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Environment

Series

The New Power Brokers

West Virginia’s Natural Gas

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

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.

Hell and High Water (Full Text)

Houston is the fourth-largest city in the country. It's home to the nation's largest refining and petrochemical complex, where billions of gallons of oil and dangerous chemicals are stored. And it's a sitting duck for the next big hurricane. Why isn't Texas ready?

Liquid Assets

A maverick hedge fund manager thinks Wall Street is the answer to the water crisis in the West.

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.

The ‘Water Witch’: Pat Mulroy Preached Conservation While Backing Growth in Las Vegas

Despite Pat Mulroy's conservation bona fides, Las Vegas' former water chief put the city's expansion above all else. Did she push Vegas past its limits? “I've had it right up to here with all this ‘Stop your growth,’” she says.

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.

Killing the Colorado: Explore the River

How the Colorado was turned into a giant plumbing system.

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.

Sharpening the Government’s Blurry Maps

The Senate may soon vote on legislation that would require FEMA to prepare more accurate maps before flood insurance rates can be raised.

Federal Flood Maps Left New York Unprepared for Sandy — and FEMA Knew It

The agency ignored state and city officials' appeals to update the maps with better data until it was too late.

What Happened After Congress Passed a Climate Change Law? Very Little

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has failed to set up a body that would make recommendations on how to deal with rising seas.

Using Outdated Data, FEMA Is Wrongly Placing Homeowners in Flood Zones

Homeowners have to bear the cost of fixing the agency's mistakes.

Why So Many Flood Maps Are Still Out of Date

A Q&A with Professor David Maidment on what makes today’s maps 10 times more accurate than the ones much of the country is still stuck with

Four Ways the Government Subsidizes Risky Coastal Rebuilding

Certain federal programs encourage developers to build and rebuild in areas that are increasingly vulnerable to flooding and hurricanes.

Without a Final Map, New York Rebuilds on Uncertain Ground

A 2012 law now puts over 67,000 New York City structures at risk of skyrocketing flood insurance rates. Can Bloomberg's ambitious plan save the city's coastal neighborhoods?

As Need for New Flood Maps Rises, Congress and Obama Cut Funding

Funding to update the nation’s decades-old flood maps has been cut in half in recent years, even as extreme weather has grown more frequent.

After Sandy, Government Lends to Rebuild in Flood Zones

A ProPublica/WNYC analysis shows the federal government has approved $766 million to rebuild in areas prone to flooding.

Why 58 Representatives Who Voted for Hurricane Katrina Aid Voted Against Aid for Sandy

Bills that passed almost unanimously in 2005 have run into trouble this time around.

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