Here are the top InsideClimate News stories of 2014, hand-picked by our editors—a mix ofebooks, award-winners, most popular, long-form, short takes, graphics and video. Part 1:
Keystone and Beyond provides the most definitive account yet of the Keystone XL pipeline saga. It also upends the national debate over the pipeline by tracing its origins to policy decisions made by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in the first months of their administration, and to expectations about energy supply and demand that have turned out to be wrong.
Texas' air monitoring system is so flawed that the state knows almost nothing about the extent of the pollution in the Eagle Ford. Only five permanent air monitors are installed in the 20,000-square-mile region, and all are at the fringes of the shale play, far from the heavy drilling areas where emissions are highest.
The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is back in full force.
The U.S. House tried for the ninth time Friday to approve the project. It succeeded, though not by enough to override a presidential veto. The Senate's turn is this week.
Here are 23 stories, from an ebook to primers, that will help you navigate the polarized Keystone debate as it heats up—and all the issues on which it touches: our changing energy fortunes, global climate change, pipeline safety, activism and more.
"Keystone and Beyond provides the most definitive account yet of the Keystone XL pipeline saga. It also upends the national debate over the pipeline by tracing its origins to policy decisions made by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in the first months of their administration, and to expectations about energy supply and demand that have turned out to be wrong."
BROOKLYN, N.Y.—InsideClimate News and the Arkansas Times reached the fundraising target for their innovative reporting collaboration after a three-week campaign. Two reporters will soon be on the ground to investigate the causes and consequences of the Exxon pipeline spill in Mayflower, Ark. that occurred last Mar. 29.
The online fundraising effort that raised $26,790 was run on ioby.org, a non-profit crowdfunding platform. About 260 people contributed to the campaign with an average donation of approximately $100.
"It's inspiring to see readers take ownership of the First Amendment," said David Sassoon, publisher of InsideClimate News. "This is the first time we've tried crowdfunding, and we are quite gratified by the response."
BROOKLYN, N.Y.—InsideClimate News this week launched a campaign to raise funds for an innovative national-local reporting collaboration with the Arkansas Times that will investigate the causes and consequences of the Exxon pipeline spill in Mayflower, Ark. on Mar. 29. The campaign is being run on ioby.org, an innovative, non-profit crowdfunding platform.
"We are appealing to our readers to help crowdfund this effort and show that modest donations can have a cumulative impact to improve the public interest," said David Sassoon, publisher of InsideClimate News. "When legacy big media can’t cover an important story like this one and give it the attention it deserves, citizens can still take ownership of the first amendment and make sure democracy's job gets done."
As many as 40,000 protesters from 30 states descended on the White House on Sunday and demanded that President Obama kill the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. By the estimates of organizers, it was the biggest protest march for climate change action in the nation's history.
In about 18 cities from Boston to Los Angeles, thousands more participated in solidarity rallies—and helped garner unusual nationwide media attention for an issue that has typically slipped under the local media radar.
Mitt Romney has vowed to drill the nation's way out of its foreign oil addiction instead of investing in clean fuel technologies—but according to Dan Senor, one of Romney's closest political advisers, that's bad economics.
Senor's 2009 bestseller, "Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle," argues that economies geared toward advancing and adopting new technologies like oil-free cars will transform entire global industries. He says economies focused on traditional oil drilling will continue to generate short-term wealth, but at the cost of innovation.
"You look at some of these countries in the Arab world that are so dependent on oil ... They're being held back by so little innovation in those sectors," Senor said last year in a lecture at the University of Rochester. "The real economic growth is coming in biotech, medical devices, cleantech, greentech, IT."
Senor's argument calls into question the Romney campaign's claim that developing all U.S. carbon energy reserves would spawn an economic resurgence.
Editor's note: This version of the story adds comment from Koch Industries.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) today renewed his request that the House Committee on Energy and Commerce investigate the role of Koch Industries in the Keystone XL pipeline.
Waxman, the ranking minority member of the committee, made his request in a letter to committee chairmen Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.).
Waxman first asked for an investigation in May, when the committee was holding hearings on the Keystone XL, a controversial Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline that would allow as much as 830,000 barrels a day of a particularly dirty form of oil, locked up in Alberta's tar sands, to reach refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.
The controversy over the Kochs and the pipeline was sparked by an InsideClimate News report from February. That analysis, also published on Reuters.com and later cited by various news organizations, found that Koch Industries is deeply involved in the Canadian oil sands trade and is well positioned to benefit if more heavy crude is exported to the United States. The company denied the report, and Waxman subsequently made his own inquiries.
"When I first raised this issue in May, representatives from Koch denied any interest in the pipeline and Chairman Upton called the idea that there could be a link between Koch and the pipeline an 'outrageous accusation' and a 'blatant political sideshow,'" Waxman wrote in his letter. "Recently, however, I have become aware of evidence that appears to contradict the assertions of the Koch representatives and Chairman Upton."
Waxman cites legal papers that a Koch Industries subsidiary, called Flint Hills Resources Canada LP, filed with the Canadian government, recently uncovered by InsideClimate News, in which the company claimed "a direct and substantial interest" in the Keystone XL.
In recent months Koch Industries Inc., the business conglomerate run by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, has repeatedly told a U.S. Congressional committee and the news media that the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline has "nothing to do with any of our businesses."
But the company has told Canadian energy regulators a different story.
In 2009, Flint Hills Resources Canada LP, an Alberta-based subsidiary of Koch Industries, applied for—and won—"intervenor status" in the National Energy Board hearings that led to Canada's 2010 approval of its 327-mile portion of the pipeline. The controversial project would carry heavy crude 1,700 miles from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast.
In the form it submitted to the Energy Board, Flint Hills wrote that it "is among Canada's largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters. Consequently, Flint Hills has a direct and substantial interest in the application" for the pipeline under consideration.
To be approved as an intervenor, Flint Hills had to have some degree of "business interest" in Keystone XL, Carole Léger-Kubeczek, a National Energy Board spokeswoman, told InsideClimate News. Intervenors are granted the highest level of access in hearings, with the option to ask questions. The Energy Board approved Canada's segment of the pipeline with little opposition, and Flint Hills did not exercise its right to speak.
With reporting by Elizabeth McGowan
With the oil industry under the national spotlight, environmental advocates are pointing to a pair of recent oil spills to bolster their campaign against a much-disputed Alberta-to-Texas tar sands pipeline that could win U.S. approval by the end of the year.
When an Ecuadorian judge ordered Chevron to pay plaintiffs $8.6 billion last month for damages from oil contamination in the Amazon jungle after 18 years in the courts, environmental and indigenous people's advocates were euphoric.
Some hoped the time had finally come for larger environmental judgments against oil majors, widely derided for not paying the full costs connected to their oil spills.
But their hopes are fading. International arbiters at the Hague, Netherlands and a U.S. District Court in New York have separately blocked enforcement of the verdict. On March 11, Chevron appealed the Ecuador ruling. The appeals process could drag on for years, during which time no payment can flow.
The case is especially complex — it marks the first time a U.S. oil giant was held accountable in a foreign court for pollution overseas. But it raises a fundamental question about all court orders forcing energy companies to pay for spill cleanup and damages: Are they working?
The short answer is not as much, or as fast, as many would like.
A look at some of the biggest oil spills over the last three decades that led to litigation shows that most energy firms pay partial rewards but very few, if any, environmental damages; outcomes vary with no apparent rhyme or reason; and cases, which follow appeal after appeal, can take decades to litigate.