Environment

Series

The New Power Brokers

West Virginia’s Natural Gas Industry

Bombs in Our Backyard

Investigating One of America’s Greatest Polluters

Killing the Colorado

The Water Crisis in the West

Losing Ground

Southeast Louisiana is Disappearing, Quickly

After the Flood

The Challenge of Rebuilding as the Climate Changes

Injection Wells

The Hidden Risks of Pumping Waste Underground

Nuclear Safety

After Fukushima

Gulf Oil Spill

Investigating the Impact of the BP Spill

Fracking

Gas Drilling’s Environmental Threat

Stories

Inside the Trump Administration’s Chaotic Dismantling of the Federal Land Agency

Internal records from the Bureau of Land Management contradict what its chief told Congress about a plan to ship 200 D.C.-based career staff out West. The plan would weaken the agency, which stands between federal lands and oil, gas and mineral companies.

MIT Media Lab Kept Regulators in the Dark, Dumped Chemicals in Excess of Legal Limit

Documents and interviews show the Media Lab, already under fire for accepting contributions from Jeffrey Epstein, is being investigated for an apparent violation of state environmental regulations. They paused operations after we asked questions.

If Carbon Offsets Require Forests to Stay Standing, What Happens When the Amazon Is on Fire?

The emergency threatening part of the world’s largest rainforest is proof that offsets are too risky to count on to cancel out corporate pollution, and that the Amazon needs help without strings attached.

Proposed California Law Would Punish Companies for Failing to Limit Harm to the Planet’s Forests

The legislation could affect everything from what paper gets used in state offices to what gets served in California cafeterias.

When Fracking Companies Own the Gas Beneath Your Land

Natural gas companies have cut down forests and paved over farms on West Virginia private lands, calling it “reasonably necessary” to access subsurface gas they own the rights to. A new ProPublica documentary chronicles the legal battles.

A Resolution Condemning Pipeline Challengers Passed Easily. A Pipeline Lobbyist Wrote It.

A Dominion Energy lobbyist drafted the resolution and bought meals for its supporters in West Virginia’s legislature. He says there’s nothing unusual about it. The public wasn’t told.

California Legislators Urge Caution, but Greenlight a Plan That Could Lead to the Widespread Use of Forestry Offsets

Influenced by a ProPublica investigation, they emphasized the need for “vigorous and proactive monitoring,” noting concerns long voiced by scientists about the integrity of carbon credits.

United Nations Agency Criticizes Carbon Offsets

A senior official said ProPublica’s recent investigation contributed to questions raised about offsets, which the UN has long supported.

Fracking Companies Lost on Trespassing, but a Court Just Gave Them a Different Win

As conflicts continue between West Virginians and the state’s natural gas industry, complex legal cases are helping some residents, but not others.

Court to Big Fracking Company: Trespassing Still Exists — Even For You

In a key property rights decision, two West Virginia residents scored a rare victory from the state Supreme Court.

Una Verdad (Aún Más) Inconveniente Por qué los créditos de carbono para preservación forestal podrían ser peores que no tener nada

Las ansias por tener estas compensaciones nos ciegan a los alteros de evidencia crecientes que indican que estas no han entregado los beneficios climáticos prometidos, y que no lo harán.

These 4 Arguments Can’t Overcome the Facts About Carbon Offsets for Forest Preservation

Those trying to make them work reacted passionately about ProPublica’s investigation, which found they have failed to deliver the climate benefit they promise. Their arguments come up short.

Uma Verdade (Ainda Mais) Inconveniente: Por que créditos de carbono para preservar florestas podem ser pior do que nada

A corrida pela compensação de emissões está nos fazendo fechar os olhos para evidências cada vez maiores de que não tivemos — nem teremos — os benefícios prometidos.

An (Even More) Inconvenient Truth: Why Carbon Credits For Forest Preservation May Be Worse Than Nothing

How the hunger for these offsets is blinding us to the mounting pile of evidence that they haven't — and won't — deliver the environmental benefit they promise

New Jersey’s $300 Million Nuclear Power Bailout Is Facing a Court Challenge. Does It Have a Chance?

The state’s utility advocate said regulators should not have approved the subsidies for the energy company PSEG.

Nuclear Lobbying Power: N.J. Utility Customers Will Pay $300M in Subsidies

Regulators voted Thursday to approve subsidies, even though PSEG plants are “financially viable.”

In a Time of Cheap Fossil Fuels, Nuclear Power Companies Are Seeking — and Getting — Big Subsidies

Illinois and New York have approved hundreds of millions of dollars in clean-energy incentives for nuclear power companies. New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland could be next.

Residents Say Natural Gas Production Is Marring West Virginia. And the Legislature Isn’t Doing Anything About It.

Though studies recommended additional protections years ago, lawmakers have not taken action to put them in place. But when residents sued, a Supreme Court justice said it was the Legislature’s job.

A Guide to Every Permitted Natural Gas Well in West Virginia

For the first time ever, ProPublica and the Gazette-Mail used software to show over 5,000 permitted wells and the pads on which they sit. Here’s what they look like.

New Jersey Said 10 Years Ago It Would Rank Its Most Contaminated Sites. It Never Did.

The rankings were supposed to ensure that the most dangerous sites remained a priority even as the state gave private companies a bigger role in cleanups. Today, there are nearly 14,000 contamination sites across New Jersey and still no sign of the mandated rankings.

Large Natural Gas Producer to Pay West Virginia Plaintiffs $53.5 Million to Settle Royalty Dispute

As our investigation detailed, EQT Corp. had been accused of deducting a variety of unacceptable charges from natural gas royalty checks. The company says it wants to “turn over a new leaf” in its relationship with the state’s residents.

Scientists Call for Drastic Drop in Emissions. U.S. Appears to Have Gone the Other Way.

A report by a private research company found that U.S. emissions, which amount to one-sixth of the planet's, didn't fall in 2018 but instead skyrocketed. The 3.4 percent jump for 2018, projected by the firm, would be second-largest surge in greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. since Bill Clinton was president.

Powerless: What It Looks and Sounds Like When a Gas Driller Overruns Your Land

The gas rush is upending communities with traffic and noise, reshaping the way the state looks and sounds. Residents are often powerless to stop it.

California Knew the Carr Wildfire Could Happen. It Failed to Prevent it.

Dozens of interviews and a review of records show that virtually every aspect of the blaze had been forecast and worried over for years. Every level of government understood the dangers and took few, if any, of the steps needed to prevent catastrophe.

He is West Virginia’s Speaker of the House — and a Lawyer for Natural Gas Companies

State ethics rules seldom prevent lawmakers from proposing or voting on legislation that affects industries they work for.

A Hog Waste Agreement Lacked Teeth, and Some North Carolinians Say They’re Left to Suffer

Today, many farmers continue to store the waste in open pits despite the millions of dollars in private investment spent and years of research and political promises. The practice grows more hazardous with each hurricane that pounds the state.

Fuel to the Fire

How a U.S. law intended to reduce dependence on fossil fuels has unleashed an environmental disaster in Indonesia.

Photos: An Indonesian Village That’s Fighting for Its Life

In Bea Nehas, the small plots that homes are built on are in constant jeopardy of being burned to the ground and bulldozed. A sprawling plantation that surrounds the village produces huge volumes of palm oil.

Century-Old West Virginia Leases Yield Paltry Gas Royalties. A Suit Could Cut Others’ Payouts to a Trickle, Too.

Energy giant EQT is challenging a 36-year-old law that gives residents a bigger share of natural gas profits at a time when the industry is flourishing.

West Virginia’s Natural Gas Industry Keeps Pushing to Whittle Away Payments to Residents

Companies are deducting “post-production” costs or creating shell companies to reduce royalty payments. The firms say they have done nothing wrong.

“Jobs Alliance” Backed by Coal Giant Loses Bid To Stop West Virginia Natural Gas Plant

A group backed by Murray Energy has tried to block gas plants in West Virginia. The state Supreme Court rejected arguments against one plant, saying it will help the local economy.

Another West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Declines to Step Aside in Another Natural Gas Case

A lawyer who represented new Supreme Court Justice Evan Jenkins is on the legal team representing the natural gas giant Antero. The opposing side asked Jenkins to recuse himself, but he said no.

Another Court Ruling Against a West Virginia Pipeline, Then Another Effort to Change the Rules

A federal appeals court has revoked a key approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Now, state regulators are working to change the rules — again — so it can proceed.

“Jobs Alliance,” Funded by Trump Backer, Tries to Block Gas Plants That Would Bring Jobs to West Virginia

Murray Energy, one of the nation’s largest coal producers, is paying for lawyers trying to block natural gas plants that would support a growing industry.

“A Never-Ending Commitment”: The High Cost of Preserving Vulnerable Beaches

In the wake of hurricanes like Florence, the U.S. government pays to dump truckloads of sand onto eroding beaches, in a cycle that is said to harm ecosystems and disproportionately benefit the rich.

Congress Passes Measure to Protect Board that Monitors Nuclear Safety

The Energy Department had taken steps to curtail the reach and authority of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. New Mexico’s senators are fighting back.

Hurricane Florence’s Surge Is Expected to Hit Homes That Already Cost the Government Millions

The storm is pummeling coastal towns that are battling rising sea levels and have been repeatedly bailed out by federal flood insurance.

Potential Insurance Bill From Hurricane Florence Could Take Toll on Wallets Far From North Carolina’s Coast

Insurance companies retreated from some communities amid stronger storms, leaving a “last-resort” plan to fill the growing gap.

There Was a Plan to Save This City From Flooding. But When the Rains Came, So Did Hesitance.

The Army Corps of Engineers’ delay in activating a floodway — land designated to take on water — cost millions of dollars in damage to Cairo, Illinois, and surrounding communities in 2011.

How the Army Corps’ Hesitation Nearly Destroyed a City

When the worst flood in nearly a century hit Cairo, Illinois, in 2011, the Army Corps waited before following an emergency plan designed to save a city of 2,800 people. See how that week unfolded and the delays and indecision that cost millions in avoidable damage.

New Mexico Senators Speak Out Over Order They Say Would Hamper Nuclear Safety Board

They want Congress to suspend a move that would limit access to information about facilities and could hinder the panel’s ability to oversee worker health and safety.

Natural Gas Industry Again Beats a Tiny West Virginia County That Wanted to Control Its Destiny

A federal judge ruled that Fayette County must allow a natural gas compressor station, saying the federal Natural Gas Act takes precedence over local zoning rules.

Nuclear Safety Board Slams Energy Department Plan to Weaken Oversight

The Trump administration defended an order that could be used to withhold information about nuclear facilities from a federal board, but its leader says the action is not consistent with the U.S. Atomic Energy Act.

How One West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Gave Natural Gas a Big Victory and Shortchanged Residents

Justice Beth Walker voted to reopen an already decided case around the time her husband owned stock in a variety of energy companies. And that’s not even why she’s been impeached.

Defense Inspector General to Investigate Military’s Toxic Open Burning

The inquiry will evaluate whether the polluting practice is legal, and whether contractors have proper oversight.

What Happens When a Pipeline Runs Afoul of Government Rules? Authorities Change the Rules.

Federal authorities halted work on the massive Mountain Valley Pipeline this month after an appeals court ruled that federal agencies neglected to follow environmental protections.

Flood Thy Neighbor: Who Stays Dry and Who Decides?

One Missouri town’s levee saga captures what's wrong with America's approach to controlling rivers.

To See How Levees Increase Flooding, We Built Our Own

We ran water through a room-sized river model to show how levees can make flooding worse. Try it yourself.

How “Levee Wars” Are Making Floods Worse

High levees come at a high cost, often pushing water into communities that can’t afford the same protection. To demonstrate, we built a giant, scientific model of a river with levees — complete with adorable tiny houses.

Undercooked: An Expensive Push to Save Lives and Protect the Planet Falls Short

Millions of lives were at stake. Hillary Clinton was on board. Money poured in. And yet the big aims behind an effort to tackle the plague of third-world cooking fires has produced only modest gains.

How the EPA and the Pentagon Downplayed a Growing Toxic Threat

A family of chemicals — known as PFAS and responsible for marvels like Teflon and critical to the safety of American military bases — has now emerged as a far greater menace than previously disclosed.

Suppressed Study: The EPA Underestimated Dangers of Widespread Chemicals

The CDC has quietly published a controversial review of perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, that indicates more people are at risk of drinking contaminated water than previously thought.

West Virginia Paid for a CEO to Go on a Trade Delegation to China. Turns Out, He Was Promoting His Company’s Interests, Too.

An executive accompanied state officials to China for a ceremony with President Donald Trump to sign a landmark deal last year. He also pushed his company’s interests, which the governor said Friday was not acceptable.

Congress Aims to Force Pentagon Reform on Open Burning of Munitions

A provision of the latest proposed defense spending bill mandates that the Department of Defense address one of its longstanding and dangerous sources of pollution.

Two Leading Bidders for Lucrative Los Alamos Lab Contract Have Checkered Safety Records

Defense contractor Bechtel and the University of California are in the running even though they have run the lab as partners for the last decade and amassed a record of worker health and safety violations.

Get an Inside Look at the Department of Defense’s Struggle to Fix Pollution at More Than 39,000 Sites

For the first time, the Pentagon’s internal database used to track its environmental problems is available to the public.

Climate Change and Vulnerable Communities — Let’s Talk About This Hot Mess.

In my first episode of this PBS Digital Studios show, I dissect why minorities and disadvantaged people will face bigger consequences in a warming world.

The Coal Industry Extracted a Steep Price From West Virginia. Now Natural Gas Is Leading the State Down the Same Path.

“It’s déjà vu for the people who sat here 130 years ago and gave away our coal wealth to big out-of-state companies,” one state senator said. “That’s what we’re about to do again.”

Canary in the Coal Pond

New reports provide an unprecedented look at contaminants leaking from coal ash ponds and landfills. But the chasm between information and environmental protection may deepen thanks to a proposed Trump administration rollback.

New Model Shows Towns on the Wrong Side of an Illinois Levee District Are Treading Water

By building up their own flood protections, some communities have ensured they would be less affected by future floods, while their neighbors would fare worse.

Inside a Secretive Lobbying Effort to Deregulate Federal Levees

The effort seeks to undermine federal rules meant to prevent “levee wars” — where communities race to boost their own flood protection at the expense of their neighbors.

How Overbuilt Levees Along the Upper Mississippi River Push Floods Onto Others

A new analysis of government data shows how levee districts that have raised their levees without federal permits would be better protected against future flooding, while those that follow the rules would see extra flooding.

The Six Stages of Trump’s Resistance

When state regulators tried to get the future president to address a few environmental problems on two golf courses some years ago, little did they know they’d be treated to a multi-year lesson in how he handles regulatory challenges.

Canadian Research Adds to Worry Over an Environmental Threat the Pentagon Has Downplayed for Decades

A study released late last year gives environmental experts a way to quantify how much RDX, a chemical used in military explosives, is spreading into surrounding communities.

Long Story Short

An annotated history of the 30-year fight over a single polluted Air Force base.

War at Home

Unexploded ordnance. Open burns of munitions. Poisoned aquifers. Of all the military’s environmental hazards, the explosive compound RDX may be the greatest threat to America’s health.

Brain Drain At the EPA

Some 300 scientists and environmental protection specialists have departed the agency during the Trump administration.

The Billion-Dollar Loophole

The most generous charitable deduction in the federal tax code is being manipulated to make big profits — and there’s no sign that Congress has any intention of fixing the problem.

What It’s Like Inside the Trump Administration’s Regulatory Rollback at the EPA

The fate of a rule more than a decade in the making is a microcosm of larger changes afoot.

The Bomb That Went Off Twice

The explosive compound RDX helped make America a superpower. Now, it’s poisoning the nation’s water and soil.

Buyouts Won’t Be the Answer for Many Frequent Flooding Victims

Even after Hurricane Harvey, the best efforts by Harris County officials to purchase the most flood-prone homes won’t make a dent in the larger problem — worsening flooding, and a buyout program that can’t keep up.

Book Review: The Ordeal of Appalachia

A new account challenges our notion of how the people of Appalachia “acquired civilization and then lost it.”

FEMA Had a Plan for Responding to a Hurricane in Puerto Rico — But It Doesn’t Want You to See It

The disaster-relief agency, under fire after Hurricane Maria, won’t release the plan, even as a comparable document for Hawaii remains public.

Everyone Knew Houston’s Reservoirs Would Flood — Except for the People Who Bought Homes Inside Them

Despite concerns about flooding in and around the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, government officials prioritized development.

How Military Outsourcing Turned Toxic

Fraud. Bribery. Incompetence. The military’s use of contractors adds to a legacy of environmental damage.

Independent Monitors Found Benzene Levels After Harvey Six Times Higher Than Guidelines

After an oil tank in Houston’s Manchester neighborhood caved in, private monitors found levels that far exceeded California’s health guideline

Rethinking the ‘Infrastructure’ Discussion Amid a Blitz of Hurricanes

Several experts on climate and resilience talk about the role of government. “Viewed correctly, sensible safeguards are part of freedom, not a retreat from it.”

How the Truth Can Get Damaged in a Hurricane, Too

The recent monster storms have kicked up a fair amount of falsehoods. We talk with a reporter trying to hold on to the facts.

Development and Disasters — A Deadly Combination Well Beyond Houston

Scientists warn of more and expanding “bull’s-eyes” as Americans build in parts of the country at ever greater risk because of climate change and severe weather.

Houston’s Dams Won’t Fail. But Many Homes Will Have to Be Flooded to Save Them

The water that goes around the spillways is going to have to leave the reservoir somehow — and enter areas surrounding it.

Trump Has Broad Power to Block Climate Change Report

Influential advisers press the Trump administration to subject a draft climate change report to a “red team” review that many scientists decry as misplaced.

Dangerous Pollutants in Military’s Open Burns Greater Than Thought, Tests Indicate

The first results in a national effort to better measure the levels of contaminants released through the burning of munitions and their waste show elevated levels of lead, arsenic and other toxins.

Has the Moment for Environmental Justice Been Lost?

Facing Trump’s proposals for cutting programs that help minorities and the poor, Democrats scramble to make up for missed opportunities to protect them.

Kaboom Town

The U.S. military burns millions of pounds of munitions in a tiny, African-American corner of Louisiana. The town’s residents say they’re forgotten in the plume.

In Colfax, Echoes of Another Conflict

A photographer who covered the war in Iraq appreciates how threats can come to seem routine.

One Year, One Facility, 1.7 Million Pounds of Hazardous Waste Burned in Open Air

Explore every shipment of hazardous waste sent to Colfax in 2015 and was burned or detonated into open air.

Open Burns, Ill Winds

The Pentagon’s handling of munitions and their waste has poisoned millions of acres, and left Americans to guess at the threat to their health.

Toxic Fires

Across the Country, Military Sites Burn Hazardous Waste Into Open Air

In Flint Water Crisis, Could Involuntary Manslaughter Charges Actually Lead to Prison Time?

Prosecutors will try to prove five Michigan officials were responsible for a Legionnaires’ death because they knew about the problem, but failed to warn the public. Similar cases of environmental disasters have not resulted in convictions, but there are reasons Flint could break the mold.

There Are Lots of Climate Uncertainties. Let’s Acknowledge and Plan for Them With Honesty.

A New York Times column on the climate set off yet another dangerous tempest of exaggeration and simplification.

As One of Its Chief Sources of Water Dries Up, California Eases Restrictions on Use Nonetheless

A single relatively wet winter has led California officials to relax in a way some water experts fear is reckless.

Drought be Dammed

The water crisis in the West has renewed debate about the effectiveness of major dams, with some pushing for the enormous Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River to be decommissioned.

‘We’re Sitting Ducks’

Houston, home to millions of people and one of the largest shipping lanes in the world, is unprepared for the hurricane that could bring ecological and economic disaster.

Less Than Zero

Despite decades of accepted science, California and Arizona are still miscounting their water supplies.

How Much Water Does the West Really Have?

As America’s west has waged its battle against water scarcity, some of its officials have been miscalculating to some degree just how much water is actually available. If states in the West keep managing water this way, we risk a water crisis even worse than we fear.

Picturing the Drought

Documenting the water crisis in the West, a photographer confronts distress, beauty and man’s complicity.

End of the Miracle Machines: Inside the Power Plant Fueling America's Drought

The Navajo Generating Station helps move trillions of gallons of water over mountains, through canals, 336 miles into Phoenix and Tucson. But it comes at an enormous cost.

A Wonder in Decline

The disappearing Lake Powell in pictures

Use It or Lose It: Across the West, Exercising One’s Right to Waste Water

“Use it or lose it” clauses give farmers, ranchers and governments holding water rights a powerful incentive to use more water than they need.

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, While Water Supplies Last

How 40 years of unchecked growth may eventually bust Las Vegas’ water supply.

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