Brendan DeMelle

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Brendan DeMelle is Executive Director and Managing Editor of  He is also a freelance writer and researcher specializing in new media, politics, climate change and clean energy. He has served as research associate for Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., researcher for Ring of Fire Radio, researcher for Laurie David and, law and policy analyst for Environmental Working Group, campus organizer for Connecticut Public Interest Research Group, environmental justice associate for EPA Region 10, among other positions in his career. DeMelle has provided writing and communications services on a wide range of topics, with a demonstrated ability to simplify complex and technical issues into concise, accessible language for general public consumption. 

His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, GristEnergyBoom, The Washington Times and other outlets, including a peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Rural History about the social and ecological impacts of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project. He graduated from St. Lawrence University with a BA in Sociology and Environmental Studies in 1998, and lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife Anne.

BP Returns to Deepwater Offshore Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico

BP, the oil major responsible for the biggest offshore oil disaster in U.S. history, is officially returning to deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The Obama Interior Department “awarded” BP $27 million worth of leases for oil-and-gas exploration in the Gulf waters into which the company and its accomplices dumped roughly 5 million barrels of oil in April 2010.

The Interior Department conducted its first Gulf lease sale since the BP disaster and announced today the winning bids from 20 different companies totaling $712 million. Adding a strange insult to injury, the lease sale was conducted in New Orleans, home to many fishermen and small business owners whose livelihoods were imperiled by BP's reckless drilling disaster.

In its coverage, BP Awarded $27 Million in Leases for Gulf Oil, Gas Exploration, the National Journal reports that:

BP bid a total of $109.9 million on 15 leases and won 11 for $27.4 million, Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management reported in a list of sales posted on its website.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said:

This marks a milestone with respect to the greatest overhaul in the America’s history,” Salazar said of the offshore-drilling safety reforms and changes implemented by Interior since the April 2010 explosion of a BP well in the Gulf led to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. “We believe we can move forward with oil and gas development.”

The only milestone this really marks is the renewed guarantee that the oil industry will continue to destroy the Gulf of Mexico one disaster at a time in its pursuit of dangerous, extreme energy. 

BREAKING: Canada Pulls Out of Kyoto Protocol

Canada is pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol, the cornerstone of international climate negotiations, in the wake of the failed COP17 climate talks in Durban. Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent announced Canada's bail-out of Kyoto as he returned from Durban.

The Kyoto Protocol was ratified by Canada in 2002, when the agreement became legally binding. Canada's decision to turn its back on its international obligations confirms yet again that Stephen Harper and his carbon cronies are securing a hellish future for generations to come.  Canada's 'leaders' are brashly choosing pollution-based profiteering over public health and cooking the climate to make a killing in the tar sands. 

BBC reports: 

Peter Kent said the protocol “does not represent a way forward for Canada” and would have forced it to take “radical and irresponsible choices”.

The move, which is legal and was expected, makes it the first nation to pull out of the global treaty.  …

“Kyoto, for Canada, is in the past, and as such we are invoking our legal right to withdraw from Kyoto,” Mr Kent said in Toronto.

CBC has details on Kent's timing, as well as a news poll showing 62% disapproval of the decision (as of 3pm PST) on CBC's Inside Politics Blog: 

Kent returned to Ottawa from Durban Monday afternoon and made the announcement about two hours after landing.

He said he waited to formally pull out of the Kyoto Protocol because he'd promised a top UN official in Durban not to distract from the talks.

Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner, Mike Hudema, reacts:

“The Harper government has imposed a death sentence on many of the world's most vulnerable populations by pulling out of Kyoto. The decision to leave Kyoto behind destabilizes the promise of action on the climate crisis. This is a further signal that the Harper government is more concerned about protecting polluters than people.”

Youth Delegate Anjali Appadurai Speaks Truth to Power at Conclusion of COP17 in Durban

Perhaps the most powerful speech made in all of COP17 at Durban came at the very end, a statement by Anjali Appadurai, a student at the College of the Atlantic in Maine, who addressed the conference on behalf of the youth delegates.

Her scornful depiction of the utter failure of the international community to act on climate change - a failure chiefly owned by the largest polluting nations who have caused most of the damage to the global climate - is spot on.

Watch coverage of Ms. Appadurai's statement, courtesy of Democracy Now!

Small Island States Fear "Annihilation" From Failed Climate Negotiations, Protests Mark COP17 Closing Hours

Karl Hood, Grenada's Minister of Foreign Affairs and chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), responded to a question from veteran ABC correspondent Bill Blakemore about the fact that climate scientists believe it is impossible to keep global warming below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels: “If they're saying that 1.5 isn't possible, are you asking us then to accept annihilation?”

Watch Hood respond to Blakemore's question:

H/T ThinkProgress for the news and the video

The Sky Is Falling! Climate Deniers Parachute Into COP17 In Durban

What’s that falling from the sky?  A bird?  A plane?   No!  

It’s just crazy climate denier Christopher “Lord” Monckton! Apparently trying to one-up himself after the “Hitler Youth” debacle in Copenhagen in 2009.

Monckton and his compatriots from the climate-denying, pollution-loving Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) skydived onto the beaches of Durban yesterday in another failed attempt to flog the dead “Climategate 2.0” horse.  

The image of Monckton dropping from the sky, eyes closed, destined to decry his well-worn “U.N. world-domination conspiracy” is just priceless. Witness the great non-Lord's descent unto the masses, assisted by a hunky “paratrooper” to guide him to dry land since he couldn't bear to watch himself: 


BREAKING: Northern Gateway Pipeline Decision Delayed Until Late 2013

The Calgary Herald reports that the decision on the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline was delayed today until late 2013, a year later than planned. The three-member panel said it “would anticipate releasing the environmental assessment report in the fall of 2013 and its final decision on the project around the end of 2013.”

The joint review panel of Environment Canada and the National Energy Board announced that it will take the additional year to review the widespread public concern over the proposed pipeline, which would cut through First Nations lands in order to shuttle the dirtiest oil on the planet, Alberta tar sands, to Asian export markets.

The delay is not a good sign for Enbridge or KinderMorgan, the two major tar sands pipeline interests hoping to enable the export of Alberta's climate-killing product overseas. As we learned last week, the oil industry will face a powerful adversary since BC’s First Nations pledged, as a united front, to halt construction and prevent the proposed pipelines from crossing their territory.

Marking their commitment against the pipeline projects, 55 First Nations leaders from across BC signed the Save the Fraser Declaration.  “These First Nations form an unbroken wall of opposition from the U.S. border to the Arctic Ocean,” said the group in a statement. 
In response to the firm commitment of First Nations leaders, federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said today that Northern Gateway “shouldn’t be held hostage by aboriginal and environmental groups threatening to create a human “wall” to prevent construction,”according to the National Post article, “Oil industry’s ‘nation-building’ pipeline won’t be stopped by protesters.”

Suncor Refinery Spill Threatens River Supplying Denver Drinking Water

Just another day in reckless energy land. A broken pipeline at the Commerce City refinery operated by tar sands producer Suncor appears to have leaked an “oily muck” into Sand Creek in Colorado.

The spill may pose a threat to Denver drinking water supplies, although luckily it appears to have been contained, according to some media accounts.

Reuters reports that:

“The Canadian energy firm said it had not yet identified the source of the leak, but acknowledged it was likely coming from its 93,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery in the area. …

Sand Creek joins the South Platte River, a major source of drinking water for the Denver metropolitan area.

Suncor's Commerce City plant recently underwent a $540 million upgrade to enable it to handle more heavy oil sands crude from Canada.

NRDC's Switchboard blogger Anthony Swift reports that: 

The spill was discovered by a fisherman Sunday morning who saw sheen on the river and said the area smelled like a gas station. On Monday officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) arrived onsite and Suncor reported a leak. On Tuesday evening Suncor and EPA officials decided to dig a trench. This afternoon, EPA officials announced that three small booms erected on a bank of Sand Creek appear to be containing the oil and preventing further contamination.

The extent of the contamination is still unclear. If the leak involves tar sands diluted bitumen, the contamination could be more severe. Tar sands diluted bitumen spills are associated with significantly more submerged oil which cannot be contained by surface booms. Spill responders are still struggling to handle the submerged oil at Enbridge’s Kalamazoo oil spill. However, this spill shows the weakness in spill response and is yet another example of the very real risks inherent in tar sands infrastructure projects.

Update Dec 2: A DeSmog reader alerted us to this update today, which indicates that, if it weren't for the diligence of the unnamed fisherman, an Idaho man who read his blog, and the Denver Post's follow-up call to EPA, this spill might have spread farther thanks to an incompetent initial response by the state of Colorado. “It's not like the fisherman reported the spill and everyone jumped into action. The actual process is remarkable.” Indeed, remarkably scary.
“On Sunday morning, a fisherman reported the latest spill into Sand Creek and the South Platte after wading into the muck. The state relied on the Tri-County Health Department to check out the report, and Tri-County could not find an oil sheen on the water.
The fisherman wrote a blog post that was read by a man in Boise, Idaho, who left a voice message at The Denver Post. Post queries Monday included a check with an EPA duty officer. That officer dispatched Kimbel, who smelled and then found the mess and launched an EPA response Monday afternoon

Did UK Police Quietly Sideline ‘Climategate’ Hacker Investigation?

The UK police force tasked with investigating the hacking of emails and documents from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (the debunked “Climategate”) seems to have quietly de-prioritized its investigation earlier this year, according to documents released under the UK Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The Norfolk Constabulary police force’s responses to FOIA requests indicate that the amount spent on attempts to identify the hacker in the last year was just £5,649.09 - with all but £80.05 spent on invoices for work carried out previously by private companies, suggesting police work on the investigation has ground to a halt.

Earlier this week, the hackers (ironically calling themselves “FOIA”) illegally released a second set of hacked material consisting of 5,349 emails and 23 documents from UEA. The university and independent reviews suggest these are leftovers from the initial November 2009 theft – in the words of one climate scientist, “two-year old turkey.” 

While nine independent inquiries have cleared the scientists of any wrongdoing in the wake of the baseless ‘Climategate’ episode, the person (or persons) responsible for the hacking has gotten off scot-free to date. The FOIA documents seem to indicate that the police investigation was derailed and perhaps dropped earlier this year.

The grand total spent by Norfolk police on the UEA hacker investigation since the November 2009 theft is just £80,905.11.

Battle For Wetzel County: Short Documentary Chronicles Impacts of Fracking In West Virginia

This short documentary, “Battle for Wetzel County,” chronicles the impacts of the gas fracking rush in West Virginia, focusing on the damages caused by Chesapeake Energy’s drilling activity in the mountains of this rural county.

The film features interviews with Wetzel County residents, including Marty Whiteman and his daughter Sarah Wood - family farmers who explain how surface owners like them are powerless to stop Chesapeake Energy from drilling because they don’t own the minerals beneath their properties.

Whiteman has sued Chesapeake Energy, claiming the drilling activities pose a direct threat to their livelihood. But he knows that the company could still destroy his ability to farm forever, thanks in large part to lax state oversight of the industry.

The film also contains footage from a public hearing in Morgantown, WV where angry residents share their concerns about fracking. One man fights back tears as he shows a photo of a fracking tanker truck dumping contaminated post-drilling wastewater on a road that schoolchildren walk on every day. “This industry is out of control in the state of West Virginia. I say we pass a moratorium now,” he says to loud applause from the audience.

Julia Archer of West Virginia Surface Owners’ Rights Association talks about the effort to get lawmakers to support a Surface Owners’ Bill of Rights, seeking a rigorous review of the rules and disclosure of impacts from fracking and other subsurface activities.

Battle for Wetzel County’ is the third installment of an 8-park documentary series called Journey On Earth, produced by SnagFilms in association with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Watch it below:

Real 'Climategate' Scandal: UK Police Spent Measly $8,843 In Failed Attempt to Identify Criminal Hacker

Richard Black at the BBC points to the real 'Climategate' scandal that needs further investigation - why the UK police have done such an astonishly poor job investigating this criminal hacking, as evidenced by their tiny expenditures to date this year. From Climate Emails, Storm or Yawn?

I have it from a very good source that it absolutely was a hack, not a leak by a “concerned” UEA scientist, as has been claimed in some circles.
The Norfolk Police clearly see it as a criminal act too, a spokesman telling me that “the contents [of the new release] will be of interest to our investigation which is ongoing”.
Groups like UCS are, however, beginning to ask where that investigation has got to.
I have been passed information stemming from an FoI request to Norfolk Police showing that over the past 12 months, they have spent precisely £5,649.09 [US$8,843.64] on the investigation.
All of that was disbursed back in February; and all but £80.05 went on “invoices for work in the last six months”.
Of all the figures surrounding the current story, that is perhaps the one that most merits further interrogation.

Stay tuned for more information when Black writes further about his (real) investigation into the incompetent police effort to identify the thieves behind the East Anglia CRU hack.