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.

How Trump’s EPA Is Moving to Undo Fracking Wastewater Protections

Scott Pruitt

Back in 2008, residents of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and surrounding areas received a notice in the mail advising them to drink bottled water instead of tap water — a move that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) internal memos at the time described as “one of the largest failures in U.S. history to supply clean drinking water to the public.”

The culprit: wastewater from oil and gas drilling and coal mines. This included fracking wastewater that state officials had allowed to be dumped at local sewer plants — facilities incapable of removing the complex mix of chemicals, corrosive salts, and radioactive materials from that kind of industrial waste before they piped the “treated” water back into Pennsylvania's rivers.

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As Rest of World Moves Towards Renewables, US Keeps Offering Exclusive Tax Breaks for Fossil Fuels

Solar panels and oil pumpjack

About a half decade ago, as the shale drilling rush was sweeping across the U.S., drillers needed upfront cash — and quick — to let them snap up acreage, drill and frack exploratory wells, and hone their skills at the horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) that fueled an oil and gas boom.

Bankers and financiers began attending shale industry conferences, marketing a clever idea. By dusting off an obscure part of the tax code, drillers and pipeline builders could attract a different class of investor than would usually look at a boom-and-bust prone industry, an investor hunting for stability and predictability. Form a Master Limited Partnership, or MLP, shale drillers and pipeline builders were advised, and you'll be able to access that capital.

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Low Octane: The Surprising Reason Shale Oil Makes a Poor Fuel for High-Tech Cars and Trucks

Gas pump

Shale oil, which the Energy Information Administration projects will represent a rising proportion of American oil supplies in the coming decades, has a surprising Achilles heel: its low octane levels, which make it a poor fit for the high-efficiency car engines of the future.

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Despite Disappointing Returns, Oil Driller Pushes Ahead with Fracking Near Rare Texas Wildlands

Balmorhea State Park with views of oil and gas well flares

If you ask the CEO of Apache Corp., his company made in 2016 the kind of once-in-a-lifetime find that every oil driller dreams of: a massive oil and gas field that no other company noticed, where thousands of wells could be drilled and fracked to produce massive amounts of fossil fuels — and, in theory, profits.

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For 15 Years, Energy Transfer Partners Pipelines Leaked an Average of Once Every 11 Days: Report

Bayou Bridge pipeline construction through Louisiana wetland

5,475 days, 527 pipeline spills: that's the math presented in a new report from environmental groups Greenpeace USA and the Waterkeeper Alliance examining pipelines involving Dakota Access builder Energy Transfer Partners (ETP). It's based on public data from 2002 to 2017.

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World May Hit 2 Degrees of Warming in 10-15 Years Thanks to Fracking, Says Cornell Scientist

Ingraffea

In 2011, a Cornell University research team first made the groundbreaking discovery that leaking methane from the shale gas fracking boom could make burning fracked gas worse for the climate than coal.

In a sobering lecture released this month, a member of that team, Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, Professor of Engineering Emeritus at Cornell University, outlined more precisely the role U.S. fracking is playing in changing the world's climate.

The most recent climate data suggests that the world is on track to cross the two degrees of warming threshold set in the Paris accord in just 10 to 15 years, says Ingraffea in a 13-minute lecture titled “Shale Gas: The Technological Gamble That Should Not Have Been Taken,” which was posted online on April 4.

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Climate Science Deniers Spring to Pruitt's Defense as Ethics Concerns, Calls for Resignation Mount

Scott Pruitt

Calls for Trump's climate-science denying Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt to resign are mounting, as the New York Times on Thursday published a detailed look at four high-ranking EPA staffers who were forced out of their jobs after objecting to Pruitt's spending habits and management of the agency.

Inside EPA, Pruitt lost the support of many long-time Trump associates, like Kevin Chmielewski, who pushed back against Pruitt's attempt to use taxpayer money on unlimited access to a private jet at a stunning $100,000 a month and $70,000 for two desks for Pruitt and his security team, one of which was to be “bulletproof.” Chmielewski was placed on unpaid administrative leave after objecting to Pruitt's plans for that luxury spending spree on the taxpayer's dime.

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From Scandals to Secrecy, the Curious Similarities Between Trump’s and Reagan’s EPA

EPA chief Scott Pruitt

The Environmental Protection Agency's chief, a science skeptic with a taste for luxury goods, entered office hellbent on slashing government red tape — but slowly became embroiled in scandal over alleged mishandling of government funds amid extraordinary efforts to keep the activities of a public agency secret.

Not Scott Pruitt, the Trump administration's current EPA chief: Anne Gorsuch Burford, who ran the EPA under Reagan from 1981 to 1983, and resigned after being cited for contempt of Congress following a scandal involving document shredding, secrecy, and the Superfund.

A year into Pruitt's tenure at EPA, some of the parallels between the two are striking.

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Energy CEO Says Fracking Build-out in New York Not Over, Wants Regulators to 'Lay Down and Approve Every Pipeline'

Crestwood natural gas compressor sign in Seneca Lake, New York

At a pipeline industry conference in Pittsburgh on January 31, Robert G. Phillips, CEO and President of Crestwood Equity Partners, offered an unusually candid perspective on pipelines, fracking, environmental regulations, and how industry plans to fight back against public opposition and permitting problems.

This past May, Crestwood announced that it was halting plans for a natural gas storage facility in the Finger Lakes region of New York following a three-year civil disobedience campaign by grassroots activists and environmentalists who feared contamination of Seneca Lake, which supplies drinking water to roughly 100,000 New Yorkers. But as Phillips told the conference, the company isn't backing off for good.

“Now, this is hand-to-hand combat in this region,” Phillips told the crowd of oil and gas company representatives at the pipeline conference, dubbed Marcellus Midstream 2018.

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Study Fills in Missing Data on Homes, Schools, Habitats at Risk from Shell’s Falcon Pipeline

Aerial view of the future site of the Shell ethane cracker plant in Beaver County, Pennsylvania

At the end of 2017, Shell ran slightly afoul of Pennsylvania state regulators after filing a pipeline permit application to the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that failed to show sensitive environmental areas in the path of its proposed Falcon ethane pipeline. Now, a concerned nonprofit has pieced together the details Shell should have included (and more), revealing hundreds of homes, schools, streams, and wetlands in the path of the fracking products pipeline.

The 97-mile Falcon Ethane project will carry more than 107,000 barrels a day of a flammable plastics precursor to a small town in Pennsylvania where Shell is building an ethane “cracker” facility. In a region poised to be transformed by petrochemical development, this huge plastics plant will superheat the ethane and “crack” it as it manufactures over a million tons per year of tiny plastic beads of ethylene or polyethylene.

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