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" ...

  • Lobbyist in the Henhouse

    Lobbyist in the Henhouse is the product of a stunning seven-month investigation into what happens when an industrial lobbyist is hired to serve as Maine's top environmental official. Colin Woodard, a 2012 Polk winner, carefully documented how Patricia Aho, a corporate lobbyist who became commissioner of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, smothered programs and fought against laws that she had opposed on behalf of her former clients in the chemical, drug, oil and real estate development industries.
  • There Will Be Diatomaceous!

    In this series of coverage, Mission and State looks at Santa Barbara’s love-hate relationship with oil. As the country dives deeper and deeper into the enhanced-extraction oil boom, Santa Barbara grapples with what to do with the vast oil reserves waiting to be tapped in the North County and offshore. These stories delve into the fractured local oil politics, the strange bedfellows oil development can make of environmentalists, oil companies and politicians, the environmental and developmental legacies informing current debates, the missed opportunities for environmental concessions and the campaign contributions putting politicians in compromising positions. These stories paint the picture of a county in an almost schizophrenic political and cultural dance with itself. During the course of researching and reporting this series, it was revealed that Air Pollution Control District advisory board member and Lompoc City Councilmember Ashley Costa also worked in public relations for Santa Maria Energy, an obvious conflict of interest. Reporter Karen Pelland discovered that the president of a company proposing to slant drill from Vandenberg Air Force Base to get to the vast Tranquillon Ridge offshore reserve made significant political contributions to now-Congressman John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek). Garamendi had previously scuttled a deal between environmentalists and PXP oil company for the same reserve that was hailed as a landmark proposal at the time.
  • Failures in the Golden State

    The Department of Toxic Substances Control oversees or has some part in regulating everything from nail polish ingredients to oil refineries, radioactive waste to metal recycling in California. At the heart of our series is the story of a department that’s divided, dysfunctional, and ineffective in fulfilling its mission to protect public health and the environment of the Golden State. We sifted through hundreds of pages of reports, memos, reviews, manifests and legal claims. We also analyzed thousands of records in the department’s hazardous waste tracking system to find out that more than 40% of the hazardous waste manifests in the DTSC’s database contain inaccurate information or are missing key details. Our reporting has held leaders accountable at the DTSC and compelled state lawmakers to call for an investigation of the department, including a legislative hearing this month (January 2014). Through a series of public records requests, we found out some of the department’s top leaders were investing in companies the DTSC oversees. Our reporting into the potential financial conflicts of interest prompted an investigation into deputy director Odette Madriago by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). Ms. Madriago resigned from her position six weeks after our report aired. The FPPC investigation remains ongoing.
  • Controversial uranium mining plan

    In their two-day Journal Special Report, reporters Joe O'Sullivan and Daniel Simmons-Ritchie took a hard look at a controversial plan to resume uranium mining in South Dakota. The mining, through a process known as "in situ," is generally regarded as a cleaner and more environmentally friendly way to recover uranium. But this five-piece series revealed a host of problems at in-situ mines across the region that contradict the claims made by the company, Powertech Uranium Corp., that wants to do the mining. The stories also documented how the state of South Dakota -- through legislation curtailing mining regulations and administrative easing of other regulations -- has helped pave the way for the return of mining. By combing through Canadian securities documents, the reporters also revealed the history of Powertech Uranium Corp., which has never before operated a mine.
  • Hanford's Dirty Secrets

    “Hanford’s Dirty Secrets” exposed mismanagement, wasted tax dollars and a cover-up by government officials and private contractors at the country’s most contaminated site -- the Hanford Nuclear Reservation located in Washington state -- where the most complex environmental cleanup effort in human history is underway. The liquid and solid waste housed at Hanford is dangerously radioactive and toxic, and any leak has the potential to pose serious threats to human and environmental health throughout the Pacific Northwest. The federal government produced plutonium at Hanford for the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan and for the U.S. nuclear arsenal throughout the Cold War. This production left behind millions of gallons of cancer-causing nuclear byproducts, much of which remains stored in aging underground tanks at Hanford. KING’s reporting showed that the government contractor in charge of the tanks ignored signs of leaking nuclear waste for nearly a year while the company collected millions in bonus money from the Dept. of Energy for its "very successful" stewardship of the waste holding tanks. In addition, we revealed that during the year the contractor failed to address the leak, the company wasted millions of taxpayer funds on a project rendered useless by the very fact that the tank was leaking
  • The Battle of Belo Monte

    In the Brazilian state of Pará, an army of 25,000 workers is building the world’s third largest hydroelectric plant, a controversial construction project –because of the dam’s low efficiency, its environmental impact and its effects on the Indians, riverbank-dwellers and the inhabitants of Altamira. Folha’s reporters spent three weeks in the region to put together the most comprehensive coverage –with 24 videos, 55 pictures, and 18 infographics– of the country’s largest infrastructural investment. The pros and cons of the dam are presented in five chapters: Construction; Environment; Society; Indigenous Peoples; History.
  • Green, Not So Green

    The AP spent 11 months examining the hidden environmental costs of the nation’s green-energy boom: undisclosed eagle deaths at wind farms; untracked loss of conservation lands and native prairies created by the ethanol mandate; and the government’s unadvertised support of more oil drilling with money to clean up coal-fired power plants. All energy has costs, and in the case of fossil fuels those costs have been well documented. But when it comes to green energy, the administration, the industry, and environmentalists don’t want to talk about. The AP series shows how the Obama administration has at times looked the other way and in other cases made environmental concessions for so-called green energy to make headway in its fight against global warming.
  • Blowouts, leaks and spills from the drilling boom

    The oil and gas industry doesn't like to talk about its environment and safety record beyond bland assertions that safety is a top goal. But drillers cause more than 6,000 spills each year. Until our investigation, no one had put a figure on it. The records are scattered amid databases, websites and even file drawers of state agencies across the country. EnergyWire spent four months assembling the data for the most comprehensive report yet on the spills that flow from the nation's oil and gas boom.
  • Farmers vs. fish: Wisconsin's groundwater crisis

    Across central Wisconsin, in a region known as the Central Sands, residents have watched water levels in lakes and small streams drop for years. In a state with about 15,000 lakes and more than a quadrillion gallons of groundwater, it is hard to believe that water could ever be in short supply. Experts say, however, that the burgeoning number of so-called high-capacity wells mostly for irrigated agriculture, is drawing down some ground and surface water.
  • Brownfield Cleanups

    An investigation into a Missouri incentive program for brownfield redevelopment found that for several years, an environmental firm and major political donor was hired for all taxpayer-funded cleanups without public competitive bidding, and was typically allowed to operate as consultant and contractor. For the taxpayer-funded cleanup of an abandoned mall near St. Louis, the firm vastly overestimated quantities of hazardous waste, helping the developer secure more than $7 million in brownfield tax credits, and hired itself for the job. The firm told the state it was the low bidder for asbestos removal even though one of the bids came in lower. The program is now under investigation by the state auditor, and the state has delayed issuing the tax credit and reduced the maximum amount that could be paid by $288,000.