Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "environment" ...

  • Water's Edge--The crisis of rising sea levels

    Few subjects in the news stir as much controversy as climate change. In the U.S., the threat of rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the contribution of human activity to that threat, and even whether the climate is changing at all are fiercely debated and politically polarizing. Inconclusive science only further polarizes the issue. Lost in all the vitriol is one aspect of a changing environment that is not debatable: rising seas. Tidal waters worldwide have climbed an average of 8 inches over the past century. Yet the volume of journalism documenting rising seas as an immediate, observable phenomenon has been scant; more typically, news media have relied on extrapolations and predictions to create frightening scenarios far in the future. Reuters set out to change that in its series “Water’s Edge: the Crisis of Rising Sea Levels.” For this yearlong project, Reuters did its own science. We collected and analyzed vast stores of hard data and combined the results with on-the-ground reporting to produce stories unique in their treatment of rising seas not as a future threat, but as a troubling reality for millions of people living along the U.S. coast.
  • Exhausted at School

    Gaze out the windows of John Marshall Junior High in Seattle and you will see cars and trucks whizzing by on the busiest freeway in the state, Interstate 5. John Marshall is one of 28 public schools and more than 125 day cares that InvestigateWest has found built within 500 feet of Washington’s highest-traffic roadways. That’s close enough to put children’s health at risk, say health researchers. For “Exhausted at School,” InvestigateWest combined data from multiple state agencies and pored over dozens of academic studies to understand the threat of toxic pollution and its effect on kids’ health at school. Our reporting immediately spurred Seattle Schools officials to action: they added a new policy to issue air quality alerts to principals, and announced plans to upgrade a decades-old ventilation system at John Marshall. Officials in Olympia and Washington, D.C., considered and then rejected the notion of banning or severely restricting construction of schools inside the pollution plume, according to interviews and records obtained by InvestigateWest. Meanwhile, state officials do not enforce rules requiring day cares to be built on environmentally safe sites. So schools and day cares continue to be built in the danger zone around freeways, and children pay the price – years after the dangers were conclusively proven. “Exhausted at School” is a collaboration between InvestigateWest and KING 5 Television.
  • Boeing’s Lobbying Campaign

    “Boeing’s Lobbying Campaign" uses public records to trace how The Boeing Co.’s lobbying killed a long-overdue correction to an obscure but important formula used to determine how much water pollution is allowed under the Clean Water Act. The lobbying by a Boeing senior executive, InvestigateWest showed, reached all the way to Gov. Christine Gregoire. After the Washington Department of Ecology had withstood challenges to its plans to tighten the water-pollution rules from the powerful timber and business industries during the 2012 legislative session, Boeing had the juice to quietly short-circuit those plans a few months later. The company went around Ecology to the governor, as InvestigateWest’s timeline of documents and emails made clear. Our reporting was carried in newspapers around the state, sparking reporting and editorials by other news organizations on the previously low-profile issue. Environmentalists also cited the series in a lawsuit against the EPA. Because we elevated this issue into public consciousness, reporters were all over the story when Boeing again tried to delay the changes in the 2013 legislative session, nearly causing a government shutdown. A new draft rule tightening the standards is due out in March 2014.
  • Drilling for Billions

    This series of stories focuses on the potential economic boost and environmental impact of extracting oil from Monterey Shale in Central California. To explore the topic 17 News traveled to western North Dakota to examine the impacts of their shale revolution. Experts in the piece explain the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or fracking is used in shale booms. We explore the practice as it is done in California speaking with engineers on the forefront of exploration. According to industry, KGET is the only station ever allowed to speak with Central California industry engineers about the widely talked about oil completion practice used everyday in our community. 17 News was also granted unprecedented access to AERA Energy's exploration department taking a look at information even those in the industry are not privy to.
  • The Congressman, the Safari King, and the Woman Who Tried to Look Like a Cat

    The specific focus of this series was the International Conservation Caucus Foundation and the lawmakers, polluting corporations, and environmental groups who benefit from it. The political genius of the foundation is that it has allowed ICCF member companies such as ExxonMobil to greenwash their reputations by funding ICCF member nonprofits, such as the Nature Conservancy. Meanwhile, corporate and nonprofit contributions to the foundation paid for "educational" lunches, dinners, galas and junkets, giving foundation members access to grateful members of Congress. These events -- and the foundation itself -- make a conscious effort to avoid discussing politically contentious topics like climate change, arguably the biggest conservation challenge of our time. The ICCF, which was founded by the former lobbyist of a Nigerian dictator who ordered the execution of nine nonviolent environmental protesters, is certainly notable in its own right. But what makes this series more important than a simple expose about a deeply conflicted foundation is that the ICCF is just one of many congressionally affiliated nonprofits that have popped up in part to skirt lobbying reforms instituted after the Jack Abramoff scandal. The most shocking thing about the ICCF and its ilk, according to government transparency advocates, is that most of what they are doing appears to be completely legal.
  • Toxic Legacy

    Employees of Technicoat, a metal coating company based in Fort Worth in the ‘70s and 80s, hired teenagers to dispose of industrial waste and harmful chemicals. None of the employees went through any kind of safety training or were given protective gear. Now many of the company’s former employees have either died from illnesses linked to chemical exposure or are currently battling illnesses that are likely related to being exposed to chemicals during their tenure at Technicoat. The story found that the city of Fort Worth and the Tarrant Regional Water District are still dealing with the environmental impact of the company’s illegal chemical dumping – sometimes down storm drains, in holes dug in the ground, or straight into the Trinity River – as the area that housed the Technicoat plant is being redeveloped. It also discovered that the company blatantly disregarded federal safety standards and was fined multiple times by different federal, state, and local agencies for environmental and safety violations.
  • Jacuí - Crime and Agony

    Illegal Dredging practiced in Rio Jacuí between Porto Alegre and Rio Pardo proves the inefficiency of environmental agencies in protecting the natural resources of the State. During the journalistic investigation, 19 flagrant vessels not comply the terms of the Operating Licenses (LO), issued by the State Environmental Protection Foundation (Fepam) were performed. The main crime is the removal of sand on forbidden places in licensed areas, disobeying, for example, the minimum of 50 meters away from the shores and causing terrible environmental damage.
  • Merchants of Meth

    I exposed a concerted and well-funded campaign by the country’s leading pharmaceutical companies to defeat bills in Congress and state legislatures that were aimed at stopping the spread of toxic methamphetamine labs. At issue? Pseudoephedrine sales. The popular decongestant is the one key ingredient needed to make homemade meth. It also generates revenue for major pharmaceutical firms such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck of more than $600 million a year. Fuelled by easy access to pseudoephedrine, the number of meth labs in the United States has increased by more than 60 percent since 2007. Thanks in large part to pharmaceutical industry lobbying, there has been no federal legislation to address the spread of meth labs since 2005. In 2006, Oregon successfully moved to restrict meth cooks’ access to pseudoephedrine by making it a prescription drug, despite heavy lobbying against the bill from the pharmaceutical industry. Since then, the number of meth labs in the state has fallen drastically—by more than 90 percent. Faced with the mounting social, law enforcement, and environmental costs associated with meth, legislators in at least 25 other states sought to pass similar laws. But pharmaceutical lobbyists fought back, and in all but one state—Mississippi—the bills were defeated. My reporting examined how the industry has set state lobbying spending records as it has deployed a new kind of lobbying strategy to block regulation of pseudoephedrine. Instead of focusing their efforts on courting politicians, they have taken their message directly to voters, deploying thousands of robocalls in key electoral districts and large ad buys in major media markets for advertising across multiple platforms from radio to the Internet. Their messaging, I found, was deceptive, failing to even mention that the proposed bills had to do with combatting the meth epidemic. I also examined the results of an electronic pseudoephedrine sales tracking database known as NPLEx, which is meant to prevent excessive purchasing. While it’s the only reform to ever earn backing from the pharmaceutical industry, I found a system full of holes that has been ineffective at preventing the spread of meth labs in virtually every state that has adopted it.
  • Down the Drain

    On May 16, 2011, a 100-foot-long section of a 23-foot-tall concrete wall collapsed only five years after it was constructed at the Binghamton-Johnson City Joint Sewage Treatment Plant in Vestal, N.Y., one of the largest sewage treatment plants in upstate New York. A Press & Sun-Bulletin investigation detailed how mismanagement by public officials in charge of a $20 million project to construct a new secondary sewage treatment system that included the wall allowed it to spiral into a $160 million environmental and economic disaster, burdening taxpayers and the Susquehanna River for years to come.
  • Explosion at West

    Tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer at a central Texas plant exploded last April with the force of a small earthquake. The blast came just two days after the Boston Marathon and, in the national media, was overshadowed by events in the Northeast. While not the result of a terrorist attack, the explosion in West, Texas, was far larger and deadlier, and raised more significant public safety issues. In a series of investigative reports over eight months, The Dallas Morning News revealed that ammonium nitrate remains virtually unregulated by federal and state governments, despite its well-known explosive potential. (Timothy McVeigh used it in 1995 to blow up an Oklahoma City federal building.) Efforts to strengthen oversight have been blocked by industry lobbyists and government gridlock, The News found, even as the Pentagon sought bans on ammonium nitrate in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In pro-business, anti-regulation Texas, the federal government’s lax oversight meant no oversight at all. West Fertilizer Co. – scene of the disaster – violated almost every safety best practice. No state agency was charged with preventing an ammonium nitrate blast. There was no public registry of companies that handled the compound, even though many facilities are near homes and schools. Texas prohibits most counties from having fire codes and does not require facilities like West to obtain liability insurance. Gov. Rick Perry and other state politicians, who created this wide-open environment, washed their hands of the problem. They said West was a tragic accident that no amount of regulation could have prevented. The News’ findings, however, proved otherwise.