My approach to the environment beat has been to offer my audience coverage on an wide array of environment-related topics with a mix of breaking news, features, in-depth or explanatory reporting, investigations, and a blog for fast-action sometimes with an edge.
- My work in 2001 over ten months exposed how hundreds of railroad workers had suffered brain damage from workplace exposure to solvents even though company doctors knew about the dangers. Read that series here, here and here.
- Louisville has dramatically reduced its most risky air pollutants through its own toxic air control program adopted in 2005. That action followed my extensive coverage of hazardous air pollutants in 2002, 2003 and 2004, including our own independent review of air monitoring data and a major environmental justice series. I wrote about all that for USA TODAY in 2008 as part of its Smokestack Effect series.
- A three part series in 2012 and 2013 examined what Kentucky was – and wasn’t – doing to brace for climate change.
- Continuing coverage of Louisville’s now infamous, large urban heat island and tree woes prompted city studies and strategies for improvement, the planting of thousands of trees and a pending tree ordinance.
- Kentucky has finally begun to discover solar power. Despite the horse racing and bourbon that makes Louisville famous, faith is important for many of its residents. The Pope’s encyclical on climate change allowed me to explore the connection between religion and global warming.
- A two-day multi-media series in 2016 examined Louisville’s continuing $1 billion challenge with sewage, including how climate change threatens progress. For the report we obtained a decade of spill reports and provided readers with an interactive map allowing them to check the status of sewage overflows near their homes and businesses (here, at end of story). The print presentation is here.
- An investigation of Louisville’s Metropolitan Sewer District, an agency with a big clean-water and quality-of-life-mission, resulted a total sweep of its board and executive leadership. The agency by 2010 had racked up a $2.7 billion debt. Further digging found that three companies run by MSD board members were doing work for the agency they served; questionable spending practices, cozy relationships, and extravagant bonuses during a recession, a $140,000 payment to quiet a threatened whistleblower, a private lawyer with excessive billing practices, and a state senator making $100,000 a year as a part time attorney whose wife’s MSD pension was boosted at the end of her career. The reporting prompted the Louisville mayor to call for an independent audit; in December 2011, the state auditor concluded the agency was beset by poor management, lax business practices, conflicts of interest and wasteful spending.
- More recently, my investigation of Kentucky environmental regulators detailed how they were slow to act on illegal radioactive waste dumping from out-of-state fracking operations. Another effort found that Kentucky regulators weakened proposed coal-ash rules after months of back-room dealings with the utility industry.
- The Ohio River is one of the nation's most industrialized. Forty years after the first Earth Day, I found that there were big gains, and many more challenges, including the presence of endocrine disrupters and pharmaceuticals in the water source for millions. Look here and here.
- I look for irony, unintended consequences or trade-offs, as in this story about how more air pollution scrubbers on coal-fired power plants resulted in more of another kind of mountaintop removal – the blasting and mining of limestone. Many journalists jumped on the coal-burning waste story in the aftermath of the 2008 collapse, (here, ten years later) of a mountain of coal ash in Tennessee. I did too. But I was on top of the coal ash story way back in 2002. Look here.
- Twice, a decade apart, I used FOIA to see and report on sensitive EPA-required risk management plans and chemical danger zones to track hazmat safety in my community.
- A Watchdog Earth blog started in 2006 gives me the ability to quickly report on national and global issues, including climate change (here and here), science, and politics.