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 Guardian, 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.

1982 American Petroleum Institute Report Warned Oil Workers Faced 'Significant' Risks from Radioactivity

Read time: 10 mins
radiation warning sign at Union Carbide uranium mill in Rife, CO, in 1972

Back in April last year, the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency decided it was “not necessary” to update the rules for toxic waste from oil and gas wells. Torrents of wastewater flow daily from the nation’s 1.5 million active oil and gas wells and the agency’s own research has warned it may pose risks to the country's drinking water supplies.

On Tuesday, a major new investigative report published by Rolling Stone and authored by reporter Justin Nobel delves deep into the risks that the oil and gas industry’s waste — much of it radioactive — poses to the industry’s own workers and to the public.

After a Decade of Fracking, Billions of Dollars Lost and a Climate in Crisis

Read time: 13 mins
Partially destroyed house in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy

As 2020 begins, the impacts of climate change have become increasingly clear around the world. The new year started amid devastating wildfires, tied to the worst droughts Australia has experienced in hundreds of years, which encircled much of the continent. So far, 29 people have been reported dead. A University of Sydney professor estimated the number of animals killed likely tops one billion.

Today's climate impacts have been shaped heavily by actions taken during the last 10 years, particularly in the U.S., where the climate benefits of coal power plant retirements were undermined by the rise of natural gas. Global carbon emissions had leveled off in the middle of the last decade, but began to climb again in 2017, breaking records anew each year since.

LNG, Plastics and Other Gas Industry Plans Would Add Climate Pollution Equal to 50 New Coal Plants

Read time: 9 mins
Shell's plastics plant in Beaver County, PA under construction

This week, plans to build one of the world’s largest plastics and petrochemical plants in St. James Parish, Lousiana — the heart of the state’s notorious Cancer Alley — inched forward as Lousiana approved air quality permits that could allow the plant to release 13.6 million tons per year of greenhouse gases — equal to three coal-fired power plants — and a host of other pollutants.

The St. James plant would be the single most polluting facility of 157 planned new or expanding refineries, liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects, and petrochemical plants that have sought or obtained air pollution permits in the U.S., according to a report published today by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).

Breaking: Former Energy Secretary Rick Perry Rejoins Board of Dakota Access Owner, Energy Transfer

Read time: 6 mins
Rick Perry

Former Trump administration Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who resigned from his cabinet-level post effective last month, has joined the board of directors of the general partner of Energy Transfer LP, according to a filing made today with the Securities and Exchange Commission by Energy Transfer.

Before joining the Trump administration, Perry had served on the board of Energy Transfer, the pipeline company behind controversial projects including Dakota Access, Bayou Bridge, and Mariner East, but resigned to become Secretary of the Department of Energy. On January 1, 2020, Perry was appointed as a director of LE GP, LLC, the general partner of Energy Transfer LP, according to today's SEC filing, made after the market closed. (“Energy Transfer is structured as a master limited partnership,” Bloomberg reports.)

The news comes on the same day that Pennsylvania regulators announced a record $30.6 million fine for Energy Transfer over an explosion of the company's Revolution pipeline. State regulators said they would resume permitting for the firm's Mariner East project.

New Film Dark Waters Shines Light on Chemical Pollution History in Ohio River Valley

Read time: 8 mins
Mark Ruffalo in Dark Waters

Dark Waters, the new film starring Mark Ruffalo as attorney Rob Bilott, is set in the Ohio River Valley city of Parkersburg, West Virginia — a place about 150 miles downstream from where Shell is currently building a sprawling plastics manufacturing plant, known as an “ethane cracker,” in Beaver, Pennsylvania.

Ruffalo’s film, directed by Todd Haynes, debuted to critical acclaim, earning a Rotten Tomatoes critics' rating of 91 percent, with The Atlantic calling it a “chilling true story of corporate indifference.”

While much of Dark Waters, as the title suggests, centers on contaminated water, the story of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the Teflon-linked chemical at the heart of the film, is also a story about air pollution. And as much as the film looks back to history, DuPont’s pollution — and the company’s decades-long cover-up — may gain new relevance as the chemical industry plans a multi-billion dollar expansion, fed by fracked fossil fuels, along the banks of the Ohio.

Blame Sunspots: Climate Science Denial Continues at Shale Gas Pipeline Industry Conference

Read time: 7 mins
Marcellus Utica Midstream conference presentation

Last month, 11,258 scientists from virtually every country in the world published a study on climate change, writing that they collectively declared “clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.”

That comes six years after a widely cited 2013 study reported 97 percent agreement among publishing climate scientists that human activity causes climate change — a consensus that has grown stronger in the years since. John Cook, lead author of that study, described this summer a 99 percent scientific consensus that humans cause global warming.

Despite this widespread scientific agreement, shale pipeline executives attending this year’s Marcellus Utica Midstream conference last week in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, heard a very different message on the climate.

New Documents Reveal Exxon-owned Canadian Oil Giant's Shifting Climate Change PR

Read time: 9 mins
Imperial Oil gas station

It was 1971, less than a year after the world’s first Earth Day, and in Canada an oil giant was worried.

Public concern regarding environmental problems is being translated into legislation rapidly,” Imperial Oil warned in an annual research planning document dated January of that year. “The present trend in legislation will require substantial expenditures to reduce emissions and waste discharge for all facilities and reduce the impact on the environment of the products we sell.”

Chesapeake Energy’s Stock Falls Below $1 But Driller Plans to Spend Over $1 Billion on More Fracking

Read time: 7 mins

The company that for the past decade has been emblematic of the rise and pitfalls of shale drilling and fracking, Chesapeake Energy, saw its stock price collapse today, plunging by 29.15 percent in a single day.

At the end of the day on November 6, a share in Chesapeake (NYSE:CHK) was worth less than a buck, priced at $0.91.

Fossil Fuel Investments Cost California and Colorado Pension Funds Over $19 Billion, Report Finds

Read time: 7 mins

California and Colorado’s public pension funds together lost out on over $19 billion over the past decade by investing in fossil fuel stocks, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The three public pension funds analyzed are currently worth a combined $663 billion. However, if they’d divested from fossil companies in 2009 while keeping their other investments at the same proportions, they could have amassed a combined additional $19 billion in ten years, the report published by Corporate Knights, a Canadian media, research and financial firm, concludes.

Public Health Experts Flunk Report Tying Pennsylvania Air Quality Improvements to Gas Drilling

Read time: 9 mins
A girl kicks a soccer ball on a playground near an oil and gas well pad in Pennsylvania

America’s air seems to have taken a turn for the worse, according to recent scientific research. Last week, a nationwide study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) found that the country’s air quality deteriorated in 2017 and 2018 — a dramatic reversal of improvements recorded over the prior seven years.

Today, the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) — an organization funded by oil and gas producers — released their own report that presents a different narrative about energy production and air quality in Pennsylvania, a state that’s become one of the nation’s largest producers of fossil fuels.

CEA's report first points to a drop in some types of air pollution in Pennsylvania between 1990 and 2016 and next to a rise in natural gas production in the state from 2010 to 2018.

But a look at the data presented inside that report — a two-page infographic drawing on data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Energy Information Administration — shows that connecting more drilling to less pollution is deeply misleading, public health experts said.

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