Itai Vardi

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

Revealed: Contractors Hired by FERC to Review a New Spectra Energy Pipeline Work for Spectra on a Related Project

Read time: 9 mins

A contractor hired last year by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to review a proposed gas pipeline by Spectra Energy, had already been working for the company on a related project, a DeSmog investigation has found.

Such an alleged conflict of interest suggests that the contractor had a financial stake in approving the project it was hired to review.

As part of a formal Pre-Filing Review Process for Spectra Energy’s Atlantic Bridge project, FERC hired in early 2015 a third-party contractor to review the pipeline. A proposed expansion of the company’s existing Algonquin Pipeline carrying fracked gas from Pennsylvania to the Northeast US and Canada, the project involves the construction of several new pipeline segments in New York and New England and a new compressor station in the town of Weymouth, Massachusetts. 

Exposed: Spectra-Funded Group Lobbied for FERC Commissioner's Reappointment, Then FERC Approved Spectra’s Gas Pipelines

Read time: 8 mins

A business advocacy group lobbied for the reappointment of a federal energy commissioner while one of its own members sought approval for several projects from the same federal regulator, a DeSmog investigation has found.

In the past three years, natural gas infrastructure giant Spectra Energy has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval for a number of projects in the US Northeast.

During this time, regional pro-business lobbying group the New England Council, of which Houston-based Spectra Energy is a member, lobbied President Barack Obama and the US Senate for the reappointment of FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur to a second term.

A DeSmog investigation has found other instances suggesting an ongoing and exclusive relationship between LaFleur, NEC, and lobbyists working for Spectra Energy.

Revealed: The Powerful Network Pushing Wesley Clark’s $3.7 Billion Gas-To-Liquids Plant

Read time: 10 mins

A small group of powerful and well-connected investors, lobbyists, and politicians are behind a $3.7 billion plan to build a facility to make more than 30,000 barrels of liquid fuel every day from natural gas – a Desmog investigation reveals.
 
The Arkansas facility could be the first full-scale gas-to-liquid (GTL) plant of its kind in the US, with ambitions to scale up daily production to convert gas into 100,000 barrels of diesel and jet fuel.
 

Hillary Clinton Showed Support, Associates Profited from Ex-Im Bank Financing World’s Largest Coal Plants in South Africa

Read time: 9 mins

In 2009, the South African government announced a major energy plan to construct two new coal-fired power stations. The project, which aimed at building the world’s largest coal plants, came under intense criticism by various governments and climate activists, who saw it as a disastrous blow to the fight against climate change.
 
Yet newly released emails from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during her time as Secretary of State, reveal that she acted in support of a World Bank loan for the construction of one of the plants.
 
Furthermore, a DeSmog investigation finds that the other plant, which received funding from a US government agency led by a close Clinton ally and fundraiser, is being built by an American construction firm tied to another associate of the former Secretary.
 
These actions seem contrary to Clinton’s tough campaign talk on curbing CO2 emissions and investing in renewable energy. They also raise new questions about Clinton's ties to the revolving door lobbying culture that connects major corporations to top officials in Washington, DC

How Koch-, Oil-Funded Climate Deniers Inserted Themselves Into Natural Gas Debate in Israel

Read time: 8 mins

DeSmog recently revealed the latest troubling chapter in the story of Israel’s nascent oil and gas boom – a saga of revolving doors, multinational fossil fuel intrigue, and significant American political intervention. But there’s another interesting tale to tell, one that has gone unnoticed by many observers.
 
Individuals and groups associated with climate denial or science obfuscation have recently inserted themselves into the raging public debates over the use of Israel’s newly discovered natural gas fields.
 
Sparked in 2010, the contentious debate surrounding the offshore fields has largely revolved around how to allocate royalties and ownership rights rather than whether to extract the enormous amounts of gas in the first place.
 
There are many reasons for this narrow framing. One is the inability of Israel’s environmentalists to shift the discourse in a way that will take into account the global imperative of keeping most fossil fuels in the ground to stave off climate catastrophe.
 
As was evident in the lost battle over the construction of the Trans-Israel Highway, another privatized infrastructure project, the country’s greens always seem to be a step behind quick global investors and multinational corporations.
 
In addition, the misleading characterization of natural gas as a “clean bridge fuel” in Israeli public discourse myopically overlooks the role caused by methane leaks in perpetrating global warming. The disastrous methane leak in Porter Ranch, California is the latest case in point, although that calamity has been temporarily stopped.   
 
Clearly, though, the participation of climate change deniers in debates about Israel’s energy future surely does not help shift the conversation.

Revealed: Ex-U.S. Senator Landrieu’s Revolving Doors in Israel’s Oil and Gas Bonanza

Read time: 9 mins

Former US Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), who while in congress was highly active in promoting the interests of two American oil and gas companies operating in Israel, has recently been hired by these companies as lobbyist and advisor.
 
These same firms, Noble Energy and Genie Energy, donated campaign money to Landrieu, who lost her Senate seat in December 2014.
 
Noble is involved in offshore natural gas drilling in the Mediterranean, while Genie is exploring oil shale formations southwest of Jerusalem and liquid crude in the Golan Heights. Both projects are highly contentious and have sparked massive protests by members of the Israeli public.
 
As a representative of an oil and gas producing state, Landrieu’s enormous industry backing was well known throughout her political career. Her frantic – and failed – attempts to pass the Keystone XL pipeline through legislation in 2014 have forever earned her the scorn of North American activists. 
 
But much less recognized are Landrieu’s substantial efforts while in Congress to strengthen the energy ties between Israel and the United States, and, in particular, advance the interests of American fossil fuel companies operating in the Holy Land.

Rice University’s Baker Institute and the Academic Cover It Provides for Fossil Fuel Interests

Read time: 16 mins

When thinking about influential academic policy think tanks, Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy doesn’t necessarily come first to mind. Slowly and steadily, however, the institute has turned into one of the nation’s most powerful outfits. In the 2009 “Global Think Tank Index Report,” a comprehensive yearly ranking by the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Society’s Program, the institute was ranked 37th amongst top US think tanks. By last year’s rankings, it was up to number 18. Significantly, on the specific list Top Energy and Resource Policy Think Tanks, the institute was already ranked 4th in the country.

Boasting $9.9 million in revenue in 2015 alone, the institute is located in the heart of Rice’s campus, housed in an impressive redbrick columned edifice that mixes classic beaux arts elements and byzantine ornamentation.

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