Category Archives: Conflicts of Interest

Broken Regulatory System

In her September 26, 2017, post in Power to the People, Ivy Main writes about the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline as part of a widespread, systemic market failure. “Anyone who examines the corporate deals that underlie the Atlantic Coast Pipeline comes away with a strong sense of looking at a broken regulatory system. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is supposed to approve only those pipelines that can demonstrate they are actually needed. Pipeline companies demonstrate need by showing that customers have contracted for most or all of the pipeline’s capacity. In the case of the ACP, Dominion Energy and its partners manufactured the need by making their own affiliates the customers of the pipeline.”

The article goes on to discuss the new report, Art of the Self-Deal, from Oil Change International that shows “the U.S. is currently building unneeded fracked-gas pipelines as a result of FERC’s regulatory failures, including its failure to police self-dealing. The result will be excess pipeline capacity, paid for by regulated utility customers.”

The article also discusses the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) acceptance of self-dealing. “The Sierra Club petitioned the SCC to require Dominion to comply with the Affiliates Act by disclosing the affiliate relationship and seeking approval of the arrangement that affects captive customers. Without SCC approval, Dominion would seem to be on thin ice telling FERC it has the contracts in place that demonstrate the ‘need’ for the ACP. One would have thought the SCC would jump at the chance to weigh in. The FERC filings show it will cost ratepayers three to four times more to use the ACP than to stick with the competing pipeline that Dominion already has long-tem contracts with. But on September 19, the SCC denied the Sierra Club’s petition. One of the reasons cited was that Dominion will have to get SCC approval before it actually charges ratepayers for any gas carried by the pipeline. Meaning, the SCC says it will consider the merits of the problem only after Dominion has secured FERC approval, and after the ACP has already ripped a 600-mile gash across the countryside, dispossessing landowners, tearing up forests, and endangering streams and water supplies.”

Conflict of Interest – Again

On June 28, 2017, we posted the story revealing that EEE Consulting, Inc., the environmental consulting company the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) hired to review Dominion’s soil and erosion plans when they are finally submitted, was also working directly for Dominion on other projects – and that Dominion was given the “opportunity” to review and comment on the consulting company’s proposal before it was issued.

DeSmog broke the original story in June, and now reports that recently obtained documents and emails from the DEQ indicate that, prior to DeSmog’s reporting, DEQ was not aware of the relationship between the contractor, EEE Consulting, and Dominion, despite a contract with strict stipulations intended to avoid conflicts of interest. Although DEQ asked EEE about existing and pending work with both the ACP and MVP, they did not ask about work for Dominion or other pipeline partners.

Read the new story from DeSmog here and the Richmond Time-Dispatch coverage here.

NPR Pipeline Analysis



Natural Gas Building Boom Fuels Climate Worries, Enrages Landowners is a lengthy and well-researched NPR Morning Edition piece, the result of a six-month investigation into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and its handling of the gas pipeline building boom. The report discusses the multiple pipelines proposed in the last several years (including the MVP and ACP), the dysfunctionality of FERC, the push by energy companies, and the push-back by pipeline opponents. The story was researched, written, and produced by the Center for Public Integrity, joining with StateImpact Pennsylvania and NPR.

Versions of the story also appear on the Center for Public Integrity and the StateImpact Web pages.

StateImpact Pennsylvania is a collaboration between WITF and WHYY, and covers the fiscal and environmental impact of Pennsylvania’s booming energy economy, with a focus on Marcellus Shale drilling – and Marcellus Shale drilling is what brings us the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. The Center for Public Integrity was founded in 1989 by Charles Lewis and is one of the country’s oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organizations.

Keep Up with the News


Having a hard time keeping up with all the news related to the pipeline? Remember to check out our In the News page for stories not featured in our main page posts. Click on the In the News tab for the current two months, or use the dropdown menu under In the News to look at back stories. A few good stories from the last week or two:

Critics Challenge Dominion’s Local-Level Tactics

A WVTF feature story which aired on July 5, 2017, discusses the questionable tactics Dominion has used to influence local officials – specifically in Buckingham County, but it is likely the same tactics are routinely used elsewhere.

Pastor Paul Wilson recalled the January 2017 Buckingham Supervisors meeting where, “I guess over a hundred people spoke against the pipeline [and compressor station]. The board of supervisors and the people on the planning commission – they never listened to us. It was obvious from the very beginning that Dominion manipulates the whole process!” The Board voted unanimously to approve the compressor station.

After hearing complaints about people going unheard at Buckingham public hearings, Charlie Spatz, with the Climate Investigation Center, a non-profit in Northern Virginia, sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the county, asking for all correspondence with Dominion. What he found was a cordial relationship between local Buckingham officials, the town’s largest employer, Kyanite Mining, and Dominion.

Documents revealed promises Dominion made to the county and to Kyanite, and also revealed that a Supervisor signed a letter on county stationary to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) in favor of the pipeline – a letter whose text was written by Dominion and which Dominion picked up in time for the VOF public hearing. Dominion’s Aaron Ruby explained that by saying, “Every company and corporation involved in the political process works with their elected officials to achieve shared goals.” Andy Wicks, of the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics at UVA’s Darden School of Business, suggests a distinct ethical difference between working with elected officials and asking officials to sign letters written by corporations seeking favors.

Read or listen to the full WVTF report here.

Conflicts of Interest

This letter to the editor by Jane Twitmyer, published in the Washington Post on July 3, 2017, is a fine summary of the multiple conflicts of interest in reviewing the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “We need to know if anyone is actually working for us.” Indeed!

Evidently, ensuring that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s 1,989 water-body crossings comply with Virginia’s water-quality standards is just too big a job for our Department of Environmental Quality, even if it is its job, so the Department of Environmental Quality handed its responsibility off to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A Permit 12, issued nationwide by the corps, could approve all 1,989 water-body crossings of the pipeline without any site-specific review.

To make the handoff to the corps, the Department of Environmental Quality is required to determine that the corps’s requirements comply with Virginia’s water-quality standards for these projects. The Department of Environmental Quality outsourced that job, too, and Dominion agreed to pay a contractor hired by the state to evaluate its pipeline proposal for the Department of Environmental Quality. Incredibly, the contractor is doing several other jobs for Dominion. So Dominion is paying a familiar contractor to approve its work on behalf of the Department of Environmental Quality. This clearly is a conflict of interest, but it’s not the only one. A contractor hired by the Forest Service to represent its interests in the pipeline’s Blue Ridge Parkway crossing is working for Dominion on the pipeline project, and the third-party contractor hired by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to review the pipeline is tied to Dominion’s main environmental consultant in the project.

The administration and our regulators need to release all of their documents. We need to know if anyone is actually working for us.