Thomas L. Stokes Award for Best Energy Writing

Each year, the National Press Foundation presents the Thomas L. Stokes Award to a U.S.-based journalist for the best writing on the subject of energy. The Stokes Award was established in the spring of 1959 by friends and admirers of the late Thomas L. Stokes, the syndicated Washington columnist on national affairs. It is given annually for the best writing “in the independent spirit of Tom Stokes” on subjects of interest to him including energy, natural resources and the environment. The winner of the award receives $2,000. The subject may be any form of energy—oil, gas, coal, nuclear, water, solar, etc. This award is open to all media; the journalism may be reporting, analysis or commentary. The entry should represent the highest standards of journalism.

The Better Government Association, a nonprofit watchdog in Illinois, has won the National Press Foundation’s 2017 Thomas L. Stokes Award for Best Energy Writing.

BGA reporters Brett Chase and Madison Hopkins revealed radioactive leaks around nuclear power plants owned by Exelon and a reluctance by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to act on critical safety concerns. Illinois has more nuclear power plants than any other state, leading Chase and Hopkins to explore safety issues in a project titled “Power Struggle.”

NPF judges said: “Better Government Association reporters produced a clear-eyed, ambitious investigation into safety issues at nuclear power plants, exposing a culture where regulators often deferred to the nuclear industry. Their reporting on the frayed safety net surfaced this startling fact: Of 687 whistleblower complaints filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 2010-2016, not a single one was upheld.”

Honorable mention went to The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, for “Power Failure,” a series about politicians allowing utilities to shift risks and costs of new utility construction to consumers.