Mark Olalde

Reporter

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Mark Olalde is a reporter covering the environment in the Southwest. Before joining ProPublica, he wrote for The Desert Sun, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity. His investigations, which have taken him to numerous countries, have also been published in the Los Angeles Times, High Country News, USA Today and international outlets. Olalde's coverage of hidden cleanup liabilities in California's oilfields earned him the 2020 Stokes Award. His work on South Africa's abandoned mines prompted a parliamentary investigation and saw him recognized in 2017 as the country's top print reporter covering the environment.

Oil Companies Contaminated a Family Farm. The Courts and Regulators Let the Drillers Walk Away.

The oil and gas industry has reaped profits without ensuring there will be money to plug and clean up their wells. In Oklahoma, that work could cost more than $7 billion if it falls to the state.

Oil Companies Must Set Aside More Money to Plug Wells, a New Rule Says. But It Won’t Be Enough.

The new Bureau of Land Management regulation, which applies to nearly 90,000 wells on federal public land, is hampered by math errors and overly optimistic cost projections.

The Rising Cost of the Oil Industry’s Slow Death

Unplugged oil and gas wells accelerate climate change, threaten public health and risk hitting taxpayers’ pocketbooks. ProPublica and Capital & Main found that the money set aside to fix the problem falls woefully short of the impending cost.

The Future of the Colorado River Hinges on One Young Negotiator

J.B. Hamby, California’s representative in talks about sharing water from the Colorado River, holds the keys to a quarter of the river’s flow — and its future.

The 20 Farming Families Who Use More Water From the Colorado River Than Some Western States

Tens of millions of people — and millions of acres of farmland — rely on the Colorado River’s water. But as its supply shrinks, these farmers get more water from the river than entire states.

Western States Opposed Tribes’ Access to the Colorado River 70 Years Ago. History Is Repeating Itself.

Records unearthed by a University of Virginia professor shed new light on states’ vocal opposition in the 1950s to tribes claiming their share of the river. Today, many are still fighting to secure water.

“A Setup for Disaster”: California Legislation Requiring Companies to Pay for Oil and Gas Well Cleanup in Limbo

The bill, which awaits a decision by Gov. Gavin Newsom, follows ProPublica’s reporting on the multibillion-dollar cost to clean up California’s oil and gas industry and the exodus of major companies shifting ownership of thousands of aging wells.

The Colorado River Flooded Chemehuevi Land. Decades Later, the Tribe Still Struggles to Take Its Share of Water.

The Chemehuevi’s reservation fronts about 30 miles of the Colorado River, yet 97% of the tribe’s water stays in the river, much of it used by Southern California cities. The tribe isn’t paid for it.

Supreme Court Keeps Navajo Nation Waiting for Water

Decades of negotiations between the tribe and Arizona over water rights have proven fruitless. The court case was the Navajo Nation’s bid to accelerate the process and secure water for its reservation.

How Arizona Stands Between Tribes and Their Water

As it negotiates water rights with tribes, Arizona goes to unique lengths to extract concessions that limit tribes’ opportunities for growth and economic development, according to a ProPublica and High Country News investigation.

Las Vegas Needs to Save Water. It Won’t Find It in Lawns.

Drought-plagued Nevada pledged to do away with 3,900 acres of grass in the Las Vegas area within six years, but a ProPublica analysis found that the state grossly overestimated how much of that grass would likely be removed.

It Will Cost Up to $21.5 Billion to Clean Up California’s Oil Sites. The Industry Won’t Make Enough Money to Pay for It.

An expert used California regulators’ methodology to estimate the cost of cleaning up the state’s onshore oil and gas industry. The study found that cleanup costs will be triple the industry’s projected profits.

The Cold War Legacy Lurking in U.S. Groundwater

For the first time, ProPublica has cataloged cleanup efforts at the 50-plus sites where uranium was processed to fuel the nation’s nuclear arsenal. Even after regulators say cleanup is complete, polluted water and sickness are often left behind.

Big Oil Companies Are Selling Their Wells. Some Worry Taxpayers Will Pay to Clean Them Up.

Shell and ExxonMobil are selling their California wells despite oil selling at high prices. Experts say one reason is looming liability for environmental cleanup.

A Uranium Ghost Town in the Making

Time and again, mining company Homestake and government agencies promised to clean up waste from decades of uranium processing. It didn’t happen. Now they’re trying a new tactic: buying out homeowners to avoid finishing the job.

Help Us Report on Uranium Mining, Milling and Enrichment

Across the country, companies have been handing off uranium mills and disposal sites to the federal government. ProPublica wants to understand the process from all sides.

Utah Officials Called It the “Year of Water.” Special Interests Still Resist Conservation.

The nation’s fastest-growing and second-driest state had a banner year for water conservation as it plays catch-up to the rest of the West.

The Southwest’s Drought and Fires Are a Window to Our Climate Change Future

In a Q&A with ProPublica, experts describe how a new climate reality threatens the Southwest, the fastest-growing region in the U.S.

Why the Second-Driest State Rejects Water Conservation

Utah has some of the highest per-capita water use and is the fastest-growing state. Yet a powerful group that steers Utah’s water policy keeps pushing for costly infrastructure over meaningful conservation efforts.

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