Sustainable Spectra? Like healthy cigarettes?

What company prints its sustainability report on wind-powered paper, yet pipes a greenhouse gas 20 times worse than CO2? Yep, it’s Spectra Energy, also bragging about how respectful they are to Sabal Trail “stakeholders”. Selling fracked methane through a 36-inch pipe in a hundred-foot gash through forests and wetlands with a thousand-foot explosive radius is like selling cigarettes and claiming you’re for good health. Tobacco companies can’t get away with that any more, and why should fossil fuel companies?

On the very last page of a 16-page report, 2013 Sustainability Highlights Report, Spectra Energy says:

This paper is manufactured using clean, renewable wind-power energy and carbon offsets for additional savings.

That’s the only mention of wind or renewable energy in the document, while solar power is not mentioned even once.

And look at Spectra’s Purpose on page 2:

We create superior and sustainable value for our investors, customers, employees and communities by delivering natural gas, liquids and crude oil to premium markets.

So “value” means money and “sustainable” means cranking the share price up.

I could be wrong. Let’s look at Spectra CEO Greg Ebel’s definition:

At Spectra Energy, sustainability is not an isolated function or a ‘feel good’ platitude. It is integral to our business, culture, strategy, actions, decisions, stakeholder interactions and long-term success. Every employee is expected and empowered to perform his or her job in a responsible, sustainable manner, and my primary role as chief executive is to protect and enhance the sustainability of our business.

Here’s Andrea Grover, Director, Stakeholder Outreach, as the report’s poster child for stakeholder interactions:

Case Study | Minimizing Impacts to the Environment

Grover, in Spectra Sustainable?, by John S. Quarterman, for We avoid environmentally or culturally sensitive areas where practical and where alternative routes are feasible. For instance, on our Sabal Trail project, we have made numerous alignment deviations to minimize the potential impacts to historic lands, certain waterbodies, and threatened and endangered species.

On the next page there’s this:

Engaging our stakeholders: We believe that our long-term success depends on engaging locally, respecting our stakeholders and working to foster a dialogue that is open, transparent and meaningful.

Here’s Ms. Grover chewing gum (or tobacco; I can’t tell) in the background while a landowner asks about wetlands at the FERC Scoping Meeting in Moultrie, GA, 5 March 2014. Watch that whole metting and see if you think “stakeholders”, aka landowners threatened with a hazardous yard-wide pipeline in a destructive 100-foot right of way are being treated respectfully by FERC or by Sabal Trail’s contractor Merjent. Check any other Scoping Meeting, such as the one the previous day in Valdosta, Georgia, or 26 March 2014 in Dunnellon, Florida, and you’ll see much the same behavior: every landowner opposed the pipeline, and almost none of their questions got answered.

We did get some real answers in Moultrie, though: no, the public can’t see the tax-paid RFP and proposals for that contractor; yes, FERC approves 90+% of pipelines that get even to this pre-filing stage (afterwards they finally revealed the only two they’ve denied in recent years); and it’s not the pipeline company, the end-user’s decision to applies for LNG export. Neither FERC nor Sabal Trail ever admitted that there are at least three authorized LNG export operations right where this pipeline goes. Does that all that sound respectful of the “stakeholders” to you?

And that contractor, Merjent, admitted that the pipeline would take 13,000 acres, which is twice the acreage Sabal Trail’s own RR10 said would be required to produce the same amount of solar power. Does that sound to you like fracked methane is a sustainable source of power?

Seems like CEO Greg Ebel’s claims of sustainability might be taken about as seriously as pectra VP of Shareholder Outreach Susan Waller’s claim that “We are a very genuine, safe, law-abiding company” as she was being presented with a list of incidents of pipeline corrosion in Madison, FL, 17 December 2013.

As for “a dialogue that is open, transparent and meaningful”, here’s refusing to even listen to a question she had just asked for. And here’s a whole flock of Spectra reps and “experts” dancing around questions for two hours in Gilchrist County, FL 20 February 2014.

Both Ms. Grover and Brian Fahrenthold danced before the Gilchrist County Commission, and while Spectra finally claimed it would put on its website the list of PHMSA incidents Ms. Waller had been confronted with, they still seemed unfamiliar, several months after I asked them in Lowndes County, GA, 9 December 2013, with the many other Spectra safety violations.

Regarding sustainability, Laura Dailey asked Brian Fahrenthold, Spectra’s Southeast Regional Director, State Government Affairs in Gilchrist County whether the pipelines would be adaptable to other forms of energy than fossil fuels. Fahrenthold’s answer:

I would like to reiterate. We’re in the natural gas business. We build pipelines. We operate pipelines. We’re not opposed to alternative forms of energy. But that is predominately why we’re here today.

So Spectra isn’t even willing to talk about future renewable energy, but they’re “sustainable”. Right.

Why does this old cigarette ad remind me of Spectra claiming to be sustainable? I used to smoke Camels. I still have lingering health effects 30 years later. Let’s not have lingering environmental effects 30 years from now because we let some company from Houston gouge a fracked methane pipeline through our lands.

See you in Leesburg, GA Thursday morning, 10 July 2014.


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