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A customer browses through paint stripper options at a Lowe's store in Glen Burnie, Maryland in 2015. Jamie Smith Hopkins / Center for Public Integrity

Lowe's Says It Will Stop Selling Deadly Paint Removers

By Jamie Smith Hopkins

Home-improvement giant Lowe's is phasing out paint-removal products with methylene chloride, responding to petitions in the wake of deaths caused by the chemical.

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Paint strippers containing methylene chloride line shelves in home-improvement stores across the country. Jamie Smith Hopkins / Center for Public Integrity

EPA Once Planned to Ban a Deadly Paint-Stripping Chemical, But Will It Follow Through?

By Jamie Smith Hopkins

It might be surprising to learn that simply removing paint could be fatal, but the key ingredient in many paint-stripping products has felled dozens of people engaged in this run-of-the-mill task. In the waning days of the Obama administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to largely ban paint strippers containing the chemical methylene chloride so they would no longer sit on store shelves, widely available for anyone to buy.

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Climate
Smoggy downtown Houston. Kyle Jones / Flickr

Most EPA Pollution Estimates Are Unreliable, So Why Is Everyone Still Using Them?

By Rachel Leven

Engineer Jim Southerland was hired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1971 to join the nascent war on air pollution. He came to relish the task, investigating orange clouds from an ammunition plant in Tennessee and taking air samples from strip mines in Wyoming. Among his proudest accomplishments: helping the agency develop a set of numbers called emission factors—values that enable regulators to estimate atmospheric discharges from power plants, oil refineries, chemical plants and other industrial operations.

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt visited the USS Lead Superfund in East Chicago, Indiana. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency / YouTube

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Scott Pruitt's Dysfunctional EPA

By Rachel Leven

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt doesn't hide his contempt for how the agency has been run, but does profess to care about one of its key programs: Superfund, which oversees the cleanup of the nation's worst toxic-waste sites. In April, he toured a site in East Chicago, Indiana, contaminated with lead and arsenic, and told residents, "We are going to get this right."

The following month, Pruitt—Oklahoma's attorney general before he joined the EPA—tapped one of his former donors, banker Albert "Kell" Kelly, to find ways to accelerate and improve Superfund cleanups. Kelly started by consulting career staff members —often-knowledgeable officials who work at the agency regardless of who holds the White House. But then Kelly closed off the process, conferring with Pruitt to produce a final plan that altered or excluded many of the staffers' suggestions. Gone, for example, was the idea that EPA officials be identified early on to lead discussions with communities on how contaminated land should be used after cleanup.

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New York City lights up green to stand for the Paris agreement. C40 Cities

These Companies Support Climate Action, So Why Are They Funding Opposition to It?

By Rachel Leven and Jamie Smith Hopkins

The international climate-fighting pact would create jobs, Google said. Leaving the deal known as the Paris accord would be bad for business, top executives from Bank of America and Coca-Cola argued. When President Donald Trump committed to yanking the U.S. out anyway, PayPal and Western Union countered "We are still in."

These corporate titans and at least 22 others were among those who sought to preserve the U.S.' role in the landmark Paris agreement ratified by about 160 countries. So why exactly would these 27 business powerhouses also support a GOP group that's fought to undo a key Obama-era domestic climate initiative?

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vimeo.com

63 Million Americans Were Exposed to Potentially Unsafe Water in the Past Decade

By Agnel Philip, Elizabeth Sims, Jordan Houston and Rachel Konieczny

As many as 63 million people—nearly a fifth of the country—from rural central California to the boroughs of New York City, were exposed to potentially unsafe water more than once during the past decade, according to a News21 investigation of 680,000 water quality and monitoring violations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The findings highlight how six decades of industrial dumping, farming pollution and water plant and distribution pipe deterioration have taken a toll on local water systems. Those found to have problems cleaning their water typically took more than two years to fix these issues, with some only recently resolving decades-old violations of EPA standards and others still delivering tainted water, according to data from the agency's Safe Drinking Water Information System.

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Energy company filings (shapefile), Energy Information Administration. Leanne Abraham, Alyson Hurt and Katie Park/NPR

Thousands of Miles of Pipelines Enrage Landowners, Threaten the Future of Our Planet

By Kristen Lombardi and Jamie Smith Hopkins

They landed, one after another, in 2015: plans for nearly a dozen interstate pipelines to move natural gas beneath rivers, mountains and people's yards. Like spokes on a wheel, they'd spread from Appalachia to markets in every direction.

Together these new and expanded pipelines—comprising 2,500 miles of steel in all—would double the amount of gas that could flow out of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. The cheap fuel will benefit consumers and manufacturers, the developers promise.

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Big Oil's Pipeline Into American Schools

By Jie Jenny Zou

Jennifer Merritt's first-graders at Jefferson Elementary School in Pryor, Oklahoma, were in for a treat. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, the students gathered in late November for story time with two special guests: state Rep. Tom Gann and state Sen. Marty Quinn.

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Alabama Power's James H. Miller Jr. Electric Generating Plant. Eric Chaney / weather.com

What You Should Know About America’s Biggest Greenhouse Gas Polluter

By Elizabeth Hernandez and Eric Chaney

Up close, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the U.S. isn't as big as you'd expect it to be. From most angles, you can't even see it until you're right on top of it.

But hit the right gap in the rolling hills of north-central Alabama, and the James H. Miller Jr. Electric Generating Plant looms large even from miles away. Nestled on about 800 acres on the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River, the plant is one of Alabama Power's coal-burning workhorses, putting out enough electricity to power about a million homes. It virtually never stops running—and never stops producing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

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