12 Investigative News Stories of 2016 Exposing Corporate Greed
By Ashley Braun
From fake news to phony Twitter support, 2016 was dominated by plenty of falsities surrounding climate change and energy development. DeSmog remains dedicated to uncovering this misinformation—and disinformation—clouding the national conversation on climate change.
We've put together a list of 12 of our most important and influential stories covering these issues from the last year.
In addition to shining a light on what's false, we also seek to reveal what's true: the enduring dark money influence of the Koch brothers, the international military ties of the firms policing the Dakota Access Pipeline, the differences between the trains carrying ethanol and the "bomb trains" carrying oil.
We also keep close tabs on the individuals and organizations that have helped to delay and distract the public and our elected leaders from taking needed action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and fight global warming (though sometimes those are our elected leaders).
Dive into some of our biggest stories of 2016 below.
One of America's most outspoken deniers of the link between fossil fuel burning and global warming—Marc Morano of the conservative think tank the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow—has refused $20,000 in bets that the planet will keep getting hotter.
Nineteen U.S. Senators who understand the need to clear the PR pollution that continues to block overdue climate policy action spoke out on the Senate floor in support of the Senate Web of Denial Resolution calling out the destructive forces of fossil fuel industry-funded climate denial.
A long-awaited campaign to rebrand fossil fuels called Fueling U.S. Forward made its public debut at the Red State Gathering 2016, where the organization's President and CEO Charles Drevna gave attendees the inside scoop on the effort and confirmed that the campaign is backed financially by Koch Industries.
TigerSwan is one of several security firms under investigation for its work guarding the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota while potentially without a permit. Besides this recent work on the Standing Rock Sioux protests in North Dakota, this company has offices in Iraq and Afghanistan and is run by a special forces Army veteran.
After Kenneth Bone asked a question about energy to presidential nominees Donald Trump and Secretary Hillary Clinton at the presidential town hall debate on Oct. 9, he quickly became a viral internet sensation. Lost in the shuffle of the viral memes, internet jokes and a Facebook fan page is a basic question: Who is Ken Bone and what does he do for a living?
A DeSmog investigation has revealed the possibility that a front group supporting the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline—the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN)—may have created fake Twitter profiles, known by some as "sock puppets," to convey a pro-pipeline message over social media. And MAIN may be employing the PR services of the firm DCI Group, which has connections to the Republican Party, in order to do so.
Santa Barbara Becomes First California City to Pass Resolution Against Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling
The Santa Barbara City Council approved a resolution Tuesday opposing new drilling off the California coast and fracking in existing offshore oil and gas wells. The resolution is the first in a new statewide campaign to rally local governments against proposals to expand offshore fossil fuel extraction in federal waters.
The vote—which makes Santa Barbara the first California city to oppose both fracking and new offshore drilling—follows President Trump's April 28 executive order urging federal agencies to expand oil and gas leasing in federal waters. The order could expose the Pacific Ocean to new oil leasing for the first time in more than 30 years.
Starting Wednesday, the vast majority of Americans can learn about every potentially harmful chemical in their drinking water and what scientists say are the safe levels of those contaminants. The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) new national Tap Water Database is the most complete source available on the quality of U.S. drinking water, aggregating and analyzing data from almost 50,000 public water systems in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The organization has earned a reputation for ambitious data-mining research projects that shake up policy debates and consumer markets. EWG's online Farm Subsidy Database, listing millions of subsidy recipients, and its Skin Deep guide to more than 70,000 personal care products, draw tens of millions of visitors every year.
By Stacy Malkan
Ever since they classified the world's most widely used herbicide as "probably carcinogenic to humans," a team of international scientists at the World Health Organization's (WHO) cancer research group have been under withering attack by the agrichemical industry and its surrogates.
In a front-page series, The Monsanto Papers, the French newspaper Le Monde described the attacks as "the pesticide giant's war on science," and reported, "to save glyphosate, the firm [Monsanto] undertook to harm the United Nations agency against cancer by all means."
The lengthy report from the Energy and Policy Institute uses reams of archival documents to demonstrate that utility industry representatives knew as far back as 1968 that burning fossil fuels could trigger "catastrophic effects" on the climate.
By Sharon Kelly
The Pennsylvania's Environmental Hearing Board ordered Sunoco Pipeline LP Tuesday to temporarily halt some types of work on a $2.5 billion pipeline project designed to carry 275,000 barrels a day of butane, propane and other liquid fossil fuels from Ohio and West Virginia, across Pennsylvania, to the Atlantic coast.
On July 19, three environmental groups presented Judge Bernard Labuskes, Jr. with documentation showing that the project had caused dozens of drilling fluid spills and other accidents between April and mid-June.
By Andy Rowell
The UK has followed France in banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, as part of its plan to tackle chronic air pollution in cities. The government has been coming under intense pressure to act, with an estimated 40,000 people dying prematurely a year from air pollution.
By Colleen Curry
People traveling across America today can, if they're lucky, pitch a tent in the same exact spot that early American explorers and map-makers Lewis and Clark did, amid the jagged rocks and sweeping plains of the Upper Missouri River Breaks in central Montana.
Brent Rose, a journalist and filmmaker who has been traveling around the U.S. in a van for two years, was one of the lucky ones.
Kyara, a killer whale born at SeaWorld San Antonio just three months ago, died Monday at the park, as reported in this video from Newsy. Kyara is the last orca to be born in captivity under the SeaWorld breeding program, which shut down in 2016.
In a statement, SeaWorld said the cause of death was "likely pneumonia" and that "Kyara had faced some very serious and progressive health issues over the last week."