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, Grist, 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.

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.

Hillary Clinton's Keystone XL Crony Lobbyists Problem

Hillary Clinton and the State Department have the final word on whether to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, unless President Obama intervenes. The influence of tar sands industry lobbyists connected to Hillary Clinton is finally getting some media attention, but there is still more to this story.

Clinton's State Department is finally complying with a FOIA request for documents, after a lawsuit filed in May by three watchdog groups over an alleged lack of transparency regarding contacts with TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott, a former staffer on Hillary Clinton's presidential run. Elliott has earned at least $310,000 as TransCanada Pipelines’ in-house lobbyist to influence Congress and several federal agencies, including the State Department, on the Keystone XL pipeline.

However, the tar sands industry’s use of former Clinton associates to lobby on the controversial project extends beyond Mr. Elliott. DeSmogBlog has uncovered seven other influencers or lobbyists with ties to Clinton and Obama who have lobbied on behalf of tar sands interests for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.  

These lobbyists are spread out over three firms, including one that was the largest single source of funds of any corporate entity to Clinton’s 2008 presidential run. Included in their midst is a lobbyist with close ties to top Obama adviser David Plouffe, and a former Koch Industries operative now lobbying for the Koch-friendly Keystone XL project.


The extent of the contacts between these lobbyists and Secretary Clinton, or her political appointee-led staff, remains to be determined. Today, **Earthjustice, representing** Friends of the Earth, Corporate Ethics International and the Center for International Environmental Law, filed an amended FOIA request asking the State Department to release all contacts between this web of lobbying firms and her department. The groups credited DeSmogBlog's research as the impetus for the revised FOIA request. 

Greenpeace Calls On Congress To Investigate Koch's Illegal Practices

Greenpeace USA today called for a full Congressional investigation of Koch Industries and the illegal practices detailed in the Bloomberg Markets Magazine piece, “Koch Brothers Flout Law Getting Richer With Secret Iran Sales.”

The Bloomberg coverage reveals multiple allegations of Koch Industries bribing government officials around the world and doing business with Iran. In a Huffington Post blog announcing the call for Congress to investigate Koch, Greenpeace USA Executive Director Phil Radford writes, “this new [Bloomberg] investigation reveals a blatant disregard for our laws, so today Greenpeace has called for a full Congressional investigation of Koch Industries and the illegal practices detailed in the Bloomberg report.” 

Greenpeace has extensively documented the Koch brothers' key role in backing the climate denial machine and other nefarious Koch Industries behavior. Now the Bloomberg revelations raise the heat even further on the $50-billionaire-brothers David and Charles Koch. 

Here is the text of the letter that Phil Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, sent today to key members of Congress:

Government Watchdog Report Confirms Canada's Failures on Tar Sands Monitoring and Climate Action

Canada's top environmental watchdog official released a damning report today acknowledging the federal government's complete failure to account for the cumulative impacts of Alberta tar sands development. The report from Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan also confirmed that information about Canada's greenhouse gas emissions is so poorly collected that the country really has no idea whether it is on track to meet its pollution reduction targets - targets which Canada has repeatedly scaled back despite its legally-binding international commitment to action dating back 20 years. 
 
According to the report, “The government has not put in place management systems and tools needed to achieve, measure and report on greenhouse gas emission reductions.” 
 
Vaughan describes the government's current climate action plan as “disjointed, confused, non-transparent.”
“I think it's next to impossible that Canada is going to be able to reach its Kyoto target, that's a given. The gap is so wide now, but I think what we've said as well is the basic problems that we've seen now, and the overall federal-wide co-ordinaton of these climate change programs really needs to get its act together. And if they don't, then we have some doubts on whether or not they are going to be able to meet any target, Vaughan said at a news conference today.
The report also slammed Canada's oversight of the filthy Alberta tar sands industry. By failing to collect baseline data prior to the industrialization of the area - and then adding insult to injury by failing to conduct regular monitoring of impacts from tar sands development - Canada has dropped the ball on its responsibilities to protect the health of local communities and the environment in northern Alberta and beyond. 

State Department Emails Reveal Cozy Relationship With TransCanada Lobbyist

Friends of the Earth today released “deeply disturbing” emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request illustrating “pro-pipeline bias and complicity at the State Department‚” over the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The 200 pages of new documents [PDF] show that TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott, who served as deputy national campaign director and chief of delegate selection to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, exchanged troubling emails with Marja Verloop, a State Department official who works on energy and environmental issues at the U.S. embassy in Ottawa.

In one email, Verloop offers comforting words to Elliott, assuring him that “at the end of the day it's precisely because you have connections that you're sought after and hired.” [PDF]

Friends of the Earth recently called for the Justice Department to investigate Paul Elliott, who appears to have lobbied the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline for more than a year without registering as a lobbyist.

Friends of the Earth Asks Justice Department To Investigate TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott

Friends of the Earth today filed a request with the U.S. Department of Justice [PDF] asking the DOJ to investigate whether Paul Elliott, the notorious TransCanada tar sands lobbyist with deep ties to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, failed to disclose his foreign agent status when lobbying the State Department about the controversial Keystone XL pipeline

FOE requests that DOJ take a close look at whether Elliott violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a matter of increasing interest in the wake of FOE's earlier release of documents revealing that Elliott tried to exploit relationships he made while working on Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in order to promote the Keystone XL for his new employer, TransCanada. 

As the Washington Post reported earlier this month, the documents that FOE obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) - after having to file a lawsuit to compel the State Department to release them - also show that Elliott lobbied the State Department on TransCanada's behalf for more than a year before officially registering as a lobbyist. 

Hillary Clinton's State Department Oil Services and the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline [VIDEO]

With over 700 people arrested so far in the Keystone XL tar sands action taking place at the Obama White House, and widespread distrust and criticism of the State Department’s final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), this is a critical moment in the fight against a disastrous proposal to build a tar sands pipeline between Alberta and oil refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. 

Given the scientific certainty that tar sands oil is a recklessly dirty form of energy - as well as fresh evidence from Oil Change International debunking the claims that increasing our dependence on Canadian oil would be helpful for U.S. national security - it should be a no brainer for the Obama administration to say no to TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.

But powerful oil industry lobbying, as well as pressure from the Canadian government, seem to have deflated and cast aside this administration’s stated commitments to science-based decisionmaking. Rather than working to transition the nation to a clean energy future now, an Obama administration approval of Keystone XL would further solidify our dirty fossil fuel addiction.

To highlight the influence of oil industry lobbyists over Hillary Clinton’s State Department and its unscientific review of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline proposal, DeSmogBlog presents a video animation created by artist Mark Fiore, depicting the not-so-far-fetched “State Department Oil Services” led by Hillary Clinton:




Visit DeSmogBlog’s Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Action Page for more information.

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