Pulitzer winning climate news

David Hasemyer

InsideClimate News reporter David Hasemyer is co-author of the Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You've Never Heard Of, which won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, was a finalist in the 2012 Scripps Howard Awards for Environmental Reporting and won an honorable mention in the 2012 John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism. Prior to joining InsideClimate News, he was a freelance journalist whose career included an award-winning tenure at the San Diego Union-Tribune as an investigative reporter. Hasemyer's work has been recognized by the Associated Press, the Society for Professional Journalists, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers and the California Newspaper Publishers Association. He has also been a finalist for the Gerald Loeb Award.

Among the articles Hasemyer researched and wrote for the Union-Tribune was a series about a 10-million ton pile of nuclear waste, a remnant of the uranium-mining boom in the 1950s and '60s that threatened the Colorado River. Those stories have been widely credited as critical to the U. S. Department of Energy's decision in 2000 to move the pile away from the river. Hasemyer graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism.

Articles

In Heavily Fracked Ohio County, Unsafe Levels of Toxic Pollutants

New study finds fracking releases cancer-causing chemicals into the air many times higher than the EPA considers safe.

May 20, 2015

Emissions generated by fracking operations may be exposing people to some toxic pollutants at levels higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for long-term exposure, according to scientists from Oregon State University and the University of Cincinnati.

The researchers took air samples in Carroll County, the home of 480 permitted wells––the most in any of Ohio's 88 counties. The team found chemicals released during oil and gas extraction that can raise people's risk of cancer and respiratory ailments.

Michigan's $75 Million Settlement with Enbridge Draws Praise, Questions

Critics say the money isn’t enough to make up for damage from the Kalamazoo spill, but state officials are pleased.

May 13, 2015

Oil pipeline giant Enbridge, Inc. has agreed to a $75 million settlement with the state of Michigan over the rupture of its line 6B that sent more than a million gallons of heavy crude oil into the Kalamazoo River nearly five years ago.

Resistance to Pipeline Bigger than Keystone Thwarts Enbridge in Wisconsin

Enbridge wants to triple the volume of oil it pumps through Dane County, which wants a $25 million safety net.

May 12, 2015

Pipeline giant Enbridge, Inc., is in a standoff with a Wisconsin zoning committee over the company's plans to vastly increase the amount of tar sands oil pumped through one of its lines.

In an unusual move, the Dane County Zoning and Land Regulation Committee slapped additional insurance requirements on Enbridge before letting it build a new high-capacity pump station along its Line 61.

Willie Soon Out of Headlines, but Still in the Crosshairs

Climate contrarian has already lost his biggest fossil fuel industry funding, and Harvard-Smithsonian and the IRS may soon weigh in.

May 4, 2015

In the two months since Wei Hock "Willie" Soon's life turned inside out, his job doing research for Harvard-Smithsonian has continued without major repercussions. But that could soon change.

Texas Family Still Waiting for $2.9 Million Fracking Verdict

A year after a jury found the Parrs were sickened by Aruba Petroleum's nearby wells, the appeal remains in limbo.

Apr 28, 2015

A year after a Texas jury awarded $2.9 million to a family who claims to have been sickened by gas and oil wells, the case remains in limbo because critical court documents needed for an appeal have not been prepared.

The landmark case is being anxiously watched by industry and environmentalists for the legal precedent it may set. The verdict, if upheld, would open the door to other lawsuits against industry by people living nearby oil and gas production, according to legal experts.

"There is a lot on the line in this case," said Thomas McGarity, a University of Texas law school professor who specializes in environmental and administrative law.

Last April, a Dallas County jury found that Aruba Petroleum "intentionally created a private nuisance" that affected the health of Bob and Lisa Parr and their daughter, Emma. The jury concluded the family was made sick by emissions generated by Aruba's 22 gas wells surrounding the family's ranch in Wise County, and awarded the damages.

The award appears to be the largest against the oil and gas industry in a lawsuit alleging that toxic air emissions sickened residents. Aruba, a Plano, Texas company, immediately appealed the decision.

Lisa and Bob Parr, with their daughter Emma, at the family's Decatur, Texas ranch. Credit: Lisa Parr

Amid California's Historic Drought, a Scientist Digs for Answers

A graduate student mines sediment in lake beds for clues to climate trends in droughts long past.

Apr 22, 2015

When Guleed Ali hikes the nooks and crannies of stream-sculpted canyons that lead to Mono Lake in central California, he often pauses to marvel at the landscape that spreads out before him.

He ponders the smooth blue lake that reflects the snow-capped Sierra Nevada and the limestone spires that reach skyward like fingers beckoning the birds.

But the young scientist looks beyond the grandeur. He also seeks clues to California's historic drought.

Since 2010, Ali, 28, has been studying sediment surrounding Mono Lake, which sits at the base of the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains and near the edge of Yosemite National Park, looking for evidence of past droughts found sandwiched in the layers of deposits that have been laid down over the ages.

Trekking the canyons that lead to Mono Lake, Ali has mapped layers of sediments far above its current shoreline and removed samples for analysis.

In the lab, Ali has begun analyzing the layers using sophisticated dating techniques that allow him to plot how the lake level has risen and fallen over 27,000 years. He will then use existing data of known carbon dioxide and methane levels along with solar radiation levels to determine the atmospheric conditions at the time each layer of sediment was deposited.

Ali, a Ph.D. candidate at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said he hopes the information will add to scientific understanding about what climate patterns influenced past California droughts and how those conditions may be contributing to present and future drought conditions. Understanding past periods of global warming can add context to the present drought, he said.

Fracking Waste Puts Public at Risk, Study Says

Three decades after EPA left regulation to states, they're still taking a 'see no evil' approach to oil-and-gas-waste, Earthworks says.

Apr 15, 2015

Weakness in state regulations governing hazardous oil-and-gas waste have allowed the leftovers to be disposed of with little regard to the dangers they pose to human health and the environment, according to a recent study by the environmental organization Earthworks.

The report says states disregard the risks because of a decades-old federal regulation that allows oil-and-gas waste to be handled as non-hazardous material. Those rules, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1988, exempted the waste from the stricter disposal requirements required of hazardous substances and allowed the states to establish their own disposal standards.

In its report, "Wasting Away: Four states' failure to manage gas and oil field waste from the Marcellus and Utica Shale," Earthworks studied rules governing disposal of the often toxic waste––and the gaps in those regulations in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

The organization, which is often criticized by the industry as being consistently biased, concludes the EPA was wrong when it applied the non-hazardous label to oil-and-gas waste.

"Drilling waste harms the environment and health, even though states have a mandate to protect both," said Bruce Baizel, co-author of the report and Earthworks' energy program director.

"Their current 'see no evil' approach is part of the reason communities across the country are banning fracking altogether. States have a clear path forward: if the waste is dangerous and hazardous, stop pretending it isn't and treat it and track it like the problem it is."

Disposal of oil-and-gas waste has generated little attention, yet it puts people at risk of exposure to chemicals including benzene, which can cause cancer. It has escaped scrutiny as a factor in air and water pollution and a possible contributor to the acceleration of climate change. 

Utility Giant Cuts Ties With Willie Soon

Southern Company supplied nearly $470,000 for research by climate contrarian affiliated with Harvard-Smithsonian, now conducting an ethics investigation

Apr 7, 2015

Controversial climate contrarian and Harvard-Smithsonian scientist Wei-Hock "Willie" Soon has one more report to complete for a giant utility company that has pumped nearly a half-million dollars into his highly disputed research before the company cuts his funding.

The Southern Company, which generates power for nine states––largely from coal––has decided it will no longer fund Soon's work, which claims the sun is the primary driver of global warming.

"Our agreement with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory expires later this year and there are no plans to renew it," Southern spokesman Jack Bonnikson said in an email.

Soon is obligated to deliver one final report––"Solar Activity Variation on Multiple Timescales"––by November. Then no more.

Southern's decision comes at a time when the company finds itself in the midst of a firestorm of controversy surrounding revelations that Soon failed to divulge that fossil fuel interests were a primary source of funding for 11 studies published in nine scientific journals beginning in 2008.

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