Itai Vardi's blog

Trump’s New FERC Commissioner Rob Powelson Accepted Gifts from Energy Industry as State Regulator

Robert Powelson during FERC commissioner nomination hearing in Senate

Robert Powelson, President Donald Trump’s newly appointed commissioner to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), received both gifts and reimbursements for travel, lodging, and hospitality from the energy and utility sectors in his previous position as a state regulator. He will now regulate those sectors at the federal level.

Powelson, a Republican, began his tenure at FERC last week. Documents and emails recently uncovered by the Energy & Policy Institute, a watchdog monitoring attacks on renewable energy, indicate that he maintained a close relationship with industry groups as a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Virginia Agency May Not Have Properly Vetted Contractor Reviewing Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality building

At the end of June, DeSmog revealed that a contractor hired by the state of Virginia to review elements of the proposed Atlantic Coast gas pipeline is currently working for Dominion, the company leading the pipeline project. Recently obtained documents and emails from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) indicate that, prior to DeSmog’s reporting, the agency was not aware of this relationship between the contractor, EEE Consulting, and Dominion, despite a contract with strict stipulations intended to avoid conflicts of interest.

A Week After Leaving FERC, Former Commissioner Honorable Joins Firm Lobbying for Company Behind Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Only one week after leaving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), former commissioner Colette Honorable has joined a law firm lobbying for Dominion Energy, the company behind the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Honorable is joining Reed Smith LLP, a firm lobbying in the state of Virginia for Dominion, the energy giant leading the proposed natural gas project. The Atlantic Coast pipeline, a 550-mile three-state line, still requires FERC’s approval.

Virginia lobbying disclosures show that Reed Smith has been lobbying for Dominion since at least 2015. The firm has so far assigned three lobbyists to work on Dominion’s behalf: William Thomas, Jeffrey Palmore, and Edward Mullen.

Honorable, a Democrat, was appointed as FERC commissioner by former President Obama in August 2014. Previously she served as chairperson of the Arkansas Public Service Commission. Reed Smith hired Honorable as a partner in its international energy & natural resources practice.

As DeSmog previously reported, Honorable has ties to a senior executive at Southern Company, a minority stakeholder in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

While Reviewing Enbridge’s Line 5 for Michigan, Contractor Worked for Same Pipeline Company in Minnesota

Workers remove Enbridge oil pipeline section in Michigan in 2010

A private contractor hired by the state of Michigan to assess an Enbridge oil pipeline running under the Great Lakes was working simultaneously for the company on a related pipeline, a DeSmog investigation has found.

The contractor, Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems Inc., is leading one of two studies commissioned last year by Michigan to provide a risk assessment for Enbridge’s 64-year old Line 5 pipeline, which crosses the Straits of Mackinac where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet.

These revelations come two weeks after Michigan terminated the work of the contractor conducting the second study after discovering that one of its team members was working at the same time for Enbridge on a different project.

Contractor Hired by Virginia DEQ to Review Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline Works for Dominion

Atlantic Coast pipeline protesters

As part of its review of Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast pipeline, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently hired a private contractor to assess several elements of the project. 

DeSmog has found, however, that the contractor is currently working for Dominion on an unrelated project.

Exclusive: PA Lawmaker Working to Curb Pipeline Protestors Tied to Shadow Lobbyists for Company Behind Project

A recent intensification in protests against Williams Partners’ planned Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Pennsylvania prompted a state senator to propose legislation aimed at limiting demonstrations.

Last month, Pennsylvania Republican Senator Scott Martin announced his intention to introduce legislation that would pass the costs of law enforcement responding to protests onto the demonstrators. Martin also helped introduce a different bill that would criminalize protests at natural gas facilities. 

A DeSmog investigation has found, however, that Martin is intimately tied to an obscure group of lobbyists recently hired by Williams Partners.

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