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.