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.

#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…”

Protections for Rare and Endangered Animals Under Threat from Permian Basin Drilling Industry

Midland, TX – Monarch butterflies, tiny lizards, and a type of grouse known as the lesser prairie chicken all drew close scrutiny from a large gathering of oil and gas executives at the Permian Basin Petroleum Association's annual meeting this year.

Fracking has helped turn the Permian Basin into the nation's most productive oil field — and the only part of the U.S. where the oil industry continues to expand robustly despite a price slump that began in mid-2014.

But the parched Permian Basin is also home to a broad array of rare wildlife, including a significant number of species already considered threatened or endangered. With the Fish and Wildlife Service considering adding dozens more species in Texas to their lists, the oil industry here is sweating (and not simply because last month was the warmest October in Midland in over 80 years of record-keeping).

Endangered species may prove to be an unexpected Achilles heel for the Permian drilling industry as it attempts to turn the deserts of west Texas into an oil “well factory” — a dense field of wellpads, pipelines and access roads built right amid unique ecosystems and habitats for wild animals that may be at risk of extinction.

Connecticut Becomes Most Recent State to Back Away from Spectra's Access Northeast Pipeline Project

Connecticut regulators dealt a blow to pipeline company Spectra Energy Corp. this week by abandoning several utility proposals that would have relied on Spectra's beleaguered Access Northeast pipeline, a 125-mile pipeline expansion project planned to span from New York state to just past Boston, MA

Connecticut's move comes in the wake of a major defeat for Spectra this summer, when the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the state's electrical ratepayers could not be forced to assume the financial risks associated with building gas pipelines as Spectra had hoped.

Internal Watchdog Blasts Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Regulators Over Safety Rule Delays

Safety laws meant to protect the American public against oil train explosions, pipeline leaks and other deadly risks have been repeatedly held up by slow-moving federal regulators, a newly released Department of Transportation internal audit has concluded.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) — charged with overseeing 2.6 million miles of pipelines and the handling of a million hazardous material shipments a day — missed deadline after deadline as it attempted to craft the safety rules and regulations that give federal laws effect, auditors from the DOT inspector general's office wrote in their Oct. 14 report.

PHMSA’s slow progress and lack of coordination over the past 10 years has delayed the protections those mandates and recommendations are intended to provide,” the report concluded.

New Report by Top Senators Details Financial Ties Between Fossil Fuel Industry and Clean Power Plan Opponents

Rolls of hundred dollar bills.

On September 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia heard oral arguments in a major challenge to the Clean Power Plan, West Virginia v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — an enormously high-stakes legal battle, that could determine whether Obama's climate plan is ever put into effect.

The stakes are high not only for the environment, but for fossil fuel companies — and those companies have poured enormous sums of money into efforts that would help ensure the Clean Power Plan never goes into effect, according to a report issued this week by four members of Congress.

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