Thomas L. Stokes Award for Best Energy Writing

Abrahm Lustgarten and Joaquin Sapien 2009


The National Press Foundation has awarded the 2009 Stokes Award for Best Energy Writing to ProPublica reporters Abrahm Lustgarten and Joaquin Sapien for their masterful job of investigative reporting and writing about an increasingly popular method of natural gas drilling known as hydraulic fracturing. The work was showcased in ProPublica’s print and online editions in a series that continued for much of 2009. The stories linked more than 1,000 cases of water contamination to places where hydraulic fracturing had taken place. It raised some of the first questions about whether the process, and the chemicals used, were the cause.

NPF’s judges felt the series clearly explains a complex process that most readers likely had never heard of. It makes clear that government oversight is limited by law and budget, and that the risks and damage are real. It also explores legislative remedies and the obstacles to passage. The judges were impressed by ProPublica’s detailed reporting, clear explanatory writing and dynamic online presentation, including an audio slide show, graphics and excellent photos, also shot by Lustgarten.

Other Winners of this Award


Lisa Song, David Hasemyer, Jim Morris, Greg Gilderman

InsideClimate News, Center for Public Integrity, The Weather Channel



An eight-person team collaborated on the winning entry


Jim Morris, Chris Hamby and Kimberly Leonard

Center for Public Integrity


Tony Bartelme

The Post and Courier


Thomas Content, Lee Bergquist, Joel Dresang

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Robert Collier

The San Francisco Chronicle


The Plain Dealer Staff

Cleveland Plain Dealer


Sudeep Reddy and Pete Slover

The Dallas Morning News


James Bruggers

The Courier Journal


Ralph Haurwitz and Jeff Nesmith

Austin American-Statesman and Cox Newspapers


Peter Eisler

USA Today