Conflicts of Interest

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.

History Shows That Stacking Federal Science Advisory Committees Doesn't Work

Deepwater Horizon oil rig on fire

By Donald Boesch, University of Maryland

Scientists are busy people, but every year thousands donate many hours of their time without payment to advise Congress and federal government agencies. They provide input on all kinds of issues, from antibiotic resistance to mapping the world’s oceans in three dimensions.

The Trump administration has raised alarms by signaling that it is determined to replace scientific advisers who are not in line with its political philosophy. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is replacing most of the members of EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors and, very likely, its Science Advisory Board. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has suspended the activities of numerous advisory panels, including many scientific committees, pending review of their purpose and composition.

Will Trump Cabinet members really be able to shift the scientific advice on which their agencies rely? And how should scientists respond?

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.

People Don’t Trust Scientific Research When Companies Are Involved

lab coats

By John C. Besley, Aaron M. McCright, Kevin Elliott, and Nagwan Zahry of Michigan State University and Joseph D. Martin of University of Leeds

A soda company sponsoring nutrition research. An oil conglomerate helping fund a climate-related research meeting. Does the public care who’s paying for science? The Conversation

In a word, yes. When industry funds science, credibility suffers. And this does not bode well for the types of public-private research partnerships that appear to be becoming more prevalent as government funding for research and development lags.

Documents Suggest FERC Approved Spectra's Atlantic Bridge Project Despite Knowing of Contractor's Flawed Conflict Disclosure

Map of Spectra Energy pipeline projects at an open house for Atlantic Bridge

A document submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) suggests the agency had clear information that a contractor hired to review Spectra Energy’s proposed Atlantic Bridge gas project did not fully disclose its work for Spectra on a related project. FERC recently approved Atlantic Bridge, which would expand the existing Algonquin gas pipeline through northeastern states. The documents were obtained by DeSmog through an open records request. 

Firm Hired by FERC to Review Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline Linked to Project’s Main Environmental Contractor

People in a field holding a sign 'Respect our land. No pipeline!'

A contractor working for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in its environmental review of the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline has ties to the project’s leading environmental contractor, DeSmog has found.

Merjent, a Minneapolis-based environmental consulting company, was hired by FERC in 2014 as a third-party contractor to assist in the review of the pipeline, a 550-mile multi-state natural gas project promoted by a partnership led by Dominion Energy and including Duke Energy and Southern Company. If authorized by FERC, the pipeline will ship fracked gas originating in the Marcellus Shale through West Virginia and Virginia, and into North Carolina.   

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.

Rudy Giuliani — And His Numerous Fossil Fuel Industry Connections — Out for Potential Post in Trump Admin

Rudy Giuliani at Trump event

By Branko Marcetic

On Friday, Rudy Giuliani made a surprise announcement that he was pulling out of consideration for a cabinet post in the Trump administration. His decision marks a major bullet dodged for anyone concerned about the environment and climate change. 

For the better part of a month, Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, had been one of the contenders for the position of Trump’s secretary of state. His appointment would have meant that a figure who had enriched himself by greasing the wheels for numerous fossil fuel companies would have been in charge of approving cross-border pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, as well as advancing the administration’s energy and climate policy on the world stage. 

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