PODCAST: Behind the Emmy-winning story ‘Clear & Present Danger: The Leak’

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — WCIA is celebrating an Emmy Award for one of our investigative pieces. The investigation revealed a methane leak in Livingston and LaSalle counties that endangered people and damaged the environment.

The reporter who broke the story was WCIA 3’s Mark Maxwell. In this podcast, Mark talks with WCIA’s Jessica Kunz about some of the behind the scenes investigation that led to this story being turned.

A Target 3 investigation uncovered a troubling methane leak at a Nicor Gas facility in rural Ancona, Illinois. Jim Stephens, a whistleblower at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, led us to a centennial farm family that had sued the gas company for damages after the leaking gas bubbled up in streams, skies, and soil on their farm land. 

Our first follow up story profiled attorney Ruth Robinson who had tangled with Nicor Gas in court proceedings for years, and whose research led us to the potential origin of the leak.

Our investigation caught the attention of state lawmakers, who filed bills seeking to regulate Nicor and prevent or detect gas leaks before they endanger people or the environment. The General Assembly is still considering new regulations on the gas industry in the wake of our reporting.

We obtained documents that revealed the state recommended the Attorney General take “enforcement action” against Nicor for the ongoing methane leak, and that the AG’s office opened an investigation into Nicor after our report.

Atmospheric scientist Don Wuebbles, a globally recognized climate science expert who advised the Obama White House on greenhouse gas emissions, analyzed our reporting, and compared the size of the leak at the Nicor Gas site to the equivalent of pollution that could come from 100,000 cars on the road over the course of an entire year. Over the course of several years, the leak could add up to the amount of methane that spilled from the Aliso Canyon disaster site in California. 

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