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.

Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Some Pipeline Projects Push Forward While Others Falter Nationwide

Read time: 12 mins
pipeline in Permian Basin

Last Friday, the Iowa Utilities Board issued an order that would allow the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) to double the amount of oil that flows through the state from 550,000 barrels a day to 1.1 million barrels a day. The utilities board, which also announced it had waived a hearing on the matter, made its move over the objections of environmental organizations and other civic groups opposed to DAPL operator Energy Transfer’s expansion plans.

Iowa’s approval landed just two days after a federal judge in North Dakota found that the project must undergo a full environmental review in a March 25 order, throwing the pipeline’s legal status into question. U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg, who issued that order, also asked attorneys involved in that dispute to submit briefs on whether DAPL should be shut down while the pipeline undergoes its environmental review.

The DAPL expansion, meanwhile, still needs approval from Illinois state regulators, and environmental groups have asked the Illinois Commerce Commission to hold off from making any decisions for the time being, citing not only Judge Boasberg’s ruling but also the turmoil in the global oil market and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on oil demand.

Federal Judge Tosses Dakota Access Pipeline Permits, Orders Full Environmental Review

Read time: 6 mins
Standing Rock camp in December 2016

Today, a federal judge tossed out federal permits for the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), built to carry over half a million barrels of Bakken crude oil a day from North Dakota, and ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a full environmental review of the pipeline project.

U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg indicated that he would next consider whether to shut down the current flows of oil through DAPL while the environmental review is in process, ordering both sides to submit briefs on the question.

Coal Industry Group Asks Federal Lawmakers to Cut Funding for Black Lung Program, Citing COVID-19

Read time: 5 mins

The National Mining Association (NMA) on Wednesday called on President Donald Trump and federal lawmakers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by cutting a tax used to support coal miners affected by black lung disease, to cut funding to clean up high-priority abandoned coal mine sites, and taking other steps that would financially benefit the coal mining industry.

Meet the Climate Science Deniers Who Downplayed COVID-19 Risks

Read time: 9 mins
Trump and the coronavirus

On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the outbreak of novel coronavirus 2019, which causes the disease COVID-19, was officially a “public health emergency of international concern.” At the time, there were cases confirmed in 19 countries and deaths in China had reached 170.

The very next day, the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) published an article titled, “Coronavirus in the U.S.: How Bad Will It Be?”

Is coronavirus worse than the flu?” it began. “No, not even close.”

It already has spread from person-to-person in the U.S., but it probably won't go far,” ACSH added. “And the American healthcare system is excellent at dealing with this sort of problem.”

ACSH is one of several organizations promoting climate science denial that are now spreading misinformation on the coronavirus, with potentially deadly consequences.

Stock Market Turmoil Undermines Claimed Energy Dominance Benefits of US Shale Drilling

Read time: 9 mins
Donald Trump

Oil prices collapsed today amid falling energy demand and the global response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide reached over 113,000. On Friday, talks disintegrated inside the so-called OPEC+ alliance, which includes Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as well as non-OPEC members like Russia.

This breakdown kicked off a global oil price war that left Wall Street reeling on Monday, threatening the already troubled U.S. shale oil and gas industry and challenging the resilience of the Trump administration's “energy dominance” theory that argues domestic shale oil production benefits national security and insulates the U.S. against the actions of other countries. Instead, relying on a shaky shale industry may have left the U.S. economy more vulnerable during times of crisis.

New Documents Show How Trump Interior Official Pushed Climate Misinformation into Federal Reports

Read time: 8 mins
Indur M. Goklany

A major New York Times investigative report, published March 2, revealed efforts by Indur M. Goklany, a Department of Interior employee with ties to the Heartland Institute and other fossil-funded denial organizations, to modify federal reports to include misleading information about climate science. 

DeSmog has obtained some of the emails cited by The Times in that investigation, published here for the first time.

West Texas Fracking Boom Sputters as Apache Corp. Admits Firm Lost Billions, Cites Alpine High 'Challenges'

Read time: 7 mins
Apache's cryogenic processing plant at the Diamond facility in the Alpine High region of the Permian Basin.

Balmorhea, Texas — Less than four years ago, oil and gas company Apache Corp. announced an oil strike worth $80 billion in one of the most pristine reaches of West Texas — the “biggest oil find” of 2016 — which the company dubbed Alpine High.

Yesterday, Apache officially called it quits in Alpine High, as its business partner revealed that Apache has “no current plans for future drilling” in that field.

Jordan Cove Backers Double Down on Efforts to Push Project Following Federal Permit Delay

Read time: 6 mins
Aerial view of Coos Bay, Oregon

Last Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) took the highly unusual step of declining to move forward on permits for the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export terminal in Coos County, Oregon. If built, the $10 billion Jordan Cove project would become the largest source of global warming pollution in the state.

FERC commissioners voted 2 to 1 to postpone a decision on federal approvals for the project after a string of permit denials from the state of Oregon. Commissioner Bernard McNamee said he needed an additional week to review the latest denial, issued by the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) one day prior to FERC’s vote.

Exposé Shows Rise of Heartland Institute’s Climate Denial Efforts Overseas, Using Dark Money and a YouTuber

Read time: 9 mins
Heartland Institute proposal

A recent German news report has shed light on the inner workings of the Heartland Institute’s international efforts to sow doubts about climate science using the dark money group Donors Trust. Part of those efforts include the climate science-denying organization touting its newest representative, a young German YouTube “influencer,” Naomi Seibt, whom Heartland markets as the deniers’ answer to breakout youth climate activist Greta Thunberg.

The U.S.-based Heartland Institute receives millions of dollars a year to fund its climate denial efforts and is looking to expand them in Germany, according to the undercover joint investigation by German outlets CORRECTIV and Frontal21.

Newly Revealed Emails Highlight Coziness and Favors Between Local Officials, Jordan Cove LNG Backers

Read time: 14 mins
Coos County Commissioner Melissa Cribbins testifies before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce

Emails exchanged between an Oregon county commissioner and Pembina, the parent company of the proposed $10 billion fossil fuel export terminal Jordan Cove, raise ethics issues and may create openings for legal challenges to key permits for the controversial Jordan Cove project.

The emails, obtained via an open records request by the Energy and Policy Institute and shared with DeSmog, appear to show contacts between Pembina officials and Coos County commissioners — communications that were not disclosed during public hearings. Oregon law generally requires communications with commissioners about a pending permit to be disclosed publicly, so that those from the other side can respond.