The Center's best environment-related investigations from 2016

Our stories covered coal ash, super polluters and flawed science



The Center for Public Integrity spent 2016 like we've spent every year since 1989: revealing abuses of power, corruption and betrayal of public trust by powerful public and private institutions.

Here are some of our best investigations from the past year that dealt with the environment and environmental health.

Science for sale

American courts and regulatory agencies depend on scientific research to protect people from harmful chemicals. What happens if that research can be influenced?

That's exactly what's happening in recent years as government-funded science is diminishing. In this investigation, environmental consulting firm Gradient Corporation was contracted to publish flawed science designed to sow doubt over the connection between asbestos and mesothelioma, the rare cancer it can cause.

"It just seems like you can just make up your own facts now,” one former EPA scientist told the Center.

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No relief from coal ash

In Bokoshe, Oklahoma, coal ash is spotted in the grass, trees, cars and even furniture. It drifts in from a pit where a nearby power plant dumps its spent coal.

Residents started complaining about the ash, which contains harmful chemicals like arsenic and lead, to state regulators in 1998 and, eventually, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency got involved. But the EPA's attempts to regulate coal ash have done little to help Bokoshe and many other towns across the country.

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Super polluters

There are 22 facilities that ranked in the top 100 for both toxic-air pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions in 2014. There's a term for these power plants, factories and other facilities that are responsible for some of the worst pollution in the country: super polluters.

Southwest Indiana is home to four super polluters, and residents there point to air pollution as the cause of many health problems found among their neighbors.

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