Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - 19:48 • Sharon Kelly
Mariner East 2 pipeline path

Pennsylvania's Environmental Hearing Board today ordered Sunoco Pipeline LP to temporarily halt some types of work on a $2.5 billion pipeline project designed to carry 275,000 barrels a day of butane, propane, and other liquid fossil fuels from Ohio and West Virginia, across Pennsylvania, to the Atlantic coast.

On July 19, three environmental groups presented Judge Bernard Labuskes, Jr. with documentation showing that the project had caused dozens of drilling fluid spills and other accidents between April and mid-June.

Sunday, July 16, 2017 - 08:58 • Steve Horn

Climate change will impact future generations and the current youth more than anyone else, so perhaps it's no surprise that kids have increasingly become the face of the modern U.S. climate movement.

At the center of that movement is the ongoing lawsuit filed by the group Our Children's Trust against the federal government for failing to act on climate change despite its intense study for decades by climate scientists, many of them on the payroll of the U.S. government. That case, barring any pretrial negotiations between the two parties, will head to trial in February. Further, 13 “Youth Climate Intervenors” all under the age of 25 were allowed in as legal Intervenors in an ongoing lawsuit filed by environmental groups against the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for its green-lighting of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

Flying under the radar, though, has been the seemingly unlikely ascendancy of a youth-led movement in Indiana led by the group Earth Charter Indiana. Indiana is hardly a state known for its deep green consciousness and was formerly a major natural extraction hub and is still a major coal extraction state.

Saturday, July 15, 2017 - 09:58 • John Cook
Doctor preparing to give flu shot to patient

By John Cook, George Mason University

As a psychologist researching misinformation, I focus on reducing its influence. Essentially, my goal is to put myself out of a job.

Recent developments indicate that I haven’t been doing a very good job of it. Misinformation, fake news and “alternative facts” are more prominent than ever. The Oxford Dictionary named “post-truth” as the 2016 word of the year. Science and scientific evidence have been under assault.

Fortunately, science does have a means to protect itself, and it comes from a branch of psychological research known as inoculation theory. This borrows from the logic of vaccines: A little bit of something bad helps you resist a full-blown case. In my newly published research, I’ve tried exposing people to a weak form of misinformation in order to inoculate them against the real thing — with promising results.

Thursday, July 13, 2017 - 17:21 • Justin Mikulka

We were very lucky in this instance,” Plainfield Fire Chief David Riddle said. “There was no fire, nobody got hurt by the grace of God.”

As the residents of Lac-Megantic were preparing to acknowledge the 4th anniversary of the oil train disaster that leveled and poisoned their downtown and killed 47 people, residents of Plainfield, Illinois were happy to just be complaining about the odor of spilled oil after a train pulling 115 tank cars of Canadian crude oil derailed near their neighborhood.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - 12:02 • James Wilt
The Banker Sculpture. Photo: University of Sydney

It’s not often that an article about climate change becomes one of the most hotly debated issues on the internet — especially in the midst of a controversial G20 summit.

But that exact thing happened following the publication of a lengthy essay in New York Magazine titled “The Uninhabitable Earth: Famine, Economic Collapse, a Sun that Cooks Us: What Climate Change Could Wreak — Sooner Than You Think.”

In the course of 7,200 words, author David Wallace-Wells chronicled the possible impacts of catastrophic climate change if current emissions trends are maintained, including, but certainly not limited to: mass permafrost melt and methane leaks, mass extinctions, fatal heat waves, drought and food insecurity, diseases and viruses, “rolling death smog,” global conflict and war, economic collapse and ocean acidification.

Slate political writer Jamelle Bouie described the essay on Twitter as “something that will haunt your nightmares.”

It’s a fair assessment. Reading it feels like a series of punches in the gut, triggering emotions like despair, hopelessness and resignation.

But here’s the thing: many climate psychologists and communicators consider those feelings to be the very opposite of what will compel people to action.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - 11:20 • Farron Cousins
Pesticide spray sign

In late March, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt decided that his agency would not place an outright ban on a pesticide manufactured by Dow Chemical called chlorpyrifos. The decision came after a federal court ordered the EPA to make a final decision on whether or not to ban the pesticide, which the Obama administration had proposed banning in 2015. The chemical has been on the market in the United States since 1965 under the brand name Lorsban and indoor use of the chemical has been banned for more than a decade.

In its decision to allow the pesticide to continue being used in the United States, the EPA went against its own agency’s findings that the pesticide presented unnecessary risks to American citizens. And while Pruitt’s EPA officials did not deny those findings, they did claim additional studies on the chemical were still needed before they could ban it, thus allowing the product's continued use.

In the three and a half months since the EPA’s chlorpyrifos decision, the story has become far more complex than the usual “regulators siding with industry” trope that has played out far too often.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - 14:22 • Itai Vardi
Workers remove Enbridge oil pipeline section in Michigan in 2010

A private contractor hired by the state of Michigan to assess an Enbridge oil pipeline running under the Great Lakes was working simultaneously for the company on a related pipeline, a DeSmog investigation has found.

The contractor, Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems Inc., is leading one of two studies commissioned last year by Michigan to provide a risk assessment for Enbridge’s 64-year old Line 5 pipeline, which crosses the Straits of Mackinac where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet.

These revelations come two weeks after Michigan terminated the work of the contractor conducting the second study after discovering that one of its team members was working at the same time for Enbridge on a different project.

Monday, July 10, 2017 - 03:58 • Steve Horn
Scott Walker as Koch Industries puppet

A bill with the potential to hobble government agencies' ability to propose regulations, known as the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act, has passed in both chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature and Republican Governor Scott Walker's office has told DeSmog he intends to sign it into law.

REINS has been pushed for years at the federal level by Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the conservative advocacy group funded and founded with money from Koch Industries, and a federal version of it currently awaits a U.S. Senate vote. The House bill, H.R. 26, passed on January 5 as one of the current Congress's first actions.

Wisconsin's version mandates that if a proposed regulation causes “$10 million or more in implementation and compliance costs” over a two year period, that rule must either be rewritten or go by the wayside. Known as Senate Bill 15, the Wisconsin bill passed the state Senate on a party-line vote, 62-34 and would be the first state-level REINS bill on the books in the country.

Sunday, July 9, 2017 - 06:58 • Ben Jervey
Trump and his Cabinet

The Koch brothers have landed yet another of their trusted fossil fuel think tank veterans in the Trump administration’s Department of Energy (DOE). Alex Fitzsimmons was Manager of Policy and Public Affairs at the Institute for Energy Research (IER) and its advocacy arm, the American Energy Alliance (AEA), while also working as a “spokesman” and communications director for Fueling US Forward (FUSF), the Koch-funded campaign to bolster public opinion of fossil fuels.

Fitzsimmons will be joining former IER colleagues Daniel Simmons and Travis Fisher at the DOE.

Saturday, July 8, 2017 - 07:40 • Guest
Army Corps scientist teaching university students about wetlands

By John Cook, George Mason University and Sander van der Linden, University of Cambridge

In a world where “post-truth” was 2016’s word of the year, many people are starting to doubt the efficacy of facts. Can science make sense of anti-science and post-truthism? More generally, how can we understand what drives people’s beliefs, decisions and behaviors?

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