Itai Vardi

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

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. 

Revealed: Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker's Close Ties to Lobbyists For Spectra Energy, Whose Pipeline Projects He Backs

Bill Weld and Charlie Baker walking together in Baker's gubernatorial campaign video

There has been fierce opposition across Massachusetts to the natural gas pipeline projects of Spectra Energy — residents, campaigners, and politicians have been lining up to oppose the pipelines that will run across the state.

But none of this opposition has swayed the state's governor, Charlie Baker, who has consistently backed Spectra's plans.

However, DeSmog can reveal a cozy relationship between Baker and a lobbying company that has been working to push Spectra's plans through. Those ties run from publicly declared “love” between one lobbyist and Baker to a loaning of office space.

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.

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