Sorry, I didn't mean to be on the record. My bad.

Sometimes interviews are on the record, sometimes they’re not. But what happens when a company’s PR rep changes their mind at the end of an interview? Something like this, courtesy of State Impact New Hampshire.

Q: So for my post, can you tell me a little bit about GMO?

A: Sure.  It’s a $100 billion institutional money management firm.

Q: Do they only invest in land, or do they have a wider portfolio?

A: They invest in a variety of different things.

Q: Great.  Thank you. [about to hang up]

A: I’d rather not be quoted on any of this.

Q: Wait…what?  You don’t want to be quoted declining to comment or describing the company?

A: No.

Q: But you’re the PR guy!  You know you’re on record when you talk to the media.  Are you seriously asking me not to quote you declining to comment?

A: We’re just declining to comment.

Q: Seriously, what’s with the cloak-and-dagger?  This is all pretty straight-forward.

A: It’s not cloak-and-dagger.  We’re just declining to comment.  Declining to comment is just declining to comment.

Q: I’m going to quote you on what you said.

A: Ok.  Let me know if I can help you any more.

Q: (Laughing) I would, but I doubt you could go on the record declining to answer my questions.

A: (Laughing)…Thanks!  Click.

Check out Boomtown, a multimedia piece about fracking in Towanda, Pennsylvania. It was reported by StateImpact Pennsylvania’s Scott Detrow, photographed by NPR’s Becky Lettenberger. The project was produced by Wesley Lindamood, Christopher Swope, Claire O'Neill, Jessica Pupovac, Yan Lu and John Stefany.

Photo Credit: Becky Lettenberger/NPR


Outside Susan Holmes’ house in southeastern Oklahoma, visitors are welcomed by an entryway lined with oxygen bottles and a machine that collects and concentrates oxygen from the air.

“I take two inhalers twice a day,” Holmes says. “And I have a nebulizer that I use four times a day, and I use oxygen at night.”

She says her asthma returned when she moved to Bokoshe, a decaying town of about 500 people that is flanked by old coal mines. The huge pits have now been filled with hundreds of thousands of tons of coal ash.

About 130 million tons of coal ash are produced every year. Power companies used to keep it in big, open holes called coal ash ponds. No lining was required to stop leakage, and no monitoring, to even know if it was leaking.

Then, in 2008, a ruptured dike spilled more than a billion gallons of coal ash slurry from a pond operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considered classifying coal ash as “hazardous waste.”

The utility industry lobbied hard — and successfully — to avoid the hazardous waste designation. So in 2014, EPA’s new rules said coal ash was not hazardous.

Now, power companies must recycle the ash, store it more securely on site, or send the ash to landfills.

But in the towns where that ash is ending up, nobody is quite happy with those options.

Communities Uneasy As Utilities Look For Places To Store Coal Ash

Photos: Joe Wertz/Stateimpact Oklahoma and Molly Samuel/WABE