Itai Vardi

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

Massachusetts Hired Energy Industry Execs to 'Independently' Review State’s Gas System

Read time: 5 mins
Gas marker in Cambridge, Massachusetts

A private contractor employed by the state of Massachusetts to conduct a statewide safety review of its gas distribution companies hired gas industry executives for the project, documents obtained by DeSmog show. They include two former executives of National Grid —  one of the companies under review — and Enbridge, a main supplier of gas in the state.

Exclusive: Rhode Island Governor Nixed Agency Critiques of LNG Facility, Silencing Health and Justice Concerns

Read time: 5 mins
two people holding a fabric banner outside of National Grid's facility in Providence, RI. Sign reads: "NATIONAL GRID DON'T KILL OUR KIDS!"

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, squashed a letter by her own state health agency, which raised serious concerns about a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in a densely populated Providence neighborhood. Documents obtained by DeSmog show that last summer Raimondo nixed a letter by the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) critical of National Grid’s Fields Point Liquefaction project right before it was to be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

FERC approved the project three months later.

Enbridge Gave Massachusetts Studies by Climate Denier, ALEC Associate in Gas Project Assessment

Read time: 7 mins
report book papers

As part of an ongoing health evaluation of a proposed and contested Boston metro area gas compressor station, the energy distribution company Enbridge shared with the State of Massachusetts materials from dubious and controversial sources. As documents obtained by DeSmog reveal, these include studies by a climate change denier and an official associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers-backed group working to undermine environmental regulations. 

Virginia Air Board Member Who Approved a Controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline Permit Has Links to a Dominion Gas Partner

Read time: 6 mins
Protest against Atlantic Coast pipeline outside a 2015 Dominion shareholder meeting

A member of a Virginia state permitting board who last week approved a highly controversial certification for Dominion's planned Atlantic Coast pipeline has business ties to a company currently collaborating with Dominion on a related gas project, DeSmog has found.

William (Trip) Ferguson joined three other Air Pollution Control Board members to unanimously approve a permit for Dominion’s Buckingham compressor station. The planned station, which will propel the natural gas as it moves through the 600-mile interstate pipeline, will be built in Union Hill, a largely African-American community settled by free blacks and emancipated slaves after the Civil War.

In Massachusetts, 'Independent' Studies of Gas Infrastructure Use Industry Data and Consultants

Read time: 7 mins
No compressor billboard

Massachusetts has contracted two major studies of its natural gas infrastructure, billing both assessments as “independent” efforts. Yet the fact that they use industry consultants and data has raised doubts among critics about their level of objectivity.

While one study is evaluating the state’s overall gas distribution system, the other assessment explores the potential health risks associated with Enbridge’s proposed compressor station in Weymouth, just south of Boston.

What Terrible Injustices Are Hiding Behind American Energy Habits?

Read time: 7 mins
Wayuu woman makes soup in La Guajira, Colombia

When someone charges a cellphone or flips on the lights, what costs are felt by the far-off communities that produced the coal or gas powering that home? What happens to those same communities when a utility decides to switch from coal power to natural gas? And what keeps these impacts of American energy habits hidden from view?   

New research helps provide some clarity. A study led by Noel Healy from Salem State University in Massachusetts analyzes the hidden but interconnected injustices that can occur throughout the world’s fossil fuel supply chains.

Trump’s Pick to Lead Energy Tech Innovation Program Is Invested in Gas Utilities and Pipeline Companies

Read time: 4 mins
Lane Genatowski at his Senate hearing

A nominee to head a cutting-edge research program in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is personally invested in various natural gas-based utilities and gas pipeline companies.

In July, the Trump administration announced the nomination of Lane Genatowski to head the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which tries to bridge the gap between basic research and the commercialization of breakthrough energy technologies and is modeled after the Department of Defense program that led to the Internet and GPS.

5 Virginia Officials Involved in Regulating Dominion Energy Are Invested in the Company

Read time: 7 mins
Dominion's Chesterfield Power Station

Five employees of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have financial interests in Dominion, the state’s largest utility and energy company. The officials are involved, in one way or another, in permitting or overseeing the company’s activities, ranging from water discharges to emissions controls on power plants.

According to financial disclosures filed with the state’s ethics council, four of them directly own stock in the company, while the wife of a fifth official works for Dominion.

Fossil Fuel Industry Outspent Environmentalists and Renewables by 10:1 on Climate Lobbying, New Study Finds

Read time: 3 mins
PowerShift rally protesters hold signs against fossil fuel lobbying

Industry sectors based on fossil fuels significantly outspent environmental groups and renewable energy companies on climate change lobbying, new research has found.

In a study published today in the journal Climatic Change, Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle shows that between 2000 and 2016, lobbyists spent more than $2 billion trying to influence climate legislation in the U.S. Congress.

Koch-Backed and Anti-Renewable Energy Groups Wooing Interior Department Official

Read time: 5 mins
Vincent DeVito

Fossil fuel groups backed by the Koch brothers and lobbyists for anti-renewable energy entities have been courting an Interior Department official responsible for energy policy, according to internal documents. Vincent DeVito, a senior energy advisor to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, has received considerable attention from these groups, accepting several invitations to closed meetings and conferences.

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