'Big Oil, Bad Air' collaboration wins energy writing award

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Fracking activity in the Eagle Ford Shale of Texas

Lance Rosenfield

A joint investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, InsideClimate News and The Weather Channel examining the rise of toxic air emissions in Texas shale fields has won the National Press Foundation’s Thomas L. Stokes award for energy writing.

“Big Oil, Bad Air” showed how hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas has endangered public health, even as it generated billions of dollars for oil companies. The 20-month investigation reported on industry-friendly regulators and weakened air pollution guidelines, and helped lead to the installation of a new air monitor in one of the heaviest drilling areas.

National Press Foundation judges said the series was: “First-rate investigative journalism with a human pulse. The collaborative project blended hard facts with a powerful narrative of real people that made you care. The description of fracking consequences in Texas is now playing out elsewhere, in the Bakken and Utica shales. The project triggered meaningful impact, forcing concessions from state regulators.”

The reporting team for the project included the Center for Public Integrity’s managing editor for environmental health and labor, Jim Morris, CPI reporter Ben Wieder and former reporter Alan Suderman. The work of reporters Lisa Song and David Hasemyer of InsideClimate News and producer Greg Gilderman of The Weather Channel also was cited.

The Thomas L. Stokes Award was established in the spring of 1959 by friends and admirers of the late syndicated Washington columnist, who wrote about national affairs. It was to be given annually for the best writing "in the independent spirit of Tom Stokes" on subjects of interest to him including energy and natural resources.

The primary mission of the National Press Foundation is to increase journalists' knowledge of complex issues in order to improve public understanding. The nonprofit foundation recognizes and encourages excellence in journalism through its awards and programs. A complete list of award winners is here.

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