Tuesday, August 15, 2017 - 14:13 • Itai Vardi
Robert Powelson during FERC commissioner nomination hearing in Senate

Robert Powelson, President Donald Trump’s newly appointed commissioner to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), received both gifts and reimbursements for travel, lodging, and hospitality from the energy and utility sectors in his previous position as a state regulator. He will now regulate those sectors at the federal level.

Powelson, a Republican, began his tenure at FERC last week. Documents and emails recently uncovered by the Energy & Policy Institute, a watchdog monitoring attacks on renewable energy, indicate that he maintained a close relationship with industry groups as a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017 - 16:02 • Sharon Kelly
Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning

Southern Co. is accused of fraudulently misrepresenting the prospects for its troubled “clean coal” project in Kemper County, Mississippi in several legal filings this summer.

Southern announced in late July that it was shuttering the troubled “clean coal” part of Kemper after construction ran years behind schedule and the company spent $7.5 billion on the 582 megawatt power plant — over $5 billion more than it first projected.

In a lawsuit filed today, Brett Wingo, a former Southern Company engineer, alleges he warned the company's top executives that it would not be possible to meet key construction deadlines. Management responded by retaliating against him, the complaint asserts, and Southern continued to assure investors and the public that Kemper's schedule and budget targets would be met, then blamed unpredictable factors like the weather when those goals were missed.

Thursday, July 20, 2017 - 08:11 • Mat Hope
Eu flag in front of statues

A new lobby group has appeared in Europe claiming to represent ‘consumers’. But a closer look reveals it is actually backed by some familiar groups known for their efforts to weaken climate and environmental regulations.

The Consumer Choice Centre (CCC) was set up in March 2017 and was promoted as “a grassroots-led movement” that “empowers consumers across the globe”.

But an investigation by Brussels think tank Corporate Europe Observatory suggests the CCC is actually working as a lobby group for a network pushing deregulation, while working closely with high-profile organisations including London-based think tank the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) and US oil billionaire Charles Koch.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017 - 11:25 • Justin Mikulka
Trump and Polish President Duda

During President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Poland, he got a lesson in the reality of the global oil and gas market from Polish President Andrzej Duda. In his prepared remarks, Trump addressed the issue of U.S. oil and gas exports, saying, “America stands ready to help Poland and other European nations diversify their energy supplies, so that you can never be held hostage to a single supplier.” 

In the question and answer session that followed, Trump exhibited some of his characteristic bravado when he offered to negotiate a liquefied natural gas (LNG) agreement right then and there. 

I think we can enter a contract for LNG within the next 15 minutes,” Trump said. “Do you have anybody available to negotiate? It will take about 15 minutes.”

Which put President Duda in the awkward position of having to explain to the American president how international energy deals actually happen. As The Hill reported, “Duda laughed in response, saying that it is up to private companies in both countries, not the presidents, to negotiate such a deal.”  

Monday, July 17, 2017 - 09:31 • Farron Cousins
A 3-D pie chart made of dollar bills

Fearing that President Donald Trump will make good on his promise to slash the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent, the Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) political arm, EDF Action, has announced a million dollar ad buy to raise awareness about how these budget cuts will affect the lives of American citizens.

The ad campaign’s goal is to target local television, radio, and online outlets with information about the EPA’s local impact on public health and the environment.

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.

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