Amy Westervelt is the editor-in-chief of Drilled News, creator and host of the Drilled podcast, and founder of the Critical Frequency podcast network, named AdWeek's Podcast Network of the Year in 2019. An award-winning print and audio journalist, Amy has contributed to The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, as well as KQED, The California Report, Capital Public Radio, and many other outlets. She is the 2015 winner of the Rachel Carson award for "women greening journalism," and a 2016 winner of an Edward R. Murrow award for her series on the impacts of the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada. In 2019, the Drilled podcast won the Online News Association's "Excellence in Audio Storytelling" award.
Climate Guilt, Brought to you by Big Oil

Climate Guilt, Brought to you by Big Oil

A new study from Harvard science historians Naomi Oreskes and Geoffrey Supran points to the use of language targeted specifically to downplay the reality of climate change and shift responsibility for the problem entirely onto consumers. Geoffrey Supran, the lead...

Climate Accountability Is a Solution—Why Isn’t It Treated Like One?

Climate Accountability Is a Solution—Why Isn’t It Treated Like One?

What can we do about climate change? Which policies will work? Which technologies? What can individuals do, and what sort of collective action should they support? The appeal of “solutions journalism” addressing climate change is undeniable, but there is a large hole in much of it: understanding the root causes of the problem. 

Catastrophic climate change is a symptom of an intertwined web of problems. Untangling that web and the various forces that created it is not just a worthy exercise, it’s absolutely critical to developing solutions that actually work. The focus on technological and policy solutions to climate has put the cart before the horse, and in doing so, created a solutions framework that is hopelessly inadequate. Americans in particular have a tendency to skip right over accountability and straight to solutions, but failing to understand how a problem came about in the first place tends to deliver…not solutions, but new problems. And on climate, examples of that abound. 

People talk about “the energy transition” as an aspirational, future phase, for example, which ignores the fact that we’ve just spent the past 20 years living through an energy transition, one that required major investments in infrastructure, a new distribution system, all of that. The conversion of U.S. energy sources from coal to natural gas was a massive transition, on par with the transition currently being proposed from fossil fuels to renewables. But we don’t often talk about it that way, which means we miss key lessons from that transition: simply swapping in one energy source for another, focusing on only one greenhouse gas, and allowing the fossil fuel industry to drive and manage that transition were all enormous missteps. In the past five years, study after study has come out revealing under-explored impacts of natural gas, from the global

We’ve had Corporate Personhood for a decade…what about ecosystem personhood?

We’ve had Corporate Personhood for a decade…what about ecosystem personhood?

In our last narrative season, La Lucha En La Jungla, about the decades-long fight over oil pollution in the Ecuadorian Amazon, I mentioned something unique about Ecuador’s constitution. It includes a provision for the rights of nature. Ecuador rewrote its constitution in 2008 to include a chapter called Rights for Nature. Other countries have toyed with this idea since then, and it freaks a lot of people out, especially people running large multinational corporations, mainly because it challenges one of the core tenets of capitalism: private property. Rather than treating nature as property under the law, rights for nature articles acknowledge that nature in all of its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate, and that we, the people, have the legal authority to enforce those rights on behalf of ecosystems. Here’s Natalie Green with the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, explaining how the concept works in Ecuador.

“Well, Ecuador in 2008 rewrote its constitution and it was passed by the majority of Ecuadorians. And what we decided is that we don’t want to follow a model for development like a socialist model or capitalism model, because all those models were proven to be wrong. And we decided to recognize something that is that we are going to fight for and we’re going to be working for a model based on well-being. What’s what’s established in the Constitution is a model based on well-being and what is well-being, or bien vida in Spanish? It will be this notion of living in harmony with nature.”

And here is a handy explainer from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which has been leading a lot of the fights for rights of nature in the US.

“Under the current system of law, nature is considered to …

All Eyes on Weymouth as FERC Signals Interest in Environmental Justice

All Eyes on Weymouth as FERC Signals Interest in Environmental Justice

Local activists and legislators have been fighting the Enbridge natural gas compressor in Weymouth for years. It’s too close to residents and businesses, and poses too many health risks to a community that’s already borne the burden of too much pollution, they say. The project was approved by FERC in 2019, built and became operational in 2020. Then it had an emergency shutdown. And another. Now FERC is considering the unprecedented move of re-thinking its permit, a decision that could have broad ramifications.

Check out Miriam Wasser’s ongoing reporting on this at WBUR: https://www.wbur.org/earthwhile/2021/03/19/weymouth-compressor-ferc-precedent-enbridge-natural-gas

Transcript

Amy Westervelt: Early last year, I started hearing from some activists in Massachusetts about a natural gas project proposed in their town. One woman in particular really thought this was something I should look into.

Her name is Andrea Honoré.

Andrea Honoré: But it took me a good year to understand what was going on. I’d never heard of a compressor. I’d never heard of FERC. I didn’t understand the process.

Amy: Andrea lives in the town of Weymouth, Massachusetts, a coastal town of around 50000 people in the South Shaw region, about half an hour south of Boston. And in 2015, Spectra Energy, a gas company from Texas, wanted to put what’s called a natural gas compressor right on the water at the north end of town. Natural gas needs a little help to travel the whole length of a pipeline and compressor stations help to sort of goose the gas along the way. If you’ve never heard of these things, it’s probably because they usually don’t put them in the middle of cities or even heavily populated areas, period. They’re generally placed on the middle of nowhere because they explode sometimes.

Local news montage: Also breaking overnight in Greene County, an explosion at …

Another Line 3 Battleground: free speech

Another Line 3 Battleground: free speech

We've covered the ongoing, fossil fuel-backed push to criminalize protest before. In 2017, Oklahoma passed the first of these bills, specifically citing the Standing Rock protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. Then American Fuel and Petrochemicals...

Frackalachia and the great fracking jobs myth

Frackalachia and the great fracking jobs myth

When a report makes oil and gas companies—and the politicians they help elect—this mad, you know the author is on to something. Researcher Sean O’Leary, with the Ohio River Valley Institute, joins us to talk about his new report, which found that the local economic benefit of fracking to communities in the Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia gas corridor was slim to none.

Transcript

Sean O’Leary: If you live in the region, you only have to walk through the downtowns to see what I’m saying, whether it’s, you know, Steubenville, Ohio, Boléro, Ohio, Wheeling, West Virginia, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, all of those downtowns are hollowed out shells of what they once were.  

Amy Westervelt: Hey there, this is Drilled, I’m Amy Westervelt, and that was Shaun OLeary from the Ohio River Valley Institute.  

O’Leary is a native West Virginian who’s watched firsthand what first coal and then gas did to his community. He doesn’t live in West Virginia anymore. And that has become a topic of criticism from people who did not appreciate some of his recent work. Last month, O’Leary and the organization he works for released a report that really made the oil and gas guys mad. It takes on a simple question did the fracking boom actually deliver all those economic benefits? We’ve heard the industry talk so much about. The report specifically looks at the region O’Leary has dubbed “Frackalachia”, encompassing parts of the Ohio River Valley in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. As you might recall, from every election cycle in the last decade, whenever people start talking about the environmental impacts of fracking or the potential of a fracking ban, the industry has the same response.  

Fox News: The amount of jobs that are created by this technology cannot be overstated. …