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.

'Virtually No Risk of Drilling Restrictions,' West Virginia Official Tells Fracking-Reliant Petrochemical Industry

Read time: 8 mins
A slide from a presentation by West Virginia official Michael Graney, who listed "virtually no risk of drilling restrictions" as a reason to bring fracked-gas reliant petrochemical development to the region.

This week, at an industry conference focused on wooing petrochemical producers to West Virginia, officials from the state and federal government made clear their support for continuing fracked shale gas extraction and petrochemical industry development near the natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale.

Why should petrochemical companies build in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio? For one thing, don’t expect regulation of shale gas drilling, Michael Graney, executive director of the West Virginia Development Office, predicted in his presentation.

America’s Missed Climate Targets Cost Global Economy $1 Trillion, Dublin-based Think Tank Finds

Read time: 6 mins
coal power station on the water

Since 1992, the United States consistently has missed its targets for reducing globe-warming emissions, and a Dublin-based think tank estimates the resulting damage to the global economy has been $1 trillion.

The U.S. polluted far more — 20 billion tons of CO2 worth — than American negotiators said it would during repeated rounds of global climate deals, including Rio in 1992, Kyoto in 1997, Copenhagen in 2009, and Paris in 2015, a report published by the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) today concludes.

‘All Rhetoric and No Action’: Oil Giants Spent $1 Billion on Climate Lobbying and Ads Since Paris Pact, Says Report

Read time: 7 mins
climate policy grades for five major oil companies

A new report by a British think tank estimates that since the 2015 Paris Agreement, the world’s five largest listed oil and gas companies spent more than $1 billion lobbying to prevent climate change regulations while also running public relations campaigns aimed at maintaining public support for climate action.

Combined, the companies spend roughly $200 million a year pushing to delay or alter climate and energy rules, particularly in the U.S. — while spending $195 million a year “on branding campaigns that suggest they support an ambitious climate agenda,” according to InfluenceMap, a UK-based non-profit that researches how corporations influence climate policy.

Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact

Read time: 6 mins
JPMorgan Chase building in New York City

A report published today names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris Agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.

The top four banks that invested most heavily in fossil fuel projects are all based in the U.S., and include JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, and Bank of America. Royal Bank of Canada, Barclays in Europe, Japan’s MUFG, TD Bank, Scotiabank, and Mizuho make up the remainder of the top 10.

New Warnings on Plastic’s Health Risks as Fracking Industry Promotes New 'Plastics Belt' Build-Out

Read time: 15 mins
Marine litter washed up on a beach

A new report traces the life cycle of plastic from the moment an oil and gas well is drilled to the time plastic trash breaks down in the environment, finding “distinct risks to human health” at every stage.

Virtually all plastic — 99 percent of it, according to the Center for International Environmental Law (CIELreport — comes from fossil fuels. And a growing slice comes from fracked oil and gas wells and the natural gas liquids (NGLs) they produce.

Student Reporters in West Virginia Find Atlantic Coast Pipeline Offers Only Two Dozen Permanent Jobs

Read time: 7 mins
PBS Student Reporting Labs students

It’s hard for anyone to miss a “help wanted” sign like this: “13,000 Union Workers Needed for Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project.”

That’s how the website Oilfield Job Shop described the opportunities created by the $7 billion Atlantic Coast pipeline, planned to carry shale gas 605 miles from West Virginia into Virginia and North Carolina. Its builders, a group led by Dominion Energy, say all told, the project will support 17,000 jobs — no small amount of work anywhere, but especially in parts of West Virginia where the economy has long relied on coal mining.

So, when high school students working with PBS NewsHour's Student Reporting Labs in Morgantown, West Virginia, set out to find out what “opportunity” looks like in 2019, they quickly zoomed in on pipeline jobs.

As Cleanup Dispute Looms, Peabody-Linked Group Pushes Navajo Nation to Buy West's Largest Coal Plant

Read time: 12 mins
Navajo Generating Station coal power plant in Arizona

In September 2018, two prospective buyers announced they were dropping out of negotiations to purchase the Navajo Generating Station (NGS), the American West’s largest coal-fired power plant.

Avenue Capital Group and Middle River Power had sought to keep the aging coal plant in business, but “said they could not get anyone to commit to buying power from the plant, delaying the start of an environmental review,” the Associated Press reported. The plant, located in northern Arizona near the Utah border, is currently scheduled to shut down in December, after its current owners concluded in 2017 that its power was too costly to be competitive.

The two firms had progressed further in talks with the coal power plant’s owners than any of the 15 others identified as potential buyers by a consulting firm hired by Peabody Energy, which for decades has mined the coal burned at the plant.

A think tank that’s been backed by Peabody Energy is pushing the sale of the ailing plant and coal mine — and is now finding an audience in the Navajo Nation with the help of a Heartland Institute policy advisor.

Court Throws out Energy Transfer’s ‘Racketeering’ Claims Against Dakota Access Pipeline Opponents

Read time: 4 mins
Dakota Access pipeline protest in Philadelphia

A North Dakota federal judge dismissed Energy Transfer’s racketeering lawsuit against Greenpeace and all its co-defendants in a sharply worded ruling issued today, finding that the pipeline builder’s allegations fell “far short of what is necessary to establish a [racketeering] claim.”

In August 2017, Energy Transfer filed a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act civil complaint against Greenpeace and other environmental groups who had opposed the company’s Dakota Access pipeline, claiming that the protests had caused $300 million in damages (and requesting three times that amount from the defendants).

Today’s ruling flatly rejected Energy Transfer’s claims.

Energy Transfer Pipeline Projects on Hold in Pennsylvania After String of Violations

Read time: 9 mins
Mariner East 2 pipeline spill site near an apartment complex

Plans for a pipeline network to export petrochemical ingredients from fracked gas wells in Pennsylvania hit a major roadblock, as state environmental regulators announced Friday that they were suspending all permit reviews for pipeline builder Energy Transfer until further notice.

There has been a failure by Energy Transfer and its subsidiaries to respect our laws and our communities,” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, who has supported fracking in the state, said in a statement when the suspension was announced. “This is not how we strive to do business in Pennsylvania, and it will not be tolerated.”

Oil Spill Shuts TransCanada's Keystone Pipeline in Same County Where 'Paper-thin' Pipe Found in 2012

Read time: 6 mins
Keystone pipeline ditch

On Wednesday, February 6, an oil spill in St. Charles County, Missouri, caused the shutdown of two major oil pipelines, one owned by Enbridge and the other by TransCanada, as investigators began searching for the source of the spill.

Today, TransCanada confirmed in a statement that its Keystone pipeline — which has had severe corrosion issues in this area in the past — was the likely source of the oil spill, which Missouri officials initially estimated to have leaked 1,800 gallons. Meanwhile, officials from Enbridge said the company was “highly confident” its Platte pipeline was not the cause of the leak.

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