Sharon Kelly

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Sharon Kelly is an attorney and freelance writer based in Philadelphia. She has reported for The New York Times, The Nation, National Wildlife, Earth Island Journal, and a variety of other publications. Prior to beginning freelance writing, she worked as a law clerk for the ACLU of Delaware.

New Koch-Funded Group ‘Fueling US Forward’ Aims to Promote the "Positives" of Fossil Fuels

A long-awaited campaign to rebrand fossil fuels called Fueling U.S. Forward made its public debut at the Red State Gathering 2016 on Saturday, where the organization's President and CEO Charles Drevna gave attendees the inside scoop on the effort, and confirmed that the campaign is backed financially by Koch Industries. 

Back in February, Peter Stone first reported in the Huffington Post that a $10 million-a-year effort was proposed by a Koch Industries board member, James Mahoney, and Mr. Drevna, aiming “to boost petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack government subsidies for electric vehicles.” In early August, the Fueling U.S. Forward website launched, and on Saturday, the first public comments were made about the campaign by Mr. Drevna, and they revealed a lot about how the Koch-backed initiative is working to re-frame fossil fuels. 

“We need a sustainable energy to ensure the future of the country,” Mr. Drevna told the audience.

The source of that energy? That which Mr. Drevna labeled “reliable, abundant, efficient and sustainable fuels.”

“Folks, that's of course the fossil fuels,” he immediately added.

In Scathing Review, EPA's Science Advisors Tell Agency Not to Downplay Fracking-Related Water Contamination

On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency's scientific advisors finished their review of EPA's national study on fracking and sternly rebuked the EPA for claiming that its draft study had found no evidence of “widespread, systemic” impacts to drinking water.

The EPA had not provided the evidence to support that claim, the Science Advisory Board (SAB) peer review panel found. The phrase was widely quoted in the press, but appeared only in a press release and the Executive Summary of EPA's draft study of the impacts of fracking on drinking water.

Thousands of Pages of Confidential Think Tank Documents Detail Corporate Ties, New York Times Reports

Thousands of pages of confidential internal think tank emails and documents published by the New York Times yesterday shine a revealing spotlight on how some of the nation's most prominent think tanks are used by corporate donors to promote specific policies — while concealing the financial interests involved.

The emails provide a “smoking gun” of evidence that corporations that donated to non-profit think tanks like The Brookings Institution were promised specific receivables in return.

At Oil Industry Funded DNC Event, Surprising Turn: Protests, Ex-Governor Admits "Mistake" Over Fracking

At an oil-industry sponsored event during this week's Democratic National Convention, all did not go as planners may have hoped.

The event was sponsored by Vote4Energy.org, an initiative by the American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry's trade association, and featured some of the Democratic party's most ardent supporters of fracking, including Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

But protesters with an anti-fracking message repeatedly disrupted the panel and one of the gas industry's best-known cheerleaders, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, admitted he “made a mistake” in failing to adequately regulate shale gas extraction.

Over 10,000 Climate Protesters March in Philadelphia on Day Before Democratic National Convention

Thousands of climate activists, public health advocates and others arrived in the streets before the first day of the Democratic National Convention, despite blazing heat that was just one degree shy of the hottest July 24 on record in Philadelphia. With temperatures in the mid-90s, a crowd that organizers estimated included over 10,000 marchers converged on Independence Mall near the home of the Liberty Bell.

We've just wrapped up a Republican National Convention filled with climate denial and extreme energy talking points. Tomorrow we start the Democratic Convention, and the question to all these leaders and politicians is: Are you willing to take the action that science demands, or are you just another kind of climate denier?” said Drew Hudson, Director of Environmental Action. “Science tells us we need to keep 80% or more of fossil fuels in the ground: that means a ban on fracking, a halt to dirty trade deals like the TPP, and no more use of eminent domain for polluter gain. I'm marching today to tell all elected officials, if you're not down to #KeepItInTheGround, you're just another climate denier.”

Planned Gas Pipeline Construction on East Coast Puts Climate at Risk: Report

Nineteen now-pending pipeline projects, if constructed, would let enough natural gas flow out of the Appalachian basin to cause the entire US to blow through its climate pledges, ushering the world into more than 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, a newly released report by Oil Change International concludes.

Even if the Environmental Protection Agency's recently-announced methane rules manage to slash leaks from new natural gas infrastructure as planned, building those pipelines would be catastrophic for the climate, the researchers warn.

“All together, these 19 pending pipeline projects would enable 116 trillion cubic feet of additional gas production by 2050,” the report, entitled A Bridge Too Far: How Appalachian Basin Gas Pipeline Expansion Will Undermine U.S. Climate Goals, says. “The currently planned gas production expansion in Appalachia would make meeting U.S. climate goals impossible, even if the [Obama] Administration’s newly proposed methane rules are successful in reducing methane leakage by 45 percent.”

Why do these pipelines matter so much?

Former Inspectors Describe Dangerous Flaws in Construction of Major East Coast Gas Pipeline

In April, a massive explosion ripped through rural Salem Township, Pennsylvania when natural gas from a pipeline buried in a field suddenly ignited.

The Salem Township explosion offers a glimpse at how dangerous a natural gas pipeline accident can be — the blast when the 30-inch pipeline ignited blew a 12-foot deep hole in the ground and scorched 40 acres, sending one man to the hospital with burns on 75 percent of his body.

“It looked like you were looking down into hell,” a local fire chief, Bob Rosatti, told ABC News. “As far across my windshield as I could see was just a massive fireball.”

Taxpayer Groups, Environmentalists, Students Call on Congress to End $4 Billion Annual Oil Industry Subsidies

In an open letter sent to Congress today, a coalition of 40 national taxpayer, labor, environmental and other groups called on the federal government to repeal almost $4 billion in annual tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, calling them wasteful and lambasting Congress for subsidizing activities that will make climate change worse.

The groups called on Senators to support the FAIR Energy Policy Act, which would slowly phase out nine special tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry.

“Oil companies receive billions in tax breaks, despite being among the world’s largest and most profitable corporations,” the groups wrote. “For too long, America has subsidized the oil industry’s bottom line at middle class Americans’ expense.”

Another law passed earlier this year revokes the wind industry's production tax credit, and the FAIR Energy Policy Act would wind down some of the oil industry's subsidies on the same schedule.

If we are phasing out tax credits for clean energy—something I oppose—then why are we still committing to permanently support the fossil fuel industries with tax preferences they don’t need?” said Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii who sponsored that bill.  “It is based on the very simple idea that there should be a level playing field for fossil fuels and clean energy.”

SEC Charges "Frack Master" Chris Faulkner, Shale CEO and Industry Advocate, with $80 Million Fraud

At the start of June, Chris Faulkner, Chief Executive Officer of Breitling Energy, was a high-flying shale company executive and media darling, often interviewed on CNN, Fox Business News and even the BBC. During his most recent appearance on CNN on June 2nd, he weighed in on the financial prospects for drillers who survive low oil prices despite the spate of bankruptcies sweeping the shale industry.

It was hardly the first time the Texas oilman aired his views on the national stage. “The era of coal is coming to an end,” Mr. Faulkner told The New York Times in June 2014. “We are entering the era of natural gas.”

“Instead of rejecting promising new energy-extraction techniques, citizens should work with responsible energy companies to preserve the benefits of fracking, while stamping out current abuses,” he said in the Wall Street Journal in August of the same year.

High-Level EPA Adviser Accused of Scientific Fraud in Methane Leak Research

It's one of the highest-stakes debates in the battle over climate change policy action: how much methane is spewing from oil and gas sites nationwide, and what do we do as a result? If enough of the odorless, colorless methane gas leaks or is vented into the air, scientists say, then burning natural gas — marketed as a green fuel that can help wean the U.S. off of high-carbon fuels — will actually be worse for the climate than coal, long seen as the fuel that contributes the most to global warming.

Recently, over 100 community and environmental groups sent a letter urging the Environmental Protection Agency's internal watchdog to investigate claims that a top methane researcher had committed scientific fraud and charging that he had made false and misleading statements to the press in response to those claims.

Earlier this month, NC WARN, an environmental group, presented the EPA Inspector General with evidence it said showed that key research on methane leaks was tainted, and that one of the EPA's top scientific advisors fraudulently concealed evidence that a commonly-used tool for collecting data from oil and gas wells gives artificially low methane measurements.

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