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The W. A. Parish Power Plant, owned by NRG Energy, is one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the U.S. Roy Luck / CC BY 2.0

Power plants across Texas are leaching toxins into groundwater, according to new research. A report released this week from the Environmental Integrity Project found that all of the state's 16 coal-fired power plants are leaching contaminants from coal ash into the ground, and almost none of the plants are properly lining their pits to prevent leakage.

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House Democrats are investigating reports of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), repeatedly taking premium flights funded by taxpayers.

"Americans deserve an EPA Administrator more dedicated to first-class protection of human health and the environment than to luxury travel at taxpayer expense," Energy and Commerce Democratic leaders wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Pruitt.

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By Nikolaos Zirogiannis, Alex J. Hollingsworth and David Konisky

When Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast in August 2017, many industrial facilities had to shut down their operations before the storm arrived and restart once rainfall and flooding had subsided.

These shutdowns and startups, as well as accidents caused by the hurricane, led to a significant release of air pollutants. Over a period of about two weeks, data we compiled from the Texas' Air Emission Event Report Database indicates these sites released 2,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and other pollutants.

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Scott Pruitt. Gage Skidmore / Flickr

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on first or business class flights while his aides generally fly coach, according to the Washington Post. Pruitt has also used military jets to travel back and forth to events.

During a two-week stretch in June—around the same time President Trump announced that the U.S. is withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement—the EPA boss and his top aides racked up at least $90,000 in taxpayer-funded travel to help tout Trump's agenda, the newspaper reported, citing EPA receipts obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project through Freedom of Information Act requests.

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Smoggy downtown Houston. Kyle Jones / Flickr

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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Irma Omerhodzic

By Martha Roberts

The imposing limestone government building in central Washington where Scott Pruitt holds sway is increasingly operating away from public view with decisions made behind closed doors, once-public information blacked out, and influential insiders taking charge.

As the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Pruitt has also proven elusive, having spent more than half of his days away from Washington amid speculation he's really focused on a future run for Oklahoma senator or governor. His frequent travel to the Midwestern state at taxpayers' expense recently prompted the agency's Inspector General to open an investigation—and yet, Pruitt has found time to quietly and systematically tear down policies that protect our health and safety.

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