Itai Vardi's blog

Despite Senate Inquiry into Potential Conflicts of Interest, FERC Approves Spectra Energy’s Atlantic Bridge Project

Protester at a rally wears a t-shirt that reads 'FERC wake up'

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved the construction of a new gas pipeline project, despite an ongoing inquiry by two U.S. senators into a possible conflict of interest in its environmental review. 

Senators Keep Heat on FERC, Raise New Concerns Over Conflicts of Interest in Spectra Gas Pipeline Project

Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren

In a January 5 letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey demanded more answers on a possible conflict of interest in the environmental review of a Spectra Energy natural gas project.

This latest inquiry, the third in the past several months, was prompted by exclusive revelations by DeSmog that the contractor assisting FERC in the review was working for Spectra on a related project.

FERC Suggests Spectra Energy Gas Facility Would Not Pose Cancer Risk, Based on Study by Spectra Consultant

FERC office

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) concluded in an environmental assessment that a proposed Spectra Energy gas compressor station in a residential Massachusetts neighborhood would not increase the risk of cancer in nearby residents. 

However, it came to this conclusion via a questionable route — by citing a study done by a firm simultaneously working for Spectra.

Exposed: Husband of FERC Official Responsible for Reviewing New Spectra Energy Pipelines Consults On Related Spectra Project

Phil Suter, the spouse of Maggie Suter, an official at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) who led the review for two gas pipeline projects by Spectra Energy, is a paid consultant on a related Spectra project.

Experts on ethics in government regulatory bodies told DeSmog this case raises serious red flags, amounting to what appears to be a conflict of interest.

Suter should have, at the least, disclosed to FERC the conflict, and recused herself from these projects,” says Neil Gordon, an investigator at the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group monitoring money in politics.

*Maggie Suter informed FERC about CH-IV's work in both projects. In response, FERC removed her from the role of Project Manager in the Cove Point LNG project, but allowed her to remain on the reviewing team in a more limited role. FERC did not require Maggie Suter to recuse herself from reviewing the Atlantic Bridge project.* 

FERC Chairman Used Not-Yet-Published Guidelines to Deny Wrongdoing in Hiring of Contractor for Spectra Pipeline

FERC Chairman Norman Bay with people sitting behind him.

Responding to an inquiry by two U.S. senators, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) cited not-yet-published guidelines in an attempt to deny any missteps by the Commission in its past hiring of a contractor that reviewed a proposed gas pipeline.

As DeSmog first reported, that contractor potentially had a conflict of interest. 

Contractor Behind Positive Dakota Access Pipeline Environmental Assessment Was Working on Connecting Pipeline For Same Company

A private firm that conducted the environmental review for the highly contentious Dakota Access Pipeline was simultaneously working for Energy Transfer, the company behind the project, on a connecting pipeline.

A DeSmog investigation also found that during the review period, the firm — Perennial Environmental Services LLC (“Perennial”) — advocated for opening new regions for oil and gas drilling.

In 2014, Energy Transfer hired Perennial, a Houston-based environmental consultancy, to perform the Environmental Assessment (EA) for its then-proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, a four-state project that will carry crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region to Illinois.

Yet Perennial was already working at the time for another subsidiary company of Energy Transfer, Trunkline.

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