when the 30-inch pipeline ignited blew a 12-foot deep hole in the ground and scorched 40 acres, sending one man to the hospital with burns on 75 percent of his body.

“It looked like you were looking down into hell,” a local fire chief, Bob Rosatti, told ABC News. “As far across my windshield as I could see was just a massive fireball.”

While Reviewing Spectra Energy Gas Pipeline Project, FERC Contractor Did Not Disclose Its Hiring by Spectra for Five Other Projects

In a potential conflict of interest, a contractor hired by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to review a proposed Spectra Energy natural gas pipeline project had already been working for the company it was reviewing on a different but interconnected pipeline. Spectra then directly hired the contractor, Natural Resource Group (NRG), for no fewer than five other projects during the review period.

These revelations raise questions about the contractor’s ability to impartially review Spectra’s application on behalf of the government regulator.

In June 2013, FERC approved the hiring of NRG as a third-party contractor to conduct a comprehensive environmental review for Spectra’s then-proposed Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) project, a major capacity upgrade for its Algonquin Pipeline carrying fracked gas from Pennsylvania through New York and into New England.

While third-party contractors are paid by the pipeline company seeking FERC approval, they are considered independent analysts who work under the direct supervision of FERC staff.

Yet DeSmog has found that during the time of its hiring for AIM, NRG was providing environmental consulting services for two of Spectra’s pipeline testing and renewal projects on its Texas Eastern Transmission Pipeline, which interconnects with the Algonquin Pipeline.

Senators Demand New FERC Environmental Review for Spectra Energy Project After DeSmog Revelations

Two US Senators have demanded the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) cancel the environmental assessment of a natural gas project after DeSmog revealed a potential conflict of interest in the process.

In their letter, Massachusetts Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey urged FERC to conduct a new and objective review into Spectra Energy’s Atlantic Bridge project.

Residents and activists outraged about the potential impacts of the project had flooded both Warren's and Markey's offices with requests for intervention.

Writing to FERC Chairperson Norman Bay, Sens. Warren and Markey cite DeSmog’s findings at length and express serious concern over the integrity of Atlantic Bridge’s environmental assessment.

The Senators state that “this new information raises serious questions about the accuracy and objectivity” of the environmental assessment (EA).

The Atlantic Bridge project aims to expand Spectra’s existing Algonquin Gas Transmission Pipeline, which carries fracked gas from Pennsylvania to New York and New England.

Former FERC Official Hired By Company With $1.8 Million Stake In Spectra Energy Pipeline Project He Had Reviewed

An engineering company with a $1.8 million stake in a Spectra Energy natural gas project hired a former top Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) official who had been managing the environmental review process for the same project.

Douglas Sipe, who served as Outreach Manager in the Office of Energy Projects at FERC, left the Commission in mid 2014 to work for Willbros, a large oil and gas engineering and construction firm based in Houston.

Following a 16-year career at FERC, Sipe was named Willbros’ Vice President of Regulatory & Public Affairs, a newly created position.

Before leaving FERC, Sipe served as the Environmental Project Manager for the pre-filing and early filing review processes of Spectra Energy’s then-proposed Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline project.

Revealed: Contractors Hired by FERC to Review a New Spectra Energy Pipeline Work for Spectra on a Related Project

A contractor hired last year by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to review a proposed gas pipeline by Spectra Energy, had already been working for the company on a related project, a DeSmog investigation has found.

Such an alleged conflict of interest suggests that the contractor had a financial stake in approving the project it was hired to review.

As part of a formal Pre-Filing Review Process for Spectra Energy’s Atlantic Bridge project, FERC hired in early 2015 a third-party contractor to review the pipeline. A proposed expansion of the company’s existing Algonquin Pipeline carrying fracked gas from Pennsylvania to the Northeast US and Canada, the project involves the construction of several new pipeline segments in New York and New England and a new compressor station in the town of Weymouth, Massachusetts. 

Exposed: Spectra-Funded Group Lobbied for FERC Commissioner's Reappointment, Then FERC Approved Spectra’s Gas Pipelines

A business advocacy group lobbied for the reappointment of a federal energy commissioner while one of its own members sought approval for several projects from the same federal regulator, a DeSmog investigation has found.

In the past three years, natural gas infrastructure giant Spectra Energy has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval for a number of projects in the US Northeast.

During this time, regional pro-business lobbying group the New England Council, of which Houston-based Spectra Energy is a member, lobbied President Barack Obama and the US Senate for the reappointment of FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur to a second term.

A DeSmog investigation has found other instances suggesting an ongoing and exclusive relationship between LaFleur, NEC, and lobbyists working for Spectra Energy.

Environmental Impact Deemed "Limited" For Potentially Explosive Shale Gas Pipeline Into Lower Manhattan

Last Friday, exactly one year after the massive natural gas pipeline blast that killed eight and leveled a San Bruno, California neighborhood, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) brought the controversial New Jersey-New York gas line one step closer to construction.

The pipeline, as proposed by Spectra Energy, would carry shale gas through a number of New Jersey towns, under the Hudson River, and into the Meatpacking District of Lower Manhattan. On Friday, FERC released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that gave preliminary approval for construction of the pipeline and all of the related aboveground facilities. The EIS runs over 800 pages long, so I wasn’t able to give it a thorough read (you can find links to all the sections here), but the Executive Summary gave every indication that the line would be approved. FERC found “that construction and operation of the NJ-NY Project would result in limited adverse environmental impacts” and that “[T]hese limited impacts would mostly occur during the period of construction.”

For all the detailed discussion of wetlands and waterways and noise pollution and archaeological sites, there’s one major risk – environmental and public safety – that the report glosses over.

What happens if there’s an explosion? New Jersey-New York City shale gas pipeline map

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