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.

Dark Money Paid New Trump Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s Salary for 3 Years

Read time: 5 mins
Matthew Whitaker

Today, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that Matthew G. Whitaker, who served as chief of staff for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, would replace his boss. Sessions was forced from office a day after the midterm elections, which were rough for climate and anti-fracking measures around the country.

Whitaker was appointed as Session’s chief of staff on September 22, 2017. Before that, he served for three years as the executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), which describes itself as “a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency in government and civic arenas.”

FACT has come under fire for its own lack of transparency, with the Center for Responsive Politics calling attention to FACT’s funding, which in some years came entirely from DonorsTrust, an organization also known as the “Dark Money ATM of the Conservative Movement” and whose own donors include the notorious funders of climate denial, Charles and David Koch.

A Field Guide to the Petrochemical and Plastics Industry

Read time: 13 mins
Petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia

The shale gas industry has been trying to build demand for fossil fuels from its fracked oil and gas wells by promoting the construction of a new petrochemical corridor in America's Rust Belt and expanding the corridor on the Gulf Coast. To help demystify terms like “natural gas liquids” and “cracker plants,” DeSmog has begun building a guide to some of the equipment and terms used in the plastics and petrochemical industries.

This guide, which will expand over time, is intended to serve as an informal glossary of sorts and an introduction to what happens to fossil fuels that are transformed into chemicals, plastics, vinyl, Styrofoam and a variety of other materials.

Why Plans to Turn America’s Rust Belt into a New Plastics Belt Are Bad News for the Climate

Read time: 12 mins
Pipes from the former Bethlehem Steel Plant in Pennsylvania

The petrochemical industry anticipates spending a total of over $200 billion on factories, pipelines, and other infrastructure in the U.S. that will rely on shale gas, the American Chemistry Council announced in September. Construction is already underway at many sites.

This building spree would dramatically expand the Gulf Coast’s petrochemical corridor (known locally as “Cancer Alley”) — and establish a new plastics and petrochemical belt across states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Energy Transfer: New Name for Pipeline Company But Same Spills and Violence Against Protesters, Says Greenpeace Report

Read time: 6 mins
Protester in front of gates to Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren's Dallas home

Battles over new shale gas and oil pipelines involving Energy Transfer, formerly known as Energy Transfer Partners, have heated up in recent weeks — an escalation that carries a tilt, as one side stands accused of acts of violence.

Energy Transfer (ET) security contractors have been accused of physically assaulting pipeline opponents on multiple occasions, including incidents in which security allegedly pointed a gun at one pipeline opponent, struck another with the butt of a shotgun, and overturned two boats carrying a television film crew and pipeline opponents into a Louisiana swamp, according to a new report published by Greenpeace USA on October 18.

Congressman Asks Gas Industry to Join Him as ‘3 Percenters,’ Fails to Mention Movement's Ties to White Supremacists

Read time: 9 mins
Clay Higgins

Congressman Clay Higgins of Louisiana arrived at this year's Expanding Global Gas Infrastructure seminar with a message.

Welcome to the war for the future of our planet,” Higgins said to the gathered officials from liquefied natural gas (LNG) firms and other fossil fuel companies.

My role as your representative is to be not just your ally,” Higgins added, “but your warrior. Please allow the service of my office to represent the point of the spear that you wield. We'll knock down every bureaucratic wall. We'll kick down every federal barrier. We'll work with you. We'll work for you.”

Climate Emissions From Gulf Coast’s New Petrochemical, Oil and Gas Projects Same as 29 New Coal Power Plants

Read time: 5 mins
Petrochemical plant in the Houston Ship Canal

In the last six years, officials in Texas and Louisiana issued permits allowing 74 petrochemical, oil, and gas projects to pump as much climate-warming pollution into the atmosphere as running 29 coal-fired power plants around the clock, according to numbers released September 26 by the nonprofit watchdog Environmental Integrity Project.

And construction appears to be speeding up, with over 40 percent of those projects permitted between 2016 and mid-2018. The 31 most recent projects combined will add 50 million tons of greenhouse gases — equal to 11 new coal-fired power plants — to the world’s atmosphere in a year, the watchdog adds.

Pipeline that Exploded in Pennsylvania Part of Push to Build Fracking-Reliant Petrochemical Network

Read time: 5 mins
Pipeline explosion

Just before dawn Monday morning, Chuck Belczyk thought a jet had crashed near his home roughly 25 miles outside Pittsburgh — until he heard the sound of hissing gas.

And that’s when it all hit us what was happening,” Belczyk told NPR’s State Impact. “You knew the pipeline went.”

Avenue Capital’s Plans to Revive West’s Largest Coal-Fired Power Plant Spark Protests from Navajo Nation Members

Read time: 6 mins

Protesters arrived outside the offices of a private equity firm run by a billionaire closely tied to the Clinton family on Monday, urging the company to abandon plans to keep a 44 year-old coal fired power plant on tribal lands running five years past its scheduled shut-down.

How Supreme Court Pick Brett Kavanaugh Could Return US Policy to the Era of Robber Barons

Read time: 8 mins
Brett Kavanaugh

As Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearings get under way, understanding his appointment’s potential impacts for corporate regulation and the climate means looking back all the way to 1890.

That was when a nearly 50-year stretch known to legal historians as the “Lochner era” kicked off — a time better known in U.S. history as the age of the robber barons.

Scott Pruitt’s Unjustified Personal Security Cost Taxpayers Over $3.5 million: EPA Audit

Read time: 4 mins
Scott Pruitt

You, the American taxpayer, spent over $3.5 million providing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt with an unprecedented round-the-clock security detail — and that security force may have been operating both outside of the law and without justification.

That’s the message the EPA’s internal watchdog has for American taxpayers after concluding an audit of the environmental agency's security protocols from September 2016 to May 2018.

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