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George Polk Award

George Polk Award

ProPublica’s Abrahm Lustgarten has been awarded the 2009 George Polk Award for Environmental Reporting

Submitted Articles

  • Natural Gas Drilling: What We Don't Know, December 31, 2009
    A recent culmination of 18-months of reporting where the vast learning that has taken place over the evolution of this series informed a concise overview of the most important issues.
  • Officials in Three States Pin Water Woes on Gas Drilling, April 26, 2009
    Published with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Albany Times Union, Denver Post, Scientific American (web), Mother Jones (web) and others. This investigation extended the previous story to examine underground aquifer contamination incidents and methane gas seeps into drinking water wells. Through anecdotes it showed that homes have exploded, people have died and tap water can be lit on fire. It showed that geological science is uncertain and explored scientific issues related to fracturing.
  • State Oil & Gas Regulators are Spread Too Thin to Do Their Jobs, December 30, 2009
    This story examined the budgets, enforcement and staffing levels at regulatory agencies for the 22 states comprising almost all the gas drilling in the U.S. and found that those states’ capacity to oversee drilling and enforce environmental regulations is decreasing, potentially allowing more pollution and more accidents, even while drilling activity is surging.
  • Energy Industry Sways Congress with Misleading Data, July 8, 2009
    Published in Politico, Albany Times Union, Scientific American (web) among others. The story examined the energy industry’s claims that drilling is safe and well regulated by states. It reviewed an onslaught of “studies” released in 2009 aimed at proving that drilling regulation was unnecessary and found that they were based on misleading data and that one Department of Energy Report was written by an industry consultant who admitted skewing the message. The story also examined regulatory oversight and found broad gaps in environmental protections.
  • Natural Gas Politics, May 26, 2009
    This story, which preceded hearings on the issue, revealed that House and Senate representatives both planned legislation to address the issues reported in our previous stories and to regulate hydraulic fracturing. The story explored industry’s public relations campaign to stop the regulation and pressure politicians not to support it.
  • Underused Drilling Practices Could Avoid Pollution, December 14, 2009
    Published in the Albany Times Union and others. The story examined a suite of best management practices proven to avoid pollution and save money, and found that states do not require any of them, meaning that solutions that would answer critics and allow drilling to proceed safely are often optional or ignored.
  • Is New York’s Marcellus Shale Too Hot to Handle?, November 9, 2009
    Published in the Albany Times Union, Scientific American and others.The story showed that fracturing and drilling waste water in New York State contained levels of radioactive substances thousands of times what federal guidelines allow, that they could threaten public health and could not be removed during water treatment, compounding the problem of finding water treatment options in New York State.
  • In New Gas Wells More Chemicals Remain Underground, December 27, 2009
    Published in Politico, the Albany Times Union, and others. The story revealed that industry disposes of 85 percent of drilling chemicals underground despite repeatedly claiming that almost all the chemicals are removed and thus are not considered “waste.” That claim was a key point when the EPA concluded in 2004 that fracturing was safe, and when Congress approved an exemption from federal environmental law for hydraulic fracturing in 2005.

Other Selected Articles in This Series

  • New York’s Gas Rush Poses Environmental Threat, June 22, 2008
    Published with WNYC Radio, the Albany Times Union, Scientific American (web) and others. This was the first news story to explain the rush to drill taking place in Eastern states and to introduce the potential risks from hydraulic fracturing, the process used to harvest the gas. The story addresses risks of water contamination, water disposal challenges, lack of regulatory oversight and industry secrecy.
  • Buried Secrets: Is Natural Gas endangering US Water Supplies? Nov. 13, 2008
    Published with The Denver Post, BusinessWeek, Scientific American (web) and others. This story was the first to examine nationwide water pollution from gas drilling. In it, we examined state records and uncovered at least 1000 cases of water pollution related to fracturing chemicals in seven states. We explored Richard Cheney and Halliburton’s influence on the EPA when the agency concluded fracturing was safe, and when industry argued for an exemption for fracturing from federal environmental law.
Photo by flickr user sparkieblues http://www.flickr.com/photos/sparkieblues/3971258497/

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