Spectra Energy — Be the Best it Can Be –Mike Benard

Mike Benard sent this today to Spectra’s Andrea Grover, copied to a long list of news media and local, state, and federal elected and appointed officials and employees. For local background, see Spectra reps unfamiliar with Spectra fines @ LCC 2013-12-09. -jsq

Ms. Grover:

Those of us property owners who are already Spectra Energy “stakeholders” (the company’s term), want Spectra Energy to be the best it can be, consistent with its publicly stated commitment to Stakeholder Engagement, Integrity, Transparency, and Accountability.  

Reference link:  http://www.spectraenergy.com/Sustainability/Economic/Acting-with-Integrity/

To that end, and regarding your activities as a “Director of Stakeholder Outreach” on behalf of Spectra Energy’s proposed Sabal Trail pipeline, property owners in Georgia report that you are asserting the following at public meetings:

•  You assert that property owners at Spectra Energy’s Steckman Ridge compressor facility in Bedford County, PA are “happy” despite ongoing problems there and a consistent lack of response from Spectra Energy to its “stakeholders.”  

FACT:  I speak for more than a dozen families who live next to or near the problematic compressor facility; and your statement is incorrect and misleading.  What facts do you have to support such a disingenuous allegation?  A ring of health, water and operational complaints surround this facility that began operations in 2009.  Based on unofficial record keeping by neighbors, there have been nearly 60 shutdowns, blowdowns and related incidents at the Steckman Ridge compressor station and underground natural gas storage facility between August 2009 and the present.  And there is much more, as you know.

You assert that uncontrolled releases of methane and other hydrocarbons that happen too frequently at the Steckman Ridge compressor facility are “normal.”  Let’s hope not.  Your assertion is uninformed and misleading.  

FACT:  Recall the March 9-10 incident at Spectra Energy’s Steckman Ridge facility in which you were involved.  This was yet another uncontrolled release that resulted in 431.5 thousand cubic feet of methane and other hydrocarbons vented to the atmosphere over a two-day period.

Before property owners discovered on their own the size of the leak — because you and Spectra Energy refused to publicly disclose the facts — you asserted to the Associate Editor of the Bedford Gazette that only a “small volume” escaped.

During that same incident, your colleague Marylee Hanley, also a Director of Stakeholder Outreach, dismissed property owner’s initial concerns that prompted them to call 911 when they heard snapping and popping sounds like fire crackers coming from the facility; then saw what looked like smoke from the compressor station.  Hanley’s dismissive response to the Bedford Gazette was:  “Nothing was released. There was no smoke. No incident.” Big Oops!  Hanley, of course, had no idea what she was talking about sitting 500 miles away in Boston.  Are Spectra Energy’s Directors of Stakeholder Outreach purposeful in deception or are they clueless?  

Does Spectra Energy’s Canadian CEO Greg Ebel tolerate behavior that damages the brand?  Could damaging the brand be part of the Board’s asset “drop down” strategy?  Spectra Energy stakeholders (neighboring property owners) want you and your colleagues committed to operational excellence.

• You assert to property owners and the news media that you are unfamiliar with the federal PHMSA 6-figure fine levied against Spectra Energy CEO Greg Ebel.

FACT:  How is it that a veteran of the industry and Spectra Energy whose job is about pipelines remains unaware of such facts?  Let’s take that head fake off the table.  In December 2012, the federal Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued Spectra Energy CEO Greg Ebel a “Final Order” and civil penalty of $134,500 related to various violations across several states.  Among other issues, the company was cited for failure regarding valve inspections.  PHMSA states (emphasis added):
“An operator that fails to follow its own procedures for valve inspections increases the risk of preventable pipeline accidents.”

Reference Link: http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/staticfiles/PHMSA/DownloadableFiles/420121009_Final%20Order_12212012.pdf

The company you represent alleges it practices “integrity, transparency and accountability.”  Reference link:  http://www.spectraenergy.com/Sustainability/Economic/Acting-with-Integrity/

Spectra Energy CEO Ebel claims that transparency is important to win public support.  As Ebel told an energy conference,

We need to maintain that [transparency] because the public’s criticism of us has been pretty significant these days.

Reference link:  http://www.chron.com/business/article/Energy-leaders-urge-transparency-to-win-public-3390421.php

Property owners and communities need to see transparency in action not words.  Spectra Energy may have written off “stakeholders” at its Steckman Ridge compressor facility in Bedford County, PA; but don’t do that to a new set of “stakeholders” along the proposed Sabal Trail pipeline in Georgia, Alabama and Florida.  

Spectra Energy’s challenge is not difficult — do what you say you will do instead of substituting words for deeds.  Practice full disclosure about your performance track record.  That includes full disclosure about the company’s fugitive methane emissions.

Reference link: http://www.trilliuminvest.com/resolutions/fugitive-methane-emissions-report-spectra-energy-2013/

Spectra Energy Stakeholders look forward to your response.  Attached are three exhibits.

Mike Benard
Spectra Energy “Stakeholder” & Bedford County, PA, Property Owner
Shale Property Rights Website (formerly Spectra Energy Watch):   http://www.shalepropertyrights.com/blog/
Accountability Central Website:  http://www.accountability-central.com/voices-featured-commentators-and-bloggers/mike-benard-columns/
CSRHUB, a Corporate Social Responsibility website:  http://www.csrhub.com/datasource/mike-benard 

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