Sep 1 2010

Spectra Butter Job

“Safety Is Our Franchise.  It’s What We Do”

NJ Buzz Saw Gets Spectra Energy’s Attention

Company Offers ‘Butter Job’ to Soothe Public Opposition

To Proposed Pipeline through NJ to NYC

Better Idea:  Expose Spectra Energy’s Track Record on Safety

This satirical treatment of Spectra Energy's proposed pipeline through Jersey City has shown up on many websites.

This satirical treatment of Spectra Energy's proposed pipeline through Jersey City has shown up on many websites.

“The safety and reliability of our pipelines is ‘mission critical’ for Spectra Energy.  Safety is our franchise.  It’s what we ‘do.’”

So says Bill Yardley, Group Vice President of Spectra Energy, in an attempt to smooth over public opposition to the company’s proposed pipeline through New Jersey to New York City.  (Full text of Yardley’s statement can be read in first footnote under Links & Resources below)1

Fact:  Spectra Energy’s track record does not support that claim.  Public documents show a performance record that Spectra Energy declines to discuss.

The reason for Yardley’s statement is his employer hit a buzz saw at public meetings in Jersey City and Bayonne, NJ.  The folks there don’t want Spectra Energy’s proposed gas pipeline.  And safety is uppermost in their minds.2

Mission Critical Platitude

Yardley’s goal is to “clear the air and share some facts.”  He then launches his mission-critical platitude (emphasis added):

“The safety and reliability of our pipelines is ‘mission critical’ for Spectra Energy.  Safety is our franchise. It’s what we ‘do.‘  All pipeline expansion projects are subject to the highest levels of scrutiny and multiple governmental agency approvals, and cannot – and do not – move forward until safety, environmental and public concerns are fully considered.”

Note the Spectra Energy Group VP does not say, “until safety, environmental and public concerns are fully resolved” – only “fully considered.”

We call this “Spectra Speak” or a Spectra “butter job” because it substitutes words for deeds – and words for transparency.  We are property owners who have experience with Spectra Energy promises.

We can tell the folks in New Jersey and New York that Spectra Energy’s transparency will not improve.  Safety is not what they “do.”

Lessons from Spectra Energy’s Steckman Ridge Project

In 2008-2009, Spectra Energy constructed its Steckman Ridge facility in Bedford County, PA.  It is a 12 billion-cubic-feet underground natural gas storage reservoir, with a nearly 5,000 horsepower compressor station sitting on top, plus 13 injection/withdrawal gas wells.

This storage field will feed gas to the proposed pipelines in NJ and NY.

There have been serious safety issues at this facility since the beginning – which Spectra Energy declines to discuss.  This includes emergency shutdowns/blowoffs which result in uncontrolled release of gas (toxic volatile organic compounds) and sometimes oily contaminate into the air (and on nearby properties).

Spectra Energy asserts that such shutdowns/blowoffs are “not uncommon.”  But they refuse to furnish the stats on comparative compressor station performance in Spectra Energy’s system.

The company refuses to make available the project engineer who was in charge of the construction of this facility.

If “safety is our franchise,” wouldn’t Spectra Energy want to put its best foot forward and be as transparent as possible about its track record?

If “safety is our franchise,” why is Spectra Energy’s pipeline division — Texas Eastern — number 7 on the EPA’s list of the “Top Civil Enforcement Cases Based on Penalty Assessed?”  The company was hit with a $15 million penalty for discharging highly toxic PCBs at 89 sites along its 9,000 mile pipeline from Texas to New Jersey. (For details, see third footnote under Links & Resources below.)3

If “safety is our franchise,” why does Spectra Energy decline to discuss the catastrophe at a different underground storage facility in 2004.  Its Moss Bluff facility (outside of Houston), had two explosions, 6 1/2 days of fire with flames as high as 1,000 feet and two evacuations.  (For details, see fourth footnote under Links & Resources below.)4

All of this is on the public record, but you have to dig for it; and Spectra Energy would prefer not to disclose this part of its performance record.

Transparency Not Mission Critical

Transparency is not mission critical at Spectra Energy.  It’s not what they “do.”

There is much more.  Even speakers at the Jersey City public meeting reminded Spectra Energy of its own track record.  (See previous post on “Jersey City” at this link: )

If Group VP Bill Yardley wants to “clear the air and share some facts,” demand Spectra Energy’s track record on fines, explosions and other disasters.  Butter jobs are not a substitute for this company’s real-life performance record.

Here are three questions Yardley and Spectra Energy can share the facts on:

1)    How many “violations” (or Notice of Violations) has Spectra Energy and Texas Eastern (its pipeline division) received from state or federal regulators in the last five years?

2)     Name the top three catastrophic failures Spectra Energy has experienced with its pipelines and underground gas storage fields in the U.S.

3)    What is the current state of PCB contamination in Spectra Energy/Texas Eastern’s 9,000-mile pipeline system?

Spectra Energy will bob and weave in non-response to these questions; but citizens and public officials should demand answers in writing with specifics, not generalities.

Tell Spectra Energy its detailed response to these three questions is mission critical.  After all, safety is its franchise.  It’s what they “do.”  Really?

Links & Resources

1 Spectra Energy Responds to Natural Gas Pipeline Concerns – Group VP Bill Yardley’s statement in The Jersey City Independent at this link:

Or here is the pdf file: spectra-responds-to-natural-gas-pipeline-concerns-the-jersey-city-independent

2 NJ Buzz Saw:  Check out a sampling of recent news coverage:

Residents & Officials Come Out in Force Against Proposed Gas Pipeline in Jersey City (The Jersey City Independent, by Douglas Carlucci, August 5, 2010)

Or pdf file:  residents-officials-come-out-in-force-against-proposed-gas-pipeline-in-jersey-city-the-jersey-city-independent

Proposed Gas Pipeline Sparks Opposition – Route Through New Jersey, Staten Island and Into Manhattan Has Critics Worried About Safety (The Wall Street Journal, by Joseph DeAvila, August 26, 2010).  Note:  This is a subscription site.  Link:

Jersey City City Council will give OK to lobbyist to block pipeline (The Jersey Journal, by Melissa Hayes, August 24, 2010)  Link:

Or pdf file:  jersey-city-block-pipeline

Jersey City Activists Opposing Spectra Energy’s Natural Gas Pipeline Launch New Website (The Jersey City Independent, by Jon Whiten, August 20, 2010)  Link:

Or pdf file:  jersey-city-activists-opposing-spectra-energye28099s-natural-gas-pipeline-launch-new-website-the-jersey-city-independent

3 PCB Contamination – Details and source documents (including Spectra Energy’s 10-K Form and the EPA Top 21 List) are covered in two posts.

Spectra PCBs 2:

Spectra PCBs?:

4 Fiery Inferno at Spectra Energy’s underground natural gas storage reservoir at Moss Bluff, Texas (outside of Houston) – For details see this link:

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