Itai Vardi

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Itai Vardi is a sociologist and freelance journalist. He lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts.

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.

In Atlantic Coast Pipeline Battle, Dominion Hires Democratic PR Firm That Created Ads for Virginia Governor

Terry McAuliffe

Dominion Energy, the lead company behind the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline, last year hired SKDKnickerbocker, a powerful communications and Democratic consulting firm that previously produced campaign ads for Virginia’s Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, according to a DeSmog investigation. 

McAuliffe, a long-time ally of the Clinton family and former head of the Democratic National Committee, has been a staunch supporter of the controversial natural gas pipeline since it was first proposed in 2014.

Massachusetts Admits to 'Regularly' Allowing Companies to Edit Draft Pollution Permits

Protesters hold signs in the parking lot outside the Massachusetts DEP office

Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) acknowledged they regularly allow energy companies to exclusively preview and revise draft permits as a matter of common practice.

This admission follows DeSmog’s reporting on emails showing the state had quietly provided Spectra Energy (now Enbridge) several opportunities to edit a draft pollution approval permit for a compressor station in the town of Weymouth as part of its Atlantic Bridge gas project.

Massachusetts Let Spectra Energy Secretly Edit its Pollution Permit in Atlantic Bridge Gas Project

Open house poster showing a Spectra Energy map of its Atlantic Bridge and other pipeline projects

Massachusetts environmental officials allowed Spectra Energy to quietly review and edit a draft approval of an air pollution permit the state plans to grant the company for its Atlantic Bridge gas project. 

According to emails obtained by DeSmog through an open records request, this privilege of reviewing and editing the draft approval was granted exclusively to Spectra and not to the general public.   

Emails Show Spectra Lobbyists Cozy With Top Massachusetts Environmental Officials

Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton speaking

As Spectra Energy was seeking state permits for its natural gas projects running though Massachusetts, company lobbyists maintained a close and ongoing relationship with top state environmental officials, according to emails obtained exclusively by DeSmog through an open records request. 

Forest Service’s 'Independent' Report on Atlantic Coast Pipeline Written by Pipeline Company Contractor

Monongahela National Forest sign

The U.S. Forest Service recently published an assessment of the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline, calling the report “independent.”

DeSmog has learned, however, that in reality the assessment was performed and written by none other than a contractor working for the pipeline company. The contractor was hired by the Forest Service to conduct the assessment.

Contractor Erases Suspicious Ties as FERC Denies Conflict in Atlantic Coast Pipeline Review

FERC headquarters building

A contractor assisting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in its review of the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline has removed mention of its link to the project’s main contractor from its website. The move came after DeSmog reported on the links between the two contractors.

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.   

New Hampshire Climate Denier’s Work Has Powerful New Audience: His Brother, the Governor

Left, Michael Sununu. Right, Chris Sununu

Michael Sununu, a lobbyist, consultant, and businessman from New Hampshire, has for years been voicing doubt about the science behind human-induced climate change. Just last November, for instance, he claimed in an op-ed for a major New Hampshire newspaper that climate scientists “fudge the data for their agenda” as “Mother Nature is still driving climate change.”

With clients in the energy and utility sectors, it would perhaps be easy to dismiss Sununu’s views as interest-based and financially motivated. In the past he even led an energy start-up based on coal. 

But this vocal climate science denier is suddenly in a unique position to influence public policy. His brother, Chris Sununu, now occupies New Hampshire’s highest office — governor. 

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