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.

Fueling US Forward Presents Scholarships to Black Youth in North Carolina, Recalling Kochs' Troubling History on Education and Race

Student in front of a school

The fossil fuel industry's effort to “start winning hearts and minds” arrived at a Baptist church in North Carolina recently in the form of three $1,500 scholarships for local high school students and a talk by Hubbel Relat, a Fueling US Forward representative, at a summit hosted by the Roanoke Valley Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The $1,500 scholarships, which local news reports said were aimed to help the students pursue careers in the energy industry, were a part of a broader effort by Fueling US Forward to tout the “positives” of fossil fuels and to bring that message specifically to black communities.

Chemical Plant Boom Spurred by Fracking Will Bring Smog, Plastic Glut, and Risks to Workers' Health, New Report Warns

Petrochemical plants in Texas

On the heels of the shale gas rush that's swept the U.S. for the past decade, another wave of fossil fuel-based projects is coming — a plastic and petrochemical manufacturing rush that environmentalists warn could make smog worse in communities already breathing air pollution from fracking, sicken workers, and expand the plastic trash gyres in the world's oceans.

“Thanks to abundant supplies of natural gas, the U.S. chemical industry is investing in new facilities and expanded production capacity, which tends to attract downstream industries that rely on petrochemical products,” the American Chemistry Council's President and CEO, Cal Dooley, said in a January press release. “As of this month, 281 chemical industry projects valued at $170 billion have been announced, about half of which are completed or under construction.”

A new Food and Water Watch report, How Fracking Supports the Plastic Industry, calls attention to the dark side of those plans, warning of air and water pollution and the risk to people's health, especially for those taking jobs in the plastics industry.

'Biggest Oil Find' of 2016 Puts Crown Jewel Texas Oasis in Crosshairs for Fracking

Water birds land on Balmorhea Lake in West Texas

REEVES COUNTY, TEXAS — Travelers crossing the long stretch of arid desert spanning West Texas might stumble across an extraordinarily improbable sight — a tiny teeming wetlands, a sliver of marsh that seems like it should sit by the ocean but actually lays over 450 miles from the nearest coast.

This cienega, or desert-wetlands (an ecosystem so unusual that its name sounds like a contradiction), lies instead near a massive swimming pool and lake, all fed by clusters of freshwater springs that include the deepest underwater cave ever discovered in the U.S., stretching far under the desert's dry sands.

Famous as “the oasis of West Texas,” Balmorhea State Park now hosts over 150,000 visitors a year, drawn by the chance to swim in the cool waters of the park's crystal-blue pool, which is fed by up to 28 million gallons of water a day flowing from the San Solomon springs. The pool's steady 72 to 76 degree Fahrenheit temperatures make the waters temptingly cool in the hot Texas summer and surprisingly warm in the winter, locals say — part of the reason it's been called “the crown jewel of the desert.”

Fearing Protests, Pipeline Execs Show Muted Reaction to Trump's Dakota Access, Keystone Orders

Donald Trump

If President Donald Trump expected to hear roars of approval from the pipeline industry after this week's executive orders pushing the Keystone XL pipeline and Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) forward, he might have been hugely disappointed.

Reaction at the Marcellus-Utica Midstream Conference and Exhibition in Pittsburgh on Wednesday was remarkably muted.

#DayAgainstDenial Protests Across the U.S. Call Attention to Climate Change as Trump Cabinet Confirmation Hearings Begin

President-elect Donald Trump's nominees for the Cabinet began appearing before the U.S. Senate to start their confirmation hearing process on Tuesday — and some of the slots to be filled will have major implications for American climate change policies. Rex Tillerson, who announced his retirement as CEO of ExxonMobil, is scheduled to appear before the Senate on Wednesday, as is Elaine Chao, Trump's nominee for Secretary of Transporation.

On Monday, environmentalists nationwide organized protests at senators' home offices, with organizers calling on their representatives to refuse to confirm Cabinet nominees hostile to combating climate change.

While Oil Front Group Touts Cheap Fossil Fuel to Low-Income Families, Industry Negotiates Deal to Drive World Oil Prices Up

Fueling U.S. Forward, an oil industry PR group, has spent the second half of 2016 running an on-the-ground campaign targeting African-American communities and spreading a message focused on energy prices, a front-page New York Times investigation reported on January 5.

The organization's tactics included sponsoring a Richmond, VA gospel show where a few lucky families could win up to $250 off their household energy bills — though the music was paused mid-concert for a panel discussion about fossil fuels.

Amid Concerns About Trump's Authoritarian Bent, Oil Executive Calls for "Strong Rule of Law"

Harold Hamm, America's richest energy billionaire and the CEO of shale driller Continental Resources,  spoke at the S&P Global Platts Global Energy Outlook Forum last Thursday with an unusual message.

“We've got a President coming in that understands the rule of law, that understands business,” Mr. Hamm said.

Mr. Trump's promoters often cite his business experience. Mr. Trump, however, has rarely been praised for his understanding of the rule of law — which is the fundamental concept that the rules apply to everyone, from the most to the least powerful, and that governments must respect people's rights.

Fracking Can Contaminate Drinking Water, Has Made Some Water Supplies "Unusable," Long-Awaited EPA Study Concludes

The Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it had completed its scientific report on whether fracking puts America's drinking water supplies at risk.

The EPA's conclusions were clear: fracking can harm water. And it's not the the hydraulic fracturing process itself that poses risks — problems have emerged at every stage of the water cycle associated with fracking, at times making people's drinking water supplies “unusable.”

Fight Not Over: Dakota Access Protests Continue After Army Corps Announces Pipeline Project Review

Pipeline protesters outside of TD Bank in Philadelphia.

The day after the Obama administration announced that the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) project would be required to undergo additional review, protests against the banks that funded the project continued, with organizers nationwide saying they planned to keep up their resistance.

“We are happy that the Army Corp of Engineers has listened to the voices and actions of millions who have taken a stand against this pipeline,” said Kristin Schwab, who helped organize a Philadelphia protest calling for banks to defund DAPL. “But a delay isn’t enough.”

EPA's Fracking Study Edited at Last Minute, Downplaying Risks, Newly Uncovered Documents Show

Just before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its high profile study on fracking, the agency planned to announce that the draft “study shows potential vulnerabilities to drinking water from hydraulic fracturing process.”

But that wasn't the message the public heard the next day.

Instead, the EPA's press release highlighted a statement that the $29 million “[a]ssessment shows hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources…”

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