We can’t say were surprised when we learn about all of the conflicts that exist, but it’s still unsettling. After the devastating gas explosion in Merrimack Valley last September, Gov. Baker ordered an “independent” review of the state’s gas system. Turns out the review hasn’t been all that independent. The state contracted Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems Inc. to complete the review. Investigative reporter Itai Vardi found that some of the reviewers that the firm hired are former National Grid employees. One of the subcontractors works for the American Gas Association. You can read more about this story here.
Excerpt (from Desmogblog - Massachusetts Hired Energy Industry Execs to 'Independently' Review State’s Gas System):
“According to the Massachusetts contract with Dynamic Risk, the firm originally hired Jim Howe, a former National Grid executive, to sit on its Independent Review Panel, a body of experts which will lead the safety review.
Howe, who is currently a senior director at Pacific Gas & Electric Company, left National Grid in 2011 following more than 30 years with the company.
Yet according to an official at the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU), the DPU asked Dynamic Risk to remove Howe from the review once it learned that one of his family members currently works for National Grid. While Dynamic Risk did disclose Howe’s former employment with National Grid in the contract it signed with the DPU, the contractor did not include his ongoing family connection to the company.
Also listed as a subcontractor Dynamic Risk may use in the review is Michael Courtien, a former vice president for customer meter services and dispatching at National Grid who left the company in 2014. Courtien now works for the American Gas Association, the natural gas industry lobbying and trade group, which is behind a front group pushing the Atlantic Coast pipeline.
Additionally, the contract lists potential subcontractor Terri Larson, a communications and community engagement consultant, who worked for Enbridge until 2017. Though Enbridge is not considered a distribution company in Massachusetts, its Algonquin pipeline feeds many of the state’s gas companies.
In the contract, Dynamic Risk denied Howe and Courtien’s past employment with National Grid amounts to a conflict of interest. “Given the amount of time that has passed since Mr. Howe and Mr. Courtien left the employment of National Grid, we believe these past-employments do not rise to creating a current conflict of interest,” the firm wrote.” (Desmogblog)
We thank Itai for continuing to expose the conflicts of interest and corruption threatening public health and safety in Massachusetts' energy sector.