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.

Louisiana Attorney General Says Oil, Gas Industry Deserve ‘a Break’ for First-Time Crimes

Jeff Landry

Louisiana's first-term attorney general Jeff Landry often presents himself as a staunch tough-on-crime and anti-corruption candidate, pushing his office's powers to the limits (and beyond) as he seeks to lock up offenders.

But when it comes to prosecuting companies for environmental crimes, Landry arrived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the Shale Insight conference with a very different message: sometimes, mistakes happen.

Sean Spicer's Next Act? Fracking Industry's Chosen Keynote Speaker

Sean Spicer at Shale Insight 2017

Sean Spicer might be among the least trusted public figures in the U.S.

After he lost his job as White House press secretary, all five major TV news networks — including both Fox News and CNN, as well as CBS News, ABC News, and NBC News — declined to hire Spicer as a paid contributor, with network insiders reportedly telling NBC News, Spicer had a “lack of credibility.”

His attempt to rehabilitate his reputation with a September 17 Emmys appearance earned him a massive backlash.

Less than two weeks later, Spicer made another, somewhat less-reported public appearance — as the keynote for the Marcellus Shale Coalition's 2017 Shale Insight conference.

New Fraud Allegations Emerge at Troubled 'Clean Coal' Project As Southern Co. Records Multi-Billion Loss

Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning

Southern Co. is accused of fraudulently misrepresenting the prospects for its troubled “clean coal” project in Kemper County, Mississippi in several legal filings this summer.

Southern announced in late July that it was shuttering the troubled “clean coal” part of Kemper after construction ran years behind schedule and the company spent $7.5 billion on the 582 megawatt power plant — over $5 billion more than it first projected.

In a lawsuit filed today, Brett Wingo, a former Southern Company engineer, alleges he warned the company's top executives that it would not be possible to meet key construction deadlines. Management responded by retaliating against him, the complaint asserts, and Southern continued to assure investors and the public that Kemper's schedule and budget targets would be met, then blamed unpredictable factors like the weather when those goals were missed.

Sunoco Ordered to Suspend Drilling on Mariner East 2 Pipeline After Spills, Damage

Mariner East 2 pipeline path

Pennsylvania's Environmental Hearing Board today ordered Sunoco Pipeline LP to temporarily halt some types of work on a $2.5 billion pipeline project designed to carry 275,000 barrels a day of butane, propane, and other liquid fossil fuels from Ohio and West Virginia, across Pennsylvania, to the Atlantic coast.

On July 19, three environmental groups presented Judge Bernard Labuskes, Jr. with documentation showing that the project had caused dozens of drilling fluid spills and other accidents between April and mid-June.

BREAKING: Southern Co. Suspends Kemper "Clean Coal" Project, Warns Investors It May Recognize Losses up to $3.4 Billion

Tom Fanning, CEO of Southern Company

In a major blow to proponents of “clean coal” technology, Southern Co., parent company of Mississippi Power, announced in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing today that it's throwing in the towel on efforts to generate electricity from coal and will instead use only natural gas at its flagship Kemper County, Mississippi power plant.

The project, which relied on a “gasifier” to turn a cheap and common grade of coal into fuel, is over, at least for now, Southern said.

“On June 28, 2017, Mississippi Power notified the Mississippi PSC that it is beginning a process to suspend operations and start-up activities on the gasifier portion of the Kemper IGCC.”

Further, Southern warned that it may record a $3.4 billion loss for the project in the second quarter of 2017, depending on how negotiations with state utility regulators unfold.

US Senators: Heartland Institute Mailings to Grade School Science Teachers 'Possibly Fraudulent'

Report card with F

If you teach science to American schoolchildren, there's a good chance that you might open your mailbox soon and find a package containing a free, unsolicited 135-page book and 11-minute DVD, plus a cover letter from the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based free-market “think tank.”

“How do you teach global warming?” the letter begins. “I am writing to ask you to consider the possibility that the science in fact is not 'settled.' If that's the case, then students would be better served by letting them know a vibrant debate is taking place among scientists on how big the human impact on climate is and whether or not we should be worried about it.”

The climate “educational” supplies have already been mailed out to tens of thousands of science teachers — with 25,000 more planned every two weeks, the institute's CEO told PBS in March.

The mailings prompted a backlash from a group of federal lawmakers including Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, Elizabeth Warren, Edward Markey, and Brian Schatz, who warned that teachers should treat the free literature skeptically.

Trump Abandons Paris Climate Deal At Bidding of Fossil Fuel Interests

President Donald Trump made his decision official during a speech outside the White House today: the U.S. will be leaving the Paris Accord agreement by almost 200 other countries to cut global greenhouse gas emissions. 

Trump, who arrived over a half-hour late for his scheduled 3PM announcement, told the gathered press corps that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris accord in November 2020.

The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord,” Trump said, “but begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States and its businesses, workers and taxpayers.”

We'll see if we can make a deal that's fair,” he added. “If we can, that's great. If we can't, that's fine.”

Who Wins if Donald Trump Exits the Paris Climate Accord?

A handful of anonymous senior White House officials have begun telling the press that President Donald Trump plans to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Accord climate deal, adding fuel to rumors that have circulated for months that he would follow through with his campaign promise.

A “small team including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt” has begun drafting up a detailed plan to orchestrate America's withdrawal, according to Axios, which reported that Trump's mind was made up. Shortly after that report, Trump tweeted he would soon be announcing his decision. Several commentators noted Trump has repeatedly seemed to reverse course just before making a policy announcement.

If Trump does decide to back away from Paris, he'll be taking the U.S. down a path decried by an unusually broad cast of political players, including oil and gas giants, coal companies, the pope and even, by some polls, 50 percent of Republican voters.

Pennsylvania School Now Doing Emergency Drills in Case of Pipeline Explosion

Gas pipeline warning sign

At the Glenwood Elementary School in Media, Pennsylvania, roughly 450 students interrupted their regular schedules one day this month for an unusual emergency drill.

Just after 1:30 p.m. on May 3, the entire student body practiced sheltering in place in the school's gymnasium, then prepared to evacuate the campus by bus, under the watchful eye of the school's superintendent, state police, and local first responders.

Everyone took this seriously and it was reflected in how quickly they moved through the drill — two minutes to be sheltered in place and three minutes to be completely evacuated from the building,” Principal Eric Bucci told local reporters.

It wasn't fears of natural disaster or terror attack that prompted the emergency drill. Instead, worries about a fossil fuel pipeline construction project nearby left the school district drafting emergency response plans and practicing safety protocols.

In Trump Era, Right Wing Battles Itself Over Energy Policy, Fossil Fuels and a Warming Climate

Donald Trump at a podium

Starkly different visions for how conservatives view energy were on display at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) The Future of Energy Summit in New York City last week.

Right-wing speakers seemed pulled in opposite directions by the twin realities of a changing climate, which is beginning to hit gas companies' bottom lines, juxtaposed against the raw political power of a Trump administration packed with climate change deniers of different stripes.

Some on the right are calling for supporting a transition to a decentralized power grid, fueled by wind and solar energy, but not for the usual reasons.

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