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.

East Anglia SwiftHack Email Nontroversy Returns: What You Need To Know

The desparate attempt by climate change deniers to sully climate scientists returns today with the release of 5,000 emails stolen back in 2009 during the original “Climategate” hacking of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit email servers. 

Other than a great attempt at ruining another Thanksgiving holiday for American scientists, the bottom line conclusions on this story are identical to the 2009 release: 

1. There is nothing in these emails that in any way disproves the enormous body of peer-reviewed climate science. As even the Koch-funded BEST study recently showed, climate change is real, global temperatures are rising and human activities are responsible.

2. The 'new' emails appear to come from the same batch stolen from the University of East Anglia in 2009.  The denialosphere blogs are trying to frame it as ‘Climategate 2’. Cherry-picked quotes from the emails are once again being taken out of context by skeptic bloggers and irresponsible media like the Daily Mail in a last ditch attempt to smear climate science, and derail COP17 talks in Durban.

3. It's not a coincidence that this new release of hacked emails comes just days before the Durban COP17 climate conference, much as the first release from the hacked files came just before Copenhagen. When the world’s governments start to make progress toward climate action, the polluters panic and resort to desparate measures.

4. Remember that this was an illegal hacking of emails, and this second batch represents a continued breach of privacy of these scientists whose personal emails were released to the public.  The UK police investigation into the hacking is still ongoing, and this new episode should compel them to redouble their efforts to find out who these criminal hackers are, and bring them to justice.

Update: Richard Black at the BBC points to the real 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. From Climate Emails, Storm or Yawn?

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$8843.64] 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.

Gas Fracking Industry Using Military Psychological Warfare Tactics and Personnel In U.S. Communities

At the “Media & Stakeholder Relations: Hydraulic Fracturing Initiative 2011” conference last week in Houston, Matt Pitzarella, Director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at Range Resources, revealed in his presentation that Range has hired Army and Marine veterans with combat experience in psychological warfare to influence communities in which Range drills for gas.  

As CNBC reported, Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella boasted to the audience:

[“…looking to other industries, in this case, the Army and the Marines. We have several former PSYOPs folks that work for us at Range because they’re very comfortable in dealing with localized issues and local governments. Really all they do is spend most of their time helping folks develop local ordinances and things like that. But very much having that understanding of PSYOPs in the Army and in the Middle East has applied very helpfully here for us in Pennsylvania.”
[**Listen: MP3**]

At that same conference, Matt Carmichael, External Affairs Manager at Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, suggested three things to attendees during his presentation:

If you are a PR representative in this industry in this room today, I recommend you do three things. These are three things that I’ve read recently that are pretty interesting.

(1) Download the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual [audible gasps from the audience], because we are dealing with an insurgency. There’s a lot of good lessons in there, and coming from a military background, I found the insight in that extremely remarkable. (2) With that said, there’s a course provided by Harvard and MIT twice a year, and it’s called ‘Dealing With an Angry Public.’ Take that course. Tied back to the Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency [Field] Manual, is that a lot of the officers in our military are attending this course. It gives you the tools, it gives you the media tools on how to deal with a lot of the controversy that we as an industry are dealing with. (3) Thirdly, I have a copy of “Rumsfeld's Rules.” You’re all familiar with Donald Rumsfeld – that’s kind of my bible, by the way, of how I operate.”
[**Listen: MP3**]

Carmichael is also the former Senior Manager of External Communications for Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), a subsidiary of Halliburton, which at one point had over 15,000 mercenaries placed in Iraq, according to the Los Angeles Times.  

The Counterinsurgency (COIN) Field Manual [PDF] devotes an entire chapter to PSYOPs, confirming its utility as a major element of a counterinsurgency campaign. The COIN manual is the current U.S. military doctrine in both Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Inspector General To Investigate Keystone XL Conflicts

NRDC's Switchboard blog reports that the Inspector General will investigate the conflicts of interest and incompetence surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline permitting process.

NRDC reports: 

One day after 12,000 protesters stood outside of the White House calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, the Office of the Inspector General has announced an investigation into bias and conflicts of interest associated with the project’s permitting.  The review responded to a letter sent by in late October by Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative Steve Cohen and 11 other members of Congress.

Read the Inspector General's letter announcing the Keystone XL investigation [PDF]

Herman Cain at AFP: ‘I am the Koch Brothers’ Brother From Another Mother’

Wow. The GOP's Koch-Cain problem elevates to new heights today. At the Koch-funded Americans For Prosperity event today, Republican presidential contender Herman Cain told it like it is. “I am the Koch brothers’ brother from another mother.” He added, “And proud of it.”

Watch video courtesy of ThinkProgress

Meanwhile, outside the AFP event, a greeting message for the Kochs: “Koch Bros: Fat Cats For Prosperity.”


Obama - Not Hillary Clinton - Will Decide Keystone XL Pipeline Fate

In a clear sign that President Obama recognizes that Hillary Clinton is too compromised by conflict of interest given the web of crony tar sands lobbyists around her to make the decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, Obama announced today that he will make the call personally.  And some of his comments in an interview this afternoon indicate that he has serious reservations about the Keystone XL and the thought of the U.S. making a long-term commitment to Canada's filthy tar sands oil. 

Obama made the announcement about taking personal responsibility for the Keystone XL decision during an interview with Nebraska's KETV NewsWatch 7.  Interviewer Rob McCartney asked, “how do you weigh any potential negative impact with the jobs that it may bring in?” 
PoliticoPro has the transcript of the President's remarks, excerpted here (and corrected in a few spots):

“The State Department's in charge of analyzing this, because there's a pipeline coming in from Canada,” Obama told KETV’s Rob McCartney in the White House. “They'll be giving me a report over the next several months, and, you know, my general attitude is, what is best for the American people? What’s best for our economy both short term and long term? But also, what's best for the health of the American people? Because we don’t want, for example, aquifers that are adversely affected, folks in Nebraska obviously would be directly impacted, and so we want to make sure that we’re taking the long view on these issues.

“We need to encourage domestic natural gas and oil production. We need to make sure that we have energy security and aren’t just relying on Middle East sources. But there’s a way of doing that and still making sure that the health and safety of the American people and folks in Nebraska are protected, and that’s how I’ll be measuring these recommendations when they come to me.”
Obama gave more hints that he's not buying the idea that the industry's “jobs” argument is worth the trade-off of polluted water and public health impacts.  

More from the must-watch KETV interview with President Obama:

Massive Natural Gas Export Deal Inked by BG Group, So Much for Industry's "Domestic Energy" Claims

The natural gas industry's favorite public relations ploy about the necessity of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the process through which “clean natural gas” is now procured, is that the patriotic gas industry is championing the shale gas boom for domestic consumption and for “national security purposes.” We now know definitively that this is pure propaganda.

Enter the smoking gun, a 20-year $8 billion agreement signed between BG Group, short for British Gas Group, and Houston-based Cheniere Energy.

The deal calls for BG Gas to export liquefied natural gas, or LNG (natural gas that has been converted temporarily to liquid form for ease of storage or transport), from Cheniere's Sabine Pass LNG export terminal, located on the Gulf Coast in Louisiana, out to the highly profitable global market, chiefly in Asia and Europe. 

Reuters referred to the deal as “a new chapter in the shale gas revolution that has redefined global markets.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that BG is thrilled that it will now be able to “buy gas comparatively cheaply and sell it for much higher prices in Europe and Asia.” The deal is just the beginning of a huge industry rush to export U.S. gas, according to the paper:

 Energy companies in the U.S., Canada and Australia are planning or have already begun building more than a dozen projects to liquefy and export natural gas as they seek to capitalize on growing demand for liquid-gas imports. Asia is the hottest market: its demand for liquefied gas is expected to grow 68% between 2010 and 2020, according to advisory firm Poten & Partners.

Gas Industry Front Group Called Out By RFK Jr Attempts To Spin Facts Yet Again

The oil and gas industry has a long history of resisting public accountability and protective standards, and generally avoiding tough questions about its practices and attacking its critics. Just yesterday, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. wrote a piece in the Huffington Post titled, “The Fracking Industry's War On The New York Times – And The Truth,” about this evasive behavior in the context of the industry’s current embrace of fracked unconventional gas and the many questions about the safety of fracking.

Kennedy (full disclosure - Bobby is my former boss and a good friend) applauded New York Times' reporter Ian Urbina for his investigative efforts in his latest installment titled, “Rush to Drill for Natural Gas Creates Conflicts With Mortgages,” part of the NY Times extensive and ongoing “Drilling Down” series on the numerous perils associated with the rush to drill for gas.

A short recap on what that story found: People have signed over a million oil and gas leases in the past decade, but the leases sometimes let gas companies use their land in environmentally risky ways. Banks are not paying attention and often don’t know about these leases, so they pass along mortgages to investors that carry undisclosed risks, which is analogous to the way that the sub-prime mortgage disaster unfolded. The conflicts between the leases and the mortgage rules are clear, verified and wide-reaching.

Infamous 'Energy in Depth' Front Group Goes on the Attack

As if on cue, the oil and gas industry demonstrated Kennedy’s point, almost instantaneously attacking Urbina, yet again. 

The fracked gas industry’s chief apologists – Energy in Depth (EID)** – which I previously revealed as a front group launched by some of the largest oil companies on the planet (despite its claims to “mom-n-pop” roots), posted a blog titled, “Lenders’ Bagels?,” desperately attempting to divert attention away from legitimate and serious questions raised by Urbina's New York Times story about the way that oil and gas leases impact mortgages. 

The EID piece is noteworthy for a couple reasons: It entirely ducks the very real conflicts that the New York Times highlighted, and it is riddled with factual inaccuracies.

Urban Heat Island – Favorite Skeptic Myth Debunked Again, This Time By Koch-Funded Science

Climate skeptics are once again proven wrong, and this time even Koch money can't skew the facts.
Have you heard the one from climate deniers that the “Urban Heat Island” effect has ruined all the weather stations and made the data they collect completely useless? The deniers claim any warming trend seen from these temperature recordings is from concrete buildings and asphalt roads – and that climate change is therefore a myth?
That would be false. Says whom, you ask?  How about a new Koch-funded scientific study?
An investigation by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project released yesterday once again thoroughly dispatches the skeptic myth about the “Urban Heat Island” (UHI) effect.

Many global warming skeptics have long claimed that the urban heat island effect is so strong that it has skewed temperature measurements indicating that global warming is happening. The skeptics argue that efforts to curb global warming pollution are therefore unnecessary, citing their pet theory that surface temperature stations were swallowed by, or moved closer to, cities, thus skewing surface temperature records on the whole.
The BEST papers – which still must go through rigorous peer review – confirm what climate scientists have correctly stated previously, demonstrating without doubt that “very rural” temperature stations miles from any new “UHI” towns or cities have also recorded warming at 0.9 degrees Celsius over the last century. 

To put it plainly, even the Kochtopus denial machine will have a tough time trying to twist this Koch-funded project’s findings. It looks like the Kochs backed the wrong horse here - one wonders whether they thought Hadley CRU would be proven wrong?

Waxman Renews Request For Congress To Investigate Koch Industries Interest in Keystone XL Pipeline

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) today renewed his request to Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ed Whitfield (R-KY) that the House Committee on Energy and Commerce investigate Koch Industries' interest in the Keystone XL pipeline. Rep. Waxman's letter cites the recent revelations in InsideClimate News that Koch subsidiary Flint Hills Resources Canada LP claimed “a direct and substantial interest” in the Keystone XL in front of Canadian regulators, while the Kochtopus continues to deny any interest publicly. 

Koch representatives previously told Rep. Waxman that Keystone XL has “nothing to do with any of our businesses” and that Koch has “no financial interest” in the pipeline.

Waxman writes in his letter [PDF] today: 
“There appears to be a direct contradiction between what Koch representatives told me and the assertion by a Koch subsidiary that it “has a direct and substantial interest” in the Keystone XL pipeline. I believe the Committee should examine this matter to determine the nature ofKoch's  interest in the pipeline. The Committee should also investigate whether Koch sought to conceal its interest in the pipeline from the Committee. 

These issues are significant and timely given the pending approvals required for the Keystone XL pipeline, which has been the subject of legislation by our Committee.  Charles and David Koch and Koch Industries should not be exempt from responsible oversight and normal accountability.  If members of the Committee were misled by Koch, that is a serious matter that deserves prompt and thorough investigation.”

Journalists Ask NYTimes To Set Disclosure of Conflicts Policy For Op-Ed Contributors

Back in June, I wrote about my effort to seek answers from The New York Times public editor’s office regarding the paper’s lack of a policy for disclosure of possible conflicts of interest among op-ed contributors. In my query to the NYT, I specifically cited the example of Robert Bryce from the Manhattan Institute, a group funded by Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and other polluters to confuse the public about climate change and energy issues.

Bryce had penned an op-ed attacking renewable energy while promoting nuclear and fracked shale gas, with no disclosure in his byline about the Manhattan Institute’s fossil fuel clients. I offered Bryce's piece as an example in order to formally seek answers about the disclosure policy at the Times and whether it was adequate in light of the failure to disclose Bryce’s dirty energy backing.

I didn’t get a concrete answer from Public Editor Arthur Brisbane’s office – his assistant acknowledged that “this is a topic that interests due to the number of emails we receive from readers on it,” but rather than answer my questions or take action to highlight the policy oversight, he told me “We're going to keep your email on file in the event that we decide to tackle this issue in the future.”

With our attention at DeSmogBlog diverted in the ensuing months by the Keystone XL pipeline controversy, the ever-growing list of the Koch Brothers’ threats to decency and democracy, and other dirty energy issues to focus on, I felt that another group would be better suited to devote attention to the NYT disclosure matter.  I asked my friend Gabe Elsner at the Checks & Balances Project to take a look at my blog about Bryce and the failed efforts to get a satisfactory answer from the NYT Public Editor’s office.

Well, I’m grateful to Gabe for following through, since the issue is finally gaining some recognition, with the launch of (designed by Checks and Balances Project) and a petition by 50 journalists echoing the call for The New York Times to lead the industry by creating a disclosure policy for op-ed contributors.