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.

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.

Lawsuit Seeks to Halt Bayou Bridge Pipeline Construction Amid High Waters, Permit Violations

Read time: 6 mins
Excavators doing construction work for the Bayou Bridge pipeline amid high waters in the Atchafalaya Basin

Since October 2018, the Mississippi River has been running high, thanks in part to heavier-than-usual rainfall across its northern and central stretches.

And when the water flows high on the most powerful river in the U.S., local residents and industries take notice. Fishermen fret the high January waters could mean a poor brown shrimp season ahead. Shippers using barges to haul grain bemoan headaches caused by fast-flowing waters and the river-traffic restrictions that follow. And federal agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers start inspecting levees daily and barring digging within 1,500 feet of the embankments built to protect river-side residents against flooding.

But in the swamps of the Atchafalaya Basin, roughly a million acres of bayous, lakes, and wetlands that span upwards from the Gulf of Mexico for 140 miles into Louisiana, there’s one thing that hasn’t responded as it should to the rising waters: construction of Energy Transfer’s Bayou Bridge pipeline.

Former Coal Lobbyist Andrew Wheeler Faces Senate Confirmation as EPA Administrator

Read time: 9 mins
Andrew Wheeler and Scott Pruitt

Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief — and now Trump cabinet nominee — Andrew Wheeler heads into Senate confirmation hearings at 10 a.m. EST Wednesday, as the longest government shutdown in U.S. history has left the EPA mostly shuttered.

Wheeler, a former coal, petrochemical, and LNG (liquefied natural gas) lobbyist, has run America’s top environmental agency since ex-EPA chief Scott Pruitt resigned this summer under at least a dozen internal investigations.

Fracked Shale Oil Wells Drying Up Faster than Predicted, Wall Street Journal Finds

Read time: 9 mins
Pumpjacks in Permian Basin outside Midland, Texas

In 2015, Pioneer Natural Resources filed a report with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, in which the shale drilling and fracking company said that it was “drilling the most productive wells in the Eagle Ford Shale” in Texas.

That made the company a major player in what local trade papers were calling “arguably the largest single economic event in Texas history,” as drillers pumped more than a billion barrels of fossil fuels from the Eagle Ford.

Its Eagle Ford wells, Pioneer’s filing said, were massive finds, with each well able to deliver an average of roughly 1.3 million barrels of oil and other fossil fuels over their lifetimes.

Three years later, The Wall Street Journal checked the numbers, investigating how those massive wells are turning out for Pioneer.

Turns out, not so well. And Pioneer is not alone.

Energy Transfer Uses Workaround to Open Mariner East 2 Pipeline Amid Hazard Worries, Criminal Investigation

Read time: 8 mins
Mariner East 2 pipeline opponents protest the pipeline project with signs

Energy Transfer has begun shipping natural gas liquids through one of the most troubled pipeline projects in Pennsylvania, sparking calls for additional investigations as residents say safety concerns remain unresolved.

Natural gas liquids (NGLs) are fossil fuels found in large volumes in “wet” shale gas wells. They include the highly flammable fuels propane and butane, plus ethane, which is used extensively in the petrochemicals and plastics industy.

A year ago today, Pennsylvania temporarily suspended permits for Mariner East 2 pipeline construction, citing the builder’s “egregious and willful violations” of state laws.

2018 Was a Year of Deadly Climate Disasters and an 'Ear Splitting Wake-Up Call'

Read time: 9 mins
Hurricane Florence flooding

2018 is set to rank as the fourth warmest year on record — and the fourth year in a row reflecting a full degree Celsius (1.8° Fahrenheit) temperature rise from the late 1800s, climate scientists say.

This was the year that introduced us to fire tornadoes, bomb cyclones, and, in Death Valley, a five day streak of 125°F temperatures, part of the hottest month ever documented at a U.S. weather station.

2018 also brought the world’s highest-ever low temperature, as nighttime temperatures fell to a sizzling 109°F in Quiryat, Oman, on June 28, smashing a 2011 record-high low.

A startling 95 percent of the oldest and thickest Arctic sea ice is now gone — and we’re losing Arctic ice at a rate of 14,000 tons per second, according to recent research, three times as fast as roughly three decades ago.

It was a year notable both for its overwhelming, climate-fueled impacts as well as its gut-wrenching predictions for what climate change still has in store for us if we fail to act. So much happened, frankly, that it's been hard to keep it all straight.

Louisiana Offers Fossil Fuel Exporter 'Single Largest' Local Tax Giveaway in American History

Read time: 7 mins
LNG Tanker

Louisiana plans to collect no industrial property tax from the $15.2 billion Driftwood liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal planned for its southwest corner, state officials announced last week. 

Critics say this tax break is worth $1.4 to $2.4 billion, making it one of the largest local corporate tax exemptions in American history — even larger than those offered to Amazon for its much sought-after second headquarters.

Proposed by the natural gas firm Tellurian, the Driftwood terminal, which would liquefy and export 4 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day, is one of over a dozen gas export terminals proposed around the U.S. and fueled by a glut of shale gas released by fracking. The final investment decision for Driftwood is expected in early 2019, as are decisions on two other proposed Gulf Coast export terminals. 

Energy Transfer, Banks Lost Billions by Ignoring Early Dakota Access Pipeline Concerns

Read time: 8 mins
Anti Dakota Access protesters in Philadelphia

Roughly four years ago, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) filed a federal application to build a 1,172 mile oil pipeline from North Dakota’s Bakken shale across the U.S. to Illinois at a projected cost of $3.8 billion.

Before that application was filed, on September 30, 2014, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe met with ETP to express concerns about the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) and fears of water contamination. Though the company, now known as Energy Transfer, had re-routed a river crossing to protect the state capital of Bismarck against oil spills, it apparently turned a deaf ear to the Tribe’s objections.

Following that approach proved to be a very costly decision, a new analysis concludes, with ETP, banks, and investors taking billions in losses as a result.

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