Abrahm Lustgarten


Photo of Abrahm Lustgarten

Abrahm Lustgarten writes about climate change and works frequently with The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic and PBS Frontline, among others. His forthcoming book, “On The Move,” explores how climate change is uprooting American lives and where people will go.

Lustgarten’s recent reporting focuses on global migration, demographic change and conflict in response to a warming climate. His 2022 investigation into how the International Monetary Fund and global finance institutions have kept Barbados and other climate-vulnerable nations paralyzed by high levels of debt led in part to the introduction of the Bridgetown Initiative, a global effort to reform climate finance for developing countries crafted by Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley. In 2020 Lustgarten’s three-story cover series on a great climate-driven migration, published in partnership with the Times Magazine, helped prompt President Joe Biden’s formation of a climate migration study group and research report in the run-up to the COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

Lustgarten’s other investigations include an examination of the global palm oil trade, the climate drivers of pandemics and BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill (which led to the Emmy-nominated “The Spill” with Frontline, a project he worked on). His 2015 series examining water scarcity in the American West, “Killing the Colorado,” was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, received the top journalism honor from the National Academies of Sciences and was also the basis of the 2016 Discovery Channel film “Killing the Colorado,” which Lustgarten co-produced. His early investigation into fracking, starting in 2008, exposed one of the oil industry’s most dangerous legacies — its ongoing threat to America’s drinking water. The work received the George Polk award for environmental reporting, the National Press Foundation award for best energy writing and a Sigma Delta Chi award; it was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize.

Before joining ProPublica, Lustgarten was a staff writer at Fortune. He holds a master’s in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s in anthropology from Cornell, and was a 2022 Emerson Collective Fellow at New America. He is the author of two books: “Run to Failure: BP and the Making of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster” and “China’s Great Train: Beijing’s Drive West and the Campaign to Remake Tibet.”

What You Need to Know About the Water Crisis in the West

What led to the West's historic water crisis? What can be done to preserve the Colorado River? ProPublica explores the situation, at a glance.

Holy Crop: How Federal Dollars Are Financing the Water Crisis in the West

The federal subsidies that prop up cotton farming in Arizona are just one of myriad ways policymakers have refused to reshape laws to reflect water shortages throughout the Colorado River Basin states.

Holy Crop: How Federal Dollars Are Financing the Water Crisis in the West

The federal subsidies that prop up cotton farming in Arizona are just one of myriad ways policymakers have refused to reshape laws to reflect water shortages throughout the Colorado River Basin states.

Killing the Colorado: Explore the River

How the Colorado was turned into a giant plumbing system.

Progress and Controversy Arrive With New Rules for Fracking on Public Lands

An initial review of rules issued by the Interior Department shows the federal government has taken important steps to protect drinking water resources, while not adopting the strictest regulations in place in some states.

New York State Bans Fracking

After years of delays and debate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo decides risks outweigh rewards.

New York's Gas Rush Poses Environmental Threat

Chesapeake Energy Faces Subpoena on Royalty Payment Practices

The Justice Department's inquiry comes after a ProPublica investigation and years of complaints from landowners who say they have been underpaid for leasing land to the energy giant for drilling.

California Halts Injection of Fracking Waste, Warning it May Be Contaminating Aquifers

State’s drought has forced farmers to rely on groundwater, even as California aquifers have been intentionally polluted due to exemptions for oil industry.

Chesapeake Energy’s $5 Billion Shuffle

The energy giant raised the cash it needed to survive by slashing royalties it paid property owners to drill on their land.

Unfair Share: How Oil and Gas Drillers Avoid Paying Royalties

Income from oil and gas production doesn’t always trickle down to landowners, as companies find ways to minimize the share they pay in royalties.

EPA’s Abandoned Wyoming Fracking Study One Retreat of Many

When the Environmental Protection Agency abruptly retreated on its investigation into water contamination in a central Wyoming natural gas field recently, it shocked environmentalists and energy industry supporters alike. Industry advocates see the EPA’s turnabout as an overdue recognition that it had over-reached on fracking. Environmentalists see an agency systematically disengaging from any research into the safety of drilling.

After a Powerful Lobbyist Intervenes, EPA Reverses Stance on Polluting Texas County’s Water

The EPA changed its stance on an aquifer exemption needed for a uranium mining project in Goliad County, Texas, after prominent Democratic lobbyist Heather Podesta made entreaties to one of its top administrators

Land Grab Cheats North Dakota Tribes Out of $1 Billion, Suits Allege

Native Americans on an oil-rich reservation have been cheated out of more than $1 billion by schemes to buy drilling rights for lowball prices — and the federal government failed in its legal obligation to ensure a fair deal, lawsuits claim.

Update: State Oil and Gas Regulators Still Spread Thin

ProPublica updates its database of regulatory oversight in oil and gas producing states, adding data on agency budgets and wells used to inject waste.

Updated: State Gas Drilling Regulatory Staff Tracker

How big is the natural gas drilling regulatory staff in your state?

Message from Mexico: U.S. Is Polluting Water It May Someday Need to Drink

Mexico City is planning to draw drinking water from a mile-deep aquifer, challenging U.S. policy that water far underground can be intentionally polluted because it will never be used.

On a Wyoming Ranch, Feds Sacrifice Tomorrow's Water to Mine Uranium Today

A battle over uranium mining at Christensen Ranch, a remote 35,000-acre tract in Wyoming, could shape decisions nationwide as mining surges in drought-stricken areas.

Poisoning the Well: How the Feds Let Industry Pollute the Nation's Underground Water Supply

Even as water grows more precious, the Environmental Protection Agency has permitted oil and gas, mining and other industries to contaminate aquifers in more than 1,500 places, many of them in Western states stricken by drought.

Latest Sanction Against BP Goes Beyond Gulf Spill

The government's decision to at least temporarily ban BP from federal contracts is a result of not just the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill, but years of safety problems at the oil giant.

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