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Reporter Elizabeth Shogren introduces us to a NASA scientist who’s devoting his career to hunting down big methane leaks. Riley Duren and his team have figured out how to spot methane pollution from airplane flyovers, and in an experiment, his data was used to make polluters plug their leaks. Scientists have answers to the methane problem. The question is whether governments will step up to fund a comprehensive methane monitoring system. 

Next, Shogren zooms in on Arlington, Texas, a community that bet heavily on drilling for methane, the main ingredient in natural gas. There are wells all over Arlington, next to homes and shopping centers, even day cares and schools. Arlington’s children have unwittingly been part of an experiment to see what happens when gas wells and people mix. We follow one preschool that is trying to stand up to a large drilling company. Last year, the City Council voted to block new natural gas wells near the school’s playground, then reversed its vote. After protests, gas drilling has been blocked once again – if only for a year. 

We end the show with a story from Reveal’s Brett Simpson about a serious source of methane that is often overlooked. Cows and other livestock produce 14% of the world’s methane emissions, in many places belching more of the gas than oil and gas wells. We meet a scientist who’s figured out how to reduce methane emissions from cows by 80%. 

This is an update of an episode that originally aired in June 2021.

Dig Deeper

Read: Life in the Drill Zone

Read: A Texas Town Stopped an Energy Giant from Drilling Next to a Day Care. Then It Changed Its Mind.

Credits

Reporters: Elizabeth Shogren and Mohamed Al Elew, Brett Simpson | Leader producer: Elizabeth Shogren | Editors: Taki Telonidis, Soo Oh and Esther Kaplan | Production manager: Amy Mostafa | Digital producer: Sarah Mirk | Episode art: Molly Mendoza | Score and sound design: Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda, with help from Steven Rascón and Claire Mullen | Executive producer: Kevin Sullivan | Host: Al Letson 

Special thanks: Malia Wollan from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, Democracy Fund, and the Inasmuch Foundation.

Transcript

Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal’s radio stories is the audio.

Al Letson:Hey, it’s Al and last fall, we brought you Mississippi Goddam. It was named one of the best podcast series of 2021 by The Atlantic, CNN, Rolling Stone and others. We told that story over the course of seven weeks, and now, we’re making it available to you to binge. You can hear the whole series by subscribing to Reveal Presents Mississippi Goddam wherever you get your podcasts. Again, that’s Reveal Presents Mississippi Goddam.
Michael Montgom…:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Michael Montgomery, sitting in for Al Letson. This past fall at the U.N. Climate Summit in Scotland, President Biden and other world leaders announced big plans to cut emissions of the greenhouse gas methane. So we thought we’d bring back an episode about methane that we aired last summer. It starts with something a little different, a science lesson.

When you turn on your gas stove, you’re burning methane, the main ingredient in natural gas. It comes from hundreds of thousands of wells around the country, but a lot of it, millions of tons of methane, never reaches your stove or furnace because it leaks into the air. That could be from a worn-out valve, an aging pipeline or storage tank. Some companies just [inaudible] methane into the air because it’s mixed in with the stuff they’re really after, crude oil. Once methane is released, the wind carries it whichever way it’s blowing, and eventually, it spreads through the atmosphere.

Methane is a greenhouse gas. That means it traps heat almost like a blanket, causing the Earth’s temperature to rise, climate change. And there’s more and more of these gases piling on all the time. Up until now, most of the plans to curb greenhouse gases have centered on carbon dioxide, but scientists say if we really want to stop the Earth from heating up and fast, we need to deal with methane. That’s because methane traps way more heat over the short term.

So let’s compare how much heat a pound of carbon dioxide traps in 20 years to how much a pound of methane traps. Carbon dioxide, methane. Methane traps nearly 90 times more heat than CO2, but there is a silver lining. While CO2 stays in the air for hundreds of years, methane breaks up after only about 12 years. So experts say the quickest way to address climate change is to plug up methane emissions, and within a few years, the atmosphere will start opening up, more heat will escape, and relatively soon, about a decade later, the Earth will start to cool and we should have fewer heat waves, wildfires, and catastrophic hurricanes.

Today, we’re looking at methane and why we need to control it to protect both our planet and also the people who live in communities where drilling takes place. Reveal’s Elizabeth Shogren has been following one scientist who is dedicating his career to finding big methane leaks.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Since he was a kid, Riley Duran was captivated by –
Speaker 5:Space. The final frontier.
Riley Duran:You know, I grew up watching Star Trek and I was a classic sci-fi nerd, so I was excited about space exploration, period.
Elizabeth Shogr…:And he never outgrew his excitement. Riley eventually became an engineer at NASA. He focused his work on looking for other planets that might be home to intelligent life.
Riley Duran:I got this passion for exoplanets, the idea of finding planets like the Earth around other stars.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Our planet on the other hand –
Riley Duran:Earth was the place where you launched the spacecraft. It wasn’t part of the exploration.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Then as climate change became a more urgent problem, it struck Riley that rather than looking for other habitable planets, maybe he should use his skills to keep this one habitable.
Riley Duran:I had this epiphany that maybe I should look down some more and pay more attention to earth science.
Elizabeth Shogr…:That new passion led him to methane. Riley wanted to figure out how to measure big methane leaks and pinpoint their sources. Not an easy task when you think about how oil and gas fields, not to mention pipelines, are spread out over large areas. And methane, it’s invisible. So while the Trump administration was busy cutting back regulations on the oil and gas industry, Riley’s team was quietly getting more federal dollars from NASA. And over the past several years, the science of tracking methane emissions has taken off. And so have Riley and his team. They flew scores of flights over several states to see how much methane pollution they could identify.
Speaker 7:Let’s move the threshold down to 700.
Speaker 8:I see a few detections. Looks like on some of the well pads.
Riley Duran:One of our team members developed some really clever software that can show you methane in realtime, so as you’re flying along, you see this moving map of the ground underneath the airplane, as seen by the imaging spectrometer.
Elizabeth Shogr…:And when that instrument spots methane –
Riley Duran:There’s software that’s showing red blobs, that is the best way I can describe it, on the map where there are sources of methane.
Elizabeth Shogr…:The team flew back and forth patterns, almost like mowing a lawn over landfills, pipelines, dairies, and oil and gas fields, places known for emitting methane.
Riley Duran:And it’s definitely exciting when you’re flying over oil and gas fields because these are huge areas. There may be thousands of potential leak sources and you’ll fly along and you’ll see nothing and then all of a sudden you’ll get to a part of the oil field where it’s just plume, plume, plume, plume, plume. And sometimes you’ll see a really big one and you’ll hear somebody go, “Wow, look at that.”
Elizabeth Shogr…:They discovered that as much as half of the methane pollution was coming from just a small number of what Riley calls super emitters. They’re responsible for the big plumes or gushes of gas. This means you could get huge reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by targeting a small number of polluters. The California Air Resources Board is the state’s clean air agency. Officials there were so impressed with Riley’s methane tracking they wanted to use it to try to get companies to quickly clean up methane leaks. Several, including Chevron, volunteered.
Riley Duran:I think today we’ll do McKittrick and [inaudible] –
Elizabeth Shogr…:It’s November 2020, and Riley’s crew is heading to McKittrick, one of Chevron’s oil fields in California’s San Joaquin Valley, an area known for farming and energy production. Over 16 days, they spot an enormous amount of methane. When the team spies a big plume, they send the geographic coordinates to the state.
Jorn Herner:We would then turn around and give that to our industry partners. They would go out the next day and see what they could find.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Jorn Herner is a scientist for the research division of the California Air Resources Board.
Jorn Herner:And it turns out if you provide it to the operator and they can go out and inspect, then they will find something that they can fix.
Elizabeth Shogr…:In more than half of the cases, the companies stop the leaks. That’s the kind of impact that makes the scientist in Jorn giddy.
Jorn Herner:It seems insanely exciting. I mean that’s just absolutely wonderful, right? I mean as a researcher at the California Air Resources Board, you’re trying to put in place research that actually has a real impact out there in the real world, so that was very, very satisfying. But I don’t know what’s going to happen in the rest of the world. In other countries, in other states, and you need to get them on board as well.
Elizabeth Shogr…:That means setting new rules for an influential industry that usually fights regulation at every turn. President Obama set modest requirements for companies to start hunting down methane leaks at new wells, but under the Trump administration –
Donald Trump:We launched the most dramatic regulatory relief campaign in American history by far.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Those rules and others were gutted after heavy lobbying by energy companies. Congress and President Biden restored Obama’s rules, but they applied only to new wells. Now the Biden administration wants to clean up existing wells too. I tried to talk to energy companies about methane monitoring, but even Chevron, which took part in California’s methane trial, wouldn’t agree to an interview. Only one company, Jonah Energy, was willing to talk. In fact, VP Paul Ulrich was eager.
Paul Ulrich:We produce enough energy to power about 3.3 million homes on a daily basis, or cook 1.4 billion eggs.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Jonah Energy drills in rural Wyoming, where for years, the pollution levels violated federal air quality standards. So the state stepped in and required Jonah to use infrared cameras to find leaks four times a year. Paul’s company decided to check monthly. This helped Jonah cut methane emissions and get certified as a low methane gas field. A private company checks to make sure that Jonah is minimizing what’s released into the air.
Paul Ulrich:We’re reading the tea leaves. Consumers are continuing to demand cleaner energy resources.
Elizabeth Shogr…:And so are importers of U.S. natural gas. In 2020, a French company canceled a $7 billion deal to buy liquified natural gas from Texas, reportedly over concerns about U.S. gas producers that leak too much methane. Paul says energy companies should welcome monitoring, if they want to keep their customers.

Tracking methane leaks is turning into a business, with companies cropping up with new tools to spot the gas.
Rachel Ward:Oh, I can see the drones flying right through the plume right now. It’s awesome.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Rachel Ward is an atmospheric scientist who works for a company called Scientific Aviation. With joystick controls, she flies a drone over an oil well site in the middle of a vast sandy landscape of drill sites and dirt roads. She’s in the Permian Basin, a gigantic oil and gas field that straddles Texas and New Mexico.
Rachel Ward:So the drones are really good for getting really up close and personal to individual methane emitting sources. Today we’re looking at these flaring stacks, but there’s all sorts of other things that might emit methane.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Oil companies use flares to burn off methane that they don’t want to put into a pipeline. But if flares aren’t working well, a lot of the methane goes straight into the atmosphere. Rachel’s partner navigates the drone towards a 20 foot flame, blazing on top of a skinny metal stack. It’s several stories tall.
Rachel Ward:Oh wow. Oh that flare just kicked up. Can you hear that? Wow.
Elizabeth Shogr…:At oil and gas fields scattered across the globe, other scientists working independently are looking for methane from tall towers, helicopters, and even from space.
Speaker 13:All systems are go for the launch of the European Space Agency’s latest satellite Sentinel-5-P.
Elizabeth Shogr…:In October 2017, the European Space Agency launched a satellite. Instruments on board measured methane pollution and found the Permian Basin, where Rachel was piloting her drone, was the leakiest oil and gas field they’d ever seen in the U.S. Nearly 4% of the gas was escaping into the air. Daniel Zavala was on the team of scientists that published the research.
Daniel Zavala:We have enough data to say that the Permian gas is significantly dirty. That we know. Using that gas would be contributing in a major way to speeding up global warming.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Daniel is a senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group that’s taken the lead on methane. One study he worked on shows how clean the industry can be. Scientists flew over clusters of gas equipment in the Netherlands and found very little methane leaking.
Daniel Zavala:And it makes you wonder, right? If that’s possible, why don’t we see this replicated in all these other places?
Elizabeth Shogr…:The difference, Daniel said, is that the Netherlands has strict methane rules, so to drill there, companies like Shell have to use cleaner technology.
Daniel Zavala:But the most important thing is it became very clear that no one needs to reinvent the wheel here. The technology is available and it’s already being used.
Elizabeth Shogr…:And yet methane concentrations in the atmosphere are growing faster than at any other time since scientists started measuring.
Daniel Zavala:I think it’s a little bit frustrating and scary that we have this extremely limited timeframe to do something about it and every new data point we collect, it sort of points that we should be acting even faster.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Daniel’s group is building a new satellite that will be able to trace methane plumes more accurately, and so is NASA engineer Riley Duran, who figured out how to pinpoint methane polluters from airplanes. Last spring, he started a nonprofit called Carbon Mapper, funded by big philanthropies. His partners include NASA, California, and a private satellite firm. Carbon Mapper plans to launch two satellites in 2023, and a whole fleet two years later. They’ll find methane sources Riley would never be able to fly over in a plane.
Riley Duran:There are parts of the world where it’s difficult to get to because of the logistics and/or quite honestly you don’t have the permission, air space permission to fly there. So satellites have the benefit of being able to see the whole planet.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Not to mention satellites can observe the planet every day, which is important because methane plumes, even big ones, can come and go relatively quickly. But the way Riley sees it, scattered trials and research projects can only take you so far.
Riley Duran:You have a patchwork quilt of people making measurements onsite using low altitude drones, using aircraft overflights, testing the satellites that exist. The challenge is or the uncertainty is is those are mostly uncoordinated. It’s not like there’s one government or one industry that’s saying, “Hey, we’re going to invest in all this. We’re going to make it happen.”
Elizabeth Shogr…:For Riley, making it happen means creating a comprehensive global methane monitoring system. The science is ready, but leaders around the world have to commit to it and come up with the money. Which he estimates will run into the billions of dollars.
Riley Duran:You know my opinion is the governments haven’t caught up. The government agencies are still getting their minds around the idea that this is a priority. To be honest I think it’s lack of ambition.
Elizabeth Shogr…:But Riley’s trying to change that too.
Speaker 15:I now recognize Mr. Riley Duran for your testimony.
Elizabeth Shogr…:In May 2020, Riley got to make his case at a congressional hearing. He showed a film from one of his flyovers.
Riley Duran:If you can cue the movie please.
Elizabeth Shogr…:It was a lot like what he described earlier in the story. As a NASA aircraft flies over oil and gas wells, you see dozens of multicolored plumes, methane leaks that normally can’t be seen with the human eye.
Riley Duran:These super emitters are broadly distributed across the landscape, almost like invisible wildfires.
Elizabeth Shogr…:He asks Congress for help, and leaves them with a warning.
Speaker 15:Mr. Duran?
Riley Duran:I just wanted to chime in quickly, what I would say is there is still time and an urgent need to act quickly. The window is closing. It is an all hands on deck moment for not just the federal government, but all government branches, private sector and civil society.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Scientists like Riley Duran are offering world leaders a rare opportunity to do something that could help slow down climate change in a decade. On January 31, the Biden administration announced a new working group. It is charged with creating a comprehensive national system to track and verify emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases. It sounds like Riley’s vision. He’s hopeful, but he’s waiting to see if they put up the money to make it happen.
Michael Montgom…:The methane leaks that are heating up the atmosphere are also hitting much closer to home.
Wanda Vincent:It makes me wonder down the road will some of our babies become sick or ill because of this.
Michael Montgom…:Coming up next, when natural gas drilling is happening in your backyard. This is Reveal.
Al Letson:Hey hey hey. It’s time for another Al’s Podcast Pick, and this one is for Reveal listeners who speak Spanish. It’s called [Spanish]. Every week, they tell stories from Latin America and U.S. Latinx communities, moving, surprising, deeply reported stories about love and migration, youth culture and politics, about the big questions and the unique voices that are shaping the region today. You can find [Spanish] wherever you listen to podcasts. New episodes drop every Tuesday.
Michael Montgom…:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Michael Montgomery, in for Al Letson. Today, we’re bringing back our show about methane, the main component of natural gas. For most of us, gas drilling happens in some barren, far away place. But millions of people across the country live with it other day. Arlington, Texas is one of those places.
Speaker 18:I’d now like to call a meeting of the Arlington City Council to order.
Michael Montgom…:In June 2020, the city council held a virtual meeting to discuss a French company’s plans to drill new wells. People from the community logged on.
Wanda Vincent:Hi, my name is Wanda Vincent. I am the owner and the director of the Mother’s Heart Learning Center. Our clients are about 80% African-American and about 20% Latino.
Michael Montgom…:The company, TotalEnergies, is one of the biggest natural gas producers in the world, and Wanda doesn’t like what they’re proposing.
Wanda Vincent:It’s my understanding they want to drill [inaudible] three new gas wells in our backyard. It’s literally in the back of our playground.
Michael Montgom…:Arlington and nearby communities have approved thousands of wells, and there are already wells near Wanda’s daycare. When she looks past the playground, she sees several large storage tanks and a big pipe sticking out of the ground.
Wanda Vincent:This company should have never been approved to be in the backyard of a children’s learning center.
Michael Montgom…:We heard in the last story just how dangerous methane is for our planet. Methane and the other gases that come out of wells also pose dangers to people’s health. Arlington has seen that up close. Here again is Reveal’s Elizabeth Shogren.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Arlington sits on top of one of the country’s biggest natural gas fields, the Barnett Shale. It’s the birthplace of fracking. The city is part of the Dallas metro area, the Cowboys and Rangers play in Arlington. It’s also home to about 400,000 people, and hundreds of natural gas wells. They’re everywhere, close to houses, shopping malls, schools and day cares. Arlington’s children have unwittingly become part of an experiment. What happens when gas wells and people intermix? It’s something Wanda Vincent worried about at that council meeting.
Wanda Vincent:It makes me wonder down the road will some of our babies become sick or ill because of this?
Elizabeth Shogr…:What Wanda is referring to are gases, some toxic, that can leak from the wells when they’re first drilled, and for as many years as the wells produce gas. There’s the methane itself that contributes to smog which harms people’s health, and cancer-causing fumes like benzene and formaldehyde.
Wanda Vincent:And my question would be can this company guarantee me 100% that you’re not putting any of us in harm’s way? Now, or in the future.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Local, state and federal officials haven’t studied whether Arlington’s wells cause health problems. Using state data, we found that more than half of Arlington’s day cares are within half a mile of a well, and a lot of Arlington’s kids have health problems. Childhood asthma rates in this part of Texas are way above the state and national averages. The rate of birth defects is the highest of any large county in Texas.
Speaker 18:Thank you Mr. [Buskin], and as a reminder to the public –
Elizabeth Shogr…:Back at the council meeting, Total’s representative, Kevin Strasser, defends his company.
Kevin Strasser:There’s no one better in the business and we have been at this site for over 10 years now. I appreciate the residents around the site and particularly the school that’s just to the north of us and I feel like we’ve co-habitated there for the last 10 years without any issue.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Councilmember Marvin Sutton is not convinced Total is doing all it can to keep the air clean.
Marvin Sutton:Mr. Strasser, my question is you said you’d have the noise monitors. Would you have air monitors as well on that site?
Kevin Strasser:No, we don’t do the air monitoring. We don’t do that directly from our company. We rely on the TCEQ for that.
Marvin Sutton:Okay.
Elizabeth Shogr…:TCEQ is the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. I checked, and they told me they don’t monitor air pollution from individual drilling sites. Ranjana Bhandari also speaks at the meeting. She leads a small group of volunteer activists called Liveable Arlington. When she learned about Total’s plan for drilling, she went door to door in the neighborhood, alerting Wanda and others.
Ranjana Bhandar…:And we discovered that nobody was [inaudible]. We did the job that Total should have done.
Elizabeth Shogr…:And tonight, she urges city leaders to reject the permit.
Ranjana Bhandar…:Otherwise, as fracking continues, we are going to see a lot more illness and disease and we know who it affects, in that part of town, it affects our African-American brothers and sisters.
Elizabeth Shogr…:According to the American Lung Association, black children and children from low income families are more likely to suffer from diseases such as asthma. They’re also less likely to have health insurance. After about an hour and a half, the council is ready to decide on Total’s well.
Speaker 18:I believe we’ll need to do a roll call vote on this one. Mayor Williams?
Mayor Williams:No.
Speaker 18:Councilmember Sutton?
Marvin Sutton:No.
Elizabeth Shogr…:The drilling is rejected 6-3. It’s a stunning reversal for a city council that’s okayed almost every drilling request for 15 years. Here’s Councilmember Marvin Sutton.
Marvin Sutton:It felt great and so I was proud that I was able to advocate but not only advocate but to mitigate risks to our citizens in the underserved community.
Elizabeth Shogr…:After years of defeats, Ranjana wanted to see the victory as a change of heart on drilling. But she worried the no vote was a temporary reaction to what was going on in the summer of 2020. COVID-19 was disproportionately hitting people of color, and the nation was facing a reckoning on civil rights after George Floyd’s killing.
Ranjana Bhandar…:The city council was very concerned with issues of racial equity. They had just passed a resolution vowing to work for racial equity in our city.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Even so, she half-expected Total would fight back.
Ranjana Bhandar…:So I’m on tenterhooks, waiting to find out what mischief they’re planning.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Ranjana had good reason to be dubious. For years, natural gas drilling has been nearly unstoppable. Starting in the early 2000s, fracking and natural gas were promoted as job creators, and they were also going to make us less dependent on energy from overseas. Drilling was a rallying cry for Republicans.
Speaker 23:The chant is drill baby drill.
Elizabeth Shogr…:And President Obama backed it too.
Barack Obama:We it turns out are the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. We’ve got a lot of it.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Natural gas was also going to help tackle climate change.
Barack Obama:And by the way, natural gas burns cleaner than oil does. So it’s also potentially good for our environment as we make this shift.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Gas companies pushed that message in ad campaigns.
Speaker 25:We’re ExxonMobil, and the cleaner burning natural gas we produce –
Elizabeth Shogr…:But producing this fuel pollutes the air and water, so companies lobbied heavily on Capitol Hill and convinced Congress to give them exemptions from environmental laws.

Like the country as a whole, Arlington made a big bet on natural gas. So in June 2020, when the Arlington city council rejected drilling near Mother’s Heart Daycare, it seemed like the industry’s special status was in jeopardy. But just weeks later, the city gave Total permission to drill and frack seven wells close to two other day cares in Councilmember Sutton’s district. This time, the approvals came without any public meeting or even a vote by the city council.
Marvin Sutton:This particular site is the Rocking Horse site. Right next to it is a daycare called Child Care Network, and then you have BusyKids right across the street. Which really concerns me because it’s one of the most diverse districts in our city and even in our county.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Sutton knows his constituents, busy working families who don’t have time to fight political battles. Like Alexis Richardson, who was picking up three kids from BusyKids.
Alexis Richards…:It doesn’t make me feel good if they’re going to be around something as harmful like so close, I didn’t know it was across the street. If I knew more about it, it will probably be bothering me. But I didn’t know anything about it at all.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Why would the city reject drilling near one daycare and then turn around and let the same company drill seven wells near two other daycares?
Richard Gertson:I understand those who may say, “Well, they’re exactly the same, aren’t they? It’s drilling and you’ve got daycares and all these other uses. But it’s a different situation as far as we’re concerned.”
Elizabeth Shogr…:Richard Gertson is Arlington’s assistant director of planning and development. His office okayed the drilling at Rocking Horse, not the city council. The reason? The city council set it up that way. Nine years ago, the council approved what’s called a drill zone at Rocking Horse.
Richard Gertson:Once the council establishes that drill zone as they did in 2013, then any future permit applications, if they are inside that drill zone, they may be approved administratively because the council has already determined that anything within that drilling zone is allowable.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Richard says may, but in practice, his office’s default is to approve permits in drill zones.

So does that mean forever, no matter how many and for how long?
Richard Gertson:Currently under our ordinance, yes.
Elizabeth Shogr…:The only reason the Arlington City Council got a chance to vote on and reject the wells at that first day care was that it wasn’t in a drill zone. There’s something else that really makes it hard for Richard to say no to gas companies.
Richard Gertson:The fact of the matter is, here in Texas, as far as the cities, our authority is very much restricted, very much limited. We cannot here in Texas ban a certain type of drilling.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Richard is referring to a 2015 state law, a ban on drilling bans, that passed after another city, Denton, tried to outlaw fracking. Even most Democrats voted for the law. It prevents local governments from setting any restrictions that block gas companies from drilling or make it too expensive.

Three months after the city approved the wells at the Rocking Horse site, a drill rig was up and running. Companies are required to use electric powered rigs. They’re quieter and don’t pollute the air. That’s what Total was supposed to do anyhow. But Ranjana says that’s not what happened.
Ranjana Bhandar…:So there was some machinery operating, there was this really tall rig, and big plumes of black smoke rising up.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Ranjana sent a video of the rig to a city inspector, who confirmed that Total was using a diesel rig. She also shared the video with Marvin Sutton, a rare ally on the council. He demanded an explanation from Total.
Marvin Sutton:They just said they couldn’t find an electric drill at the time and they thought it would be okay, which is a willful violation of our ordinance.
Elizabeth Shogr…:The city ordered the company to switch to an electric rig, which for Ranjana, wasn’t good enough.
Ranjana Bhandar…:The bigger question is should drilling really happen right next door to two preschools? And the science tells us, public health research tells us, absolutely not.
Elizabeth Shogr…:More kids go to school near wells in Arlington than just about anywhere else in the U.S. Reveal found that in Arlington, more than 30,000 children go to school within half a mile of a well. 85% of these children are kids of color, and most come from low-income families.

Total is based in France, where fracking is outlawed, and it offends Ranjana that the company is doing in her backyard what it can’t do in its own. She compares what’s happening in Arlington to what multinational companies have done in poor countries.
Ranjana Bhandar…:We have this ingrained sense that this couldn’t happen in America, so we are willfully looking at it and choosing not to recognize it for what it is. This is ecocide, it’s environmental harm. I think there are human rights violation. Somebody asked me the other day why do I care? Don’t we all consume oil? I’m standing in front of two preschools. Those little children have no voice in this.
Elizabeth Shogr…:And in the case of one daycare, they are just 359 feet away. Other parts of the country are starting to agree with Ranjana that wells and people should not be so close. In Colorado, the state commissioned a health assessment, and decided that new wells should be at least 2,000 feet from buildings. We wanted to talk with Total about its drilling near schools and day cares in Arlington, but the company turned down requests for an interview.

We did get to talk with Stephen Lindsey, VP of another company with gas wells in Arlington called GHA Barnett. It’s a Chinese company. I asked him whether wells are too close to daycares in Arlington.

I’d be curious what you would think, is half a mile too close? Is a quarter mile too close? Is 600 feet too close?
Stephen Lindsey:I would not have an issue if my daughter or my son was at a daycare or school that was … I’m going to say within what the current ordinance standards are of a protected use of 600 feet.
Elizabeth Shogr…:You said 600 feet isn’t too close. Is 359 feet and the playground even closer? Is that too close?
Stephen Lindsey:Yeah, I mean … I’m not saying is it too close, but yeah. I think as you get within 600 feet, the further away it is, absolutely the better.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Stephen used to be on the city council of a town next to Arlington, and he says gas brings benefits. Reveal learned that Total alone paid the city $5 million in royalties over four years. Nearly half of that came from wells next to daycares. The city got millions more in leasing bonuses from those same wells. Stephen says companies expect cities to stand by their agreements.
Stephen Lindsey:In so far that you gave someone entitlement 10 years ago to do something and now you change that, that puts that investment at risk. Unfortunately we live in a litigious society and people are quick to say, “Okay, well we don’t like it, so we’re potentially going to threaten legal action.”
Elizabeth Shogr…:It makes it hard for a city council to exercise its decision-making, right? And these wells keep producing for a long time.
Stephen Lindsey:I mean you’re right. It’s a great observation. But it’s the law.
Elizabeth Shogr…:That’s exactly what Councilmember Sutton got tangled up in last spring when he tried to increase the distance between daycares and drilling. He wanted to require 600 feet from a daycare’s property line, instead of its building. But Total intervened. It warned that Sutton’s proposal would violate state laws. The council scaled back Sutton’s proposal.

And in November, the company tried to get the city to reverse its decision about drilling behind Mother’s Heart, the daycare we heard about at the top of our story. In 2020, the city rejected drilling there. The daycare’s owner, Wanda Vincent, thought she’d won. But right after Thanksgiving, the city council took up a new bid from Total to drill behind Mother’s Heart. Wanda wore a Mother’s Heart T-shirt and pulled down her mask as she started talking.
Wanda Vincent:Do not allow Total to expose our children to numerous dangerous toxic emissions. No disrespect, but we’re not animals. The tests may have been done on animals, but we’re human beings.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Parents, neighbors and medical professionals all joined her in begging the council not to allow Total to drill. But the new mayor and some city councilmembers argued that if they voted no, Total would sue, and the city would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, fighting an unwinnable legal battle.
Speaker 30:Dr. Odom Wesley, please cast your vote.
Elizabeth Shogr…:The council voted 5-4 to allow Total to drill.
Speaker 30:And the motion passes.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Then a couple weeks later, in December, Wanda and her staff saw a large truck at the site, and smelled strong odors.
Wanda Vincent:Hi Jonathan, my name is Wanda Vincent and –
Elizabeth Shogr…:She called the state environmental agency.
Wanda Vincent:[inaudible] one of my employees started feeling nauseated and sick. This is urgent. I need to know, do we not take these children outside?
Elizabeth Shogr…:Then the council met in January for a second vote on the drilling. Usually these just rubber stamp the original decision. But this time, Wanda and others demanded the council reverse itself, and the council did, voting 5-4 to block TotalEnergies from drilling, at least for a year.
Speaker 30:With that, the motion fails.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Still, these days, there’s lots of new momentum behind gas drilling. In many parts of the world, gas prices have spiked, and a new industry in the U.S. is revving up to meet that demand by exporting natural gas.
Speaker 31:With Cheniere’s Corpus Christi liquifaction plant up and running, Texas and the Coastal Bend are ready to enter the worldwide natural gas market.
Elizabeth Shogr…:Companies like Exxon, Shell and Total are investing tens of billions of dollars in liquified natural gas, or LNG, and shipping it across the globe. It’s going to be really hard to put this genie back in the bottle, and the Biden administration doesn’t seem to want to. In a speech where President Biden was announcing executive orders on climate change, he also said –
Joe Biden:Let me be clear, and I know this always comes up. We’re not going to ban fracking.
Elizabeth Shogr…:So which is it going to be? Many scientists and environmentalists warn that fracking and LNG aren’t compatible with protecting communities and fighting climate change. So far, the president hasn’t spelled out how he plans to have it all.
Michael Montgom…:That story from Reveal’s Elizabeth Shogren. As important as it is to plug leaks from oil and gas drilling, that won’t make the methane problem go away. That’s because there’s another serious source that scientists need to deal with.
Speaker 33:There’s so much methane. So they burp and they burp and they burp.
Michael Montgom…:That story next on Reveal.
Latif Nasser:Are you hungry for some great investigative journalism that sounds like music? Then Radiolab might be the show for you. Radiolab began over 20 years ago as an exploration of science, philosophy and ethics. The show has since expanded to become a platform for some of the best long-form journalism and storytelling you’ll hear today. Join Jad, Lulu Miller, and myself, Latif Nasser, as we investigate stories that provoke, delight, and ask you to completely change the way you view the world. You can find Radiolab wherever you get podcasts.
Michael Montgom…:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Michael Montgomery, sitting in for Al Letson. The methane that’s escaping into the atmosphere isn’t just coming from oil and gas wells. Sometimes, it’s from landfills and sometimes … Yep. From livestock. Cows, sheep and buffalo have a very specific digestive process, and methane is one unfortunate byproduct. Livestock alone account for more than 14% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. In California, where the beef and dairy industries are big, animals release more methane than energy companies.

And just like with oil and gas, there’s a whole group of scientists searching for ways to cut the amount of methane that escapes. Reporter Brett Simpson spent an afternoon with one of these scientists.
Brett Simpson:In Davis, California, if you drive past miles of green fields and take a right turn off of Dairy Road, you will land at a lab that doesn’t look anything like a lab. Low, red barns, tractors moving piles of green alfalfa, scientists logging through mud in jeans and rubber boots, and rows and rows of cows.
Mallory Honen:So that’s Bridget, that’s Gertrude. Gertrude is one of my favorites, she’s one of our older ones.
Brett Simpson:That’s grad student [Mallory Honen]. She works for Dr. Ermias Kebreab. He’s devoted 20 years to solving the methane problem. But as far as his kids are concerned.
Ermias Kebreab:My kids would say that I study cow poop. [inaudible]. It’s funny for them.
Brett Simpson:But contrary to what we might have heard, methane isn’t in the cow poop. Or in cow farms. Almost all the methane cows produce, 97%, comes out the front end, in burps. And for years, Ermias has tried to take the methane out of those burps by changing what cows eat. He and his grad students have tried feeding them everything. Lemongrass, garlic, citrus, coffee.
Mallory Honen:It’s kind of normal to me that we feed these weird things to cows and see what happens.
Brett Simpson:What happens is the food works its way through the cows, they start belching, and the team measures the methane using –
Mallory Honen:A burp analyzer. A burp analyzer. That’s what I call it.
Brett Simpson:That burp analyzer, more officially called a GreenFeed, is a metal box the size of a mini-fridge. You pour in feed and the cow sticks its head in to eat. Another grad student, [Brianna Rogue], shows me how it works.
Brianna Rogue:As the cow puts her head into the machine, it drops down alfalfa pellets which the cows really enjoy. This machine is able to capture the gas that they’re eructating and respirating.
Brett Simpson:Ercutating is a fancy word for burping.
Brianna Rogue:That is the sound of a dairy cow licking a mic.
Brett Simpson:And the closest I could get to recording a cow burp. Turns out, they aren’t that loud. But they have a big impact. The average cow burps 220 pounds of methane a year. In California alone, that’s the same amount of greenhouse gas created by two and a half million cars. Ermias had been running tests with the GreenFeed for years, with little success. Then he heard about a scientist in Nova Scotia, Canada named Rob Kinley. He tells me he was also obsessed with methane in cows.
Rob Kinley:There’s so much methane. So they burp and they burp and they burp, and they can’t stop. If they do, they will bloat and it can kill them.
Brett Simpson:Rob didn’t work directly with livestock. He was doing experiments in test tubes in Petri dishes to try to change the chemistry of a cow’s stomach so it would create less methane. A few years ago, he got to know a local dairy farmer, who had been grazing some of his cows near the ocean, and they were eating seaweed.
Rob Kinley:And he was seeing a little bit better milk production from them. So he said those cattle were better behaved, easier to handle, and they had rip-roaring heats.
Brett Simpson:In other words, seaweed was putting cows in the mood to mate. But Rob wondered, could it help reduce methane too? So back in his lab, he ran a test.
Rob Kinley:When I first saw it, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I thought something had gone wrong, I went about checking instruments and checking gas vials and checking samples and redoing it.
Brett Simpson:Each time, the same result. When he added seaweed to the Petri dish, methane levels went down by more than 90%. But the question remained, would it work in a real cow?

Back in California when Ermias heard about Rob’s findings, he decided to find out. But he was skeptical.
Ermias Kebreab:We didn’t know if this works in real animals. Because there are a number of additives that work okay in the lab but doesn’t work in vivo. Like curry for example, if you put curry in the lab, you can see there’s a reduction in methane, but if you give them to animals, they can adapt to it very quickly.
Brett Simpson:Still, he ran the test, using seaweed from the coast of Australia. Brianna and Mallory show me what looks like dry stringy purple herbs.
Mallory Honen:And as you can tell, it gets pretty powdery as you grind it. So as we were batch mixing, it was just like –
Brianna Rogue:Just coating.
Mallory Honen:We were purple at the end of it, you know?
Brianna Rogue:And you just taste like salt, like it just smelled like the ocean, yeah.
Brett Simpson:Finally, after weeks of feeding this to cows, they ran the data.
Brianna Rogue:We saw about a 67% reduction in methane which is phenomenal. I mean –
Brett Simpson:The team was ecstatic, and after perfecting the formula, they’ve seen methane emissions go down by more than 80%. So an average cow could go from emitting 220 pounds of methane a year to just 44.

It’s one thing to get wild seaweed from Australia to a dozen cows in a lab, but there are 95 million cows in the U.S., about a billion in the world. That’s a huge production and distribution challenge, and it sparked an industry of seaweed entrepreneurs. Including Joan Salwen.
Joan Salwen:I’m standing here in the seedling room, where we’ve got shelves and shelves of vessels. Each container holding about six and a half gallons of water and seaweed. All the seaweed I’m looking at here is a beautiful cherry red, and it’s all kind of bouncing around, almost dancing in the bubbling seawater.
Brett Simpson:Joan was so excited about this seaweed research that she started her own company, Blue Ocean Barns, and relocated from California to Hawaii to oversee their seaweed farm. She says everyone is asking her, “What do seaweed-fed milk and beef taste like this?”
Joan Salwen:And the answer is the milk tastes like milk and the meat tastes like meat.
Brett Simpson:Joan says if that all seems too good to be true, maybe that’s okay for once.
Joan Salwen:We really need to make major changes to our fossil fuel infrastructure, to our transportation choices. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if beef and dairy were not one of those things where we had to dictate that for climate reasons, we had to take something off the menu?
Brett Simpson:The future of the supplement is in the hands of the FDA, which is currently running safety tests. But Joan isn’t too worried. People have been eating this particular variety of seaweed for thousands of years. So she’s optimistic they’ll get approval to start selling it to farmers and ranchers soon. But will they buy it?
Tony Toso:I don’t … I mean, feed’s feed.
Brett Simpson:That’s Tony Toso, president of the California Cattlemen’s Association. He said he already feeds his cows tons of supplements. So he’s not too worried about adding seaweed to the mix. Especially if it helps California reach its goal of cutting livestock methane emissions by 40% in the next decade. So far, California is the only state to regulate animal methane. Tony is open to the change, as long as the additive meets certain conditions.
Tony Toso:Guys are going to look at it. Is it economically feasible? Does it accomplish the goals that we’re after?
Brett Simpson:The state and federal government already subsidize animal feed for both the meat and dairy industries. So Tony hopes they’ll help with this too. The farmers and ranchers are on board and production is underway. So does that mean a guilt-free burger is in our future? Not exactly. Methane isn’t the only greenhouse gas emission from the meat and dairy industries. There’s carbon dioxide from producing and transporting the feed, plus concerns about overgrazing and water. It takes more than 600 gallons of water to make one hamburger, and critics say it’s just not practical to get seaweed into bellies of all the world’s cows. Today, there are plenty who think that society needs to make a serious shift away from eating meat. Like the World Resources Institute, the U.N. Environment Program, and Bill Gates.
Speaker 42:Cows alone account for about 6% of global emissions. Of all the categories, the one that has gone better is this work to make let’s called artificial meat.
Brett Simpson:The meatless movement is becoming mainstream. Even Burger King is in on the action.
Speaker 43:The Impossible Whopper is now available nationwide. You too can go to any –
Brett Simpson:Ermias Kebreab agrees that it can be helpful to cut back on meat, as long as you have other choices for getting enough protein. But he worries that some activists behind the meat-free message are missing something.
Ermias Kebreab:When people say we shouldn’t be eating animals for food, they’re not considering the whole of the world. I mean most people in the world do not have access to nutritious food.
Brett Simpson:In places where food is scarce, animal products are still the most efficient sources of protein. So Ermias says we can’t take meat off the table.
Ermias Kebreab:So that’s what really bothers me. What about the voices, the majority of the world, all this noise is coming from North America and Europe.
Brett Simpson:This is personal for Ermias. He grew up in East Africa, where malnutrition is a big problem. He believes it’s possible to solve the climate crisis without taking away options for getting essential protein.
Ermias Kebreab:What we do in here is to get people that food that they need in a way that does not harm the environment.
Brett Simpson:And that means thinking beyond seaweed for reducing methane. Because it’s still complicated and costly to transport it to farmers in arid regions like East Africa. So Ermias and his grad students are back to work, testing a new substance they’re calling [ruminproof]. Ermias hopes it will work in places where seaweed is not an option. What exactly is in ruminproof? Until the results come in, Ermias says that’s still top secret.
Michael Montgom…:Brett Simpson reported that story. Our lead producer for this week’s show was Elizabeth Shogren, Taki Telonidis edited the show. Thanks to [Mohammed Al Aloo] for his data reporting on our first two stories, and editor Soo Oh and Esther Kaplan, and to [Melia Woolen] from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Victoria Baranetsky is our general counsel. Our production manager is Amy Mostafa. Score and sound design by Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda. They had help this week from Steven Rascon, Kathryn Styer Martinez, Claire Mullen and Jess Alvarenga. Our digital producer is Sarah Mirk. Our CEO is Kaizar Campwala. Sumi Aggarwal is our editor in chief and our executive producer is Kevin Sullivan. Our theme music is by Camerado-Lightning. Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, the Democracy Fund, and the In As Much Foundation. Reveal is a co-production of the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. I’m Michael Montgomery in for Al Letson, and as he likes to say, there is always more to the story.
Al Letson:If you like what we do and you want to help, well it’s pretty simple. Just write us a review on Apple Podcasts. It’s easy and only takes a few seconds. Just open the Apple Podcasts app on your phone, search for Reveal, then scroll down to where you see write a review. And there, tell them how much you love the host. Your review makes it easier for listeners to find us, and … Well it really does make a difference. And if you do it, you will get a personal thank you from me, like right now. Like thank … [inaudible] not him, you. Yes, you. Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. Bye.
Speaker 44:From PRX.

Elizabeth Shogren

Elizabeth Shogren is a senior reporter and producer for Reveal, covering science. As part of a new initiative, Shogren tracks the real-life effects of the anti-science mentality that has seeped into many corners of the federal government. Previously, Shogren was an on-air environment correspondent for NPR’s national and science desks. She has also covered the environment and energy for the Los Angeles Times and High Country News. While at NPR, she was a lead reporter for Poisoned Places, a data-driven series about the toxic air pollution that plagues some communities because of the failure of government to implement a decades-old federal law. The series received several honors, including a Science in Society journalism award from the National Association of Science Writers. Her High Country News investigations of the federal coal program and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s failure to adjust to climate change won the Society of Professional Journalists’ Top of the Rockies prizes. Early in her career, as a freelance foreign correspondent, she covered the fall of communism in Eastern Europe before joining the Los Angeles Times’ Moscow bureau. Later, she joined the paper’s Washington bureau, where she covered the White House, Congress, poverty and the environment. Shogren is based in Washington, D.C.

Mohamed Al Elew

Mohamed Al Elew (he/him) is a data reporter for Reveal. He received his bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of California San Diego, where he was a research scholar at the Data Science Institute and served as editor-in-chief of The Triton, the school’s independent student newsroom. As an intern at CalMatters, he worked on an award-winning investigation into instruction lost at California public schools due to natural disasters and infrastructure failures. He is based in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Brett Simpson (she/her) is an assistant producer for Reveal. She is pursuing a master's degree at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where she focuses on audio, print and investigative reporting. She has received fellowships from the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, the National Press Club, the White House Correspondents’ Association and the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center. She is also the graduate researcher at UC Berkeley's Investigative Reporting Program. Most recently, Simpson reported breaking news for the San Francisco Chronicle and covered the coronavirus outbreak in the San Francisco Bay Area for The New York Times. She received a bachelor's degree in English at Princeton University, where she twice won the Ferris Prize for Outstanding Undergraduate Projects in Journalism. Simpson is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.

Taki Telonidis is an interim executive producer for Reveal. Previously, he was the media producer for the Western Folklife Center, where he created more than 100 radio features for NPR’s "All Things Considered," "Weekend Edition" and other news magazines. He has produced and directed three public television specials, including "Healing the Warrior’s Heart," a one-hour documentary that explores how the ancient spiritual traditions of our nation’s first warriors, Native Americans, are helping today’s veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Telonidis also was senior content editor for NPR’s "State of the Re:Union." Before moving to the West, he worked for NPR in Washington, where he was senior producer of "Weekend All Things Considered" between 1994 and 1998. His television and radio work has garnered a George Foster Peabody Award, three Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards and the Overseas Press Club Award for breaking news. Telonidis is based in Salt Lake City.

Soo Oh is the enterprise editor for data at Reveal. She has previously reported data stories, coded interactive visuals and built internal tools at the Wall Street Journal, Vox.com, the Los Angeles Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education. In 2018, she was a John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University, where she researched how to better manage and support journalists with technical skills. Oh is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Esther Kaplan is the editor-at-large of Reveal, leading the organization's investigative reporting. She previously was editor-in-chief of Type Investigations, where she was part of teams that won three Emmy Awards, a Polk Award, a Peabody Award and an IRE Medal. She has written for Harper's Magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Nation and many other publications. She is the author of “With God on Their Side: George W. Bush and the Christian Right” (New Press) and was a 2013 fellow with the Alicia Patterson Foundation. Earlier in her career, Kaplan was a senior editor at The Nation; features editor at Poz, the national AIDS magazine; communications director at Communications Workers of America Local 1180; and a host of “Beyond the Pale,” a weekly radio program covering Jewish culture and politics on WBAI in New York. She began her journalism career as an assistant editor at The Village Voice, where she became a regular contributor. Her writing has won the Molly National Journalism Prize, the Sidney Award, the Clarion Award and other honors. Kaplan is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.

Amy Mostafa (she/they) is the production manager for Reveal. She is a UC Berkeley School of Journalism alum, where she focused on audio and data journalism as a Dean's Merit Fellow and an ISF Scholar. She has reported on science, health and the environment in Anchorage for Alaska Public Media and on city government in Berkeley and San Francisco for KQED. Her work also has appeared on NPR, KALW and KALX. Mostafa holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and public policy. She has most recently reported on housing and aging in the Bay Area. She is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.

Jim Briggs III is the senior sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. He supervises post-production and composes original music for the public radio show and podcast. He also leads Reveal's efforts in composition for data sonification and live performances.

Prior to joining Reveal in 2014, Briggs mixed and recorded for clients such as WNYC Studios, NPR, the CBC and American Public Media. Credits include “Marketplace,” “Selected Shorts,” “Death, Sex & Money,” “The Longest Shortest Time,” NPR’s “Ask Me Another,” “Radiolab,” “Freakonomics Radio” and “Soundcheck.” He also was the sound re-recording mixer and sound editor for several PBS television documentaries, including “American Experience: Walt Whitman,” the 2012 Tea Party documentary "Town Hall" and “The Supreme Court” miniseries. His music credits include albums by R.E.M., Paul Simon and Kelly Clarkson.

Briggs' work with Reveal has been recognized with an Emmy Award (2016) and two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards (2018, 2019). Previously, he was part of the team that won the Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma for its work on WNYC’s hourlong documentary special “Living 9/11.” He has taught sound, radio and music production at The New School and Eugene Lang College and has a master's degree in media studies from The New School. Briggs is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Fernando Arruda

Fernando Arruda is a sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. As a multi-instrumentalist, he contributes to the original music, editing and mixing of the weekly public radio show and podcast. He has held four O-1 visas for individuals with extraordinary abilities. His work has been recognized with Peabody, duPont-Columbia, Edward R. Murrow, Gerald Loeb, Third Coast and Association of Music Producers awards, as well as Emmy and Pulitzer nominations. Prior to joining Reveal, Arruda toured as an international DJ and taught music technology at Dubspot and ESRA International Film School. He worked at Antfood, a creative audio studio for media and TV ads, and co-founded a film-scoring boutique called the Manhattan Composers Collective. He worked with clients such as Marvel, MasterClass and Samsung and ad agencies such as Framestore, Trollbäck+Company, BUCK and Vice. Arruda releases experimental music under the alias FJAZZ and has performed with many jazz, classical and pop ensembles, such as SFJAZZ Monday Night Band, Art&Sax quartet, Krychek, Dark Inc. and the New York Arabic Orchestra. His credits in the podcast and radio world include NPR’s “51 Percent,” WNYC’s “Bad Feminist Happy Hour” and its live broadcast of Orson Welles’ “The Hitchhiker,” Wondery’s “Detective Trapp,” MSNBC’s “Why Is This Happening?” and NBC’s “Born to Rule,” to name a few. Arruda also has a wide catalog of composed music for theatrical, orchestral and chamber music formats, some of which has premiered worldwide. He holds a master’s degree in film scoring and composition from NYU Steinhardt. The original music he makes with Jim Briggs for Reveal can be found on Bandcamp.

Steven Rascón (he/they) is a production assistant for Reveal. He is pursuing a master's degree at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism with a Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy Fellowship. His focus is investigative reporting and audio documentary. He has written for online, magazines and radio. His reporting on underreported fentanyl overdoses in Los Angeles' LGBTQ community aired on KCRW and KQED. Rascón is passionate about telling diverse stories for radio through community engagement. He holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater arts and creative writing.

Claire Mullen worked at The Center for Investigative Reporting until September 2017. is an associate sound designer and audio engineer for Reveal. Before joining Reveal, she was an assistant producer at Radio Ambulante and worked with KALW, KQED, the Association of Independents in Radio and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. She studied humanities and media studies at Scripps College.

Kevin Sullivan is the executive producer of Reveal’s public radio show and podcast. He joined Reveal from the daily news magazine show “Here & Now,” where he was senior managing editor. There, he helped lead the expansion of the show as part of a unique partnership between NPR and WBUR. Prior to radio, Sullivan worked as a documentary film producer. That work took him around the world, with stories ranging from reconciliation in Northern Ireland to the refugee crisis during the war in Kosovo.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sullivan launched an investigative unit for CBS in Baltimore, where he spearheaded investigations on bioterrorism and the U.S. government’s ability to respond to future threats. He also dug into local issues. His exposé of local judges found widespread lax sentencing of repeat-offender drunken drivers. Other investigations included sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests, and doctors who sold OxyContin for cash. Sullivan has won multiple journalism awards, including several Edward R. Murrow awards, a Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition award and an Emmy. He has an MBA from Boston University.

Sullivan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Al Letson is a playwright, performer, screenwriter, journalist, and the host of Reveal. Soul-stirring, interdisciplinary work has garnered Letson national recognition and devoted fans.