Brendan DeMelle

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Brendan DeMelle is Executive Director and Managing Editor of DeSmogBlog.com.  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 StopGlobalWarming.org, 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.

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 TrueTies.org (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.

Koch Brothers Exposed: Cancer Risk In Crossett Arkansas Blamed On Georgia Pacific

Brave New Foundation, which is producing a series of videos called “Koch Brothers Exposed” taking a close look at many aspects of the billionaire Koch Brothers' business interests, just released a new installment probing the link between a cancer cluster in Crossett, Arkansas and the nearby operations of Georgia Pacific, a Koch Industries subsidiary.

The Brave New Films project may ring a bell with DeSmogBlog readers. Earlier this year, I wrote about a previous installment in the series taking a look at how the Kochs stand to profit from the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, if it is ever built. (That video is even more interesting to watch on the heels of a must-read InsideClimate News article from earlier this week indicating that the Kochs have offered misleading explanations to Congress and the media about how much they stand to benefit from the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.) 

Now the Brave New series is taking a hard look at another Koch disaster already in progress in an Arkansas community ravaged by cancer. The residents living (and dying) on Penn Road in Crossett suspect that air and water pollution from the town's only manufacturer - Koch subsidiary Georgia Pacific - is making them ill. Georgia Pacific's facility - a plywood, paper mill and formaldehyde resin plant - has dumped millions of gallons of wastewater into open ditches nearby, in violation of the Clean Water Act.

Regular readers of this blog might also hear bells ringing since it was my predecessor, former DeSmogBlog managing editor Kevin Grandia, who first broke the story about Koch Industries' intense efforts to attack the science linking formaldehyde and cancer

Grandia wrote on DeSmogBlog in September 2010:

For his commendable charitable work, David Koch was appointed to the National Cancer Advisory Board,a committee of the US National Cancer Institute, in 2004 by President George W. Bush and remains a member today [pdf].

Our research has uncovered very strong ties between Georgia-Pacific, a company co-owned by David Koch through Koch Industries, and a political lobby group called the Formaldehyde Council that is involved in efforts to downplay the dangers posed by formaldehyde to human health. 

As it turned out, David Koch left the NCAB post behind, either in the same month that Grandia exposed the Koch formaldehyde science attack, or six months earlier as Koch Industries claims on KochFacts.com. Either way, his company's involvement in attacking the formaldehyde cancer link is indisputable, as Jane Mayer demonstrated in her Koch expose in The New Yorker

Watch the new video “Exposed: Koch Industries and Cancer Risk” below:

Keystone XL Lobbyists Web of Corruption Infographic

Now that the web of Keystone XL tar sands industry lobbyists connected to Hillary Clinton has grown far beyond Paul Elliott, DeSmogBlog, Oil Change International, The Other 98% and Friends of the Earth have produced a new white board infographic to help everyone visualize this cast of characters. 



Be sure to visit the action page at RejectLobbyistsNoKXL.org as well.

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