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.

Natural Gas Industry Rhetoric Versus Reality

As the recent natural gas industry attacks on the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland demonstrate, the gas industry is mounting a powerful PR assault against journalists, academics and anyone else who speaks out against the dangers of hydraulic fracturing and other threats to public health and the environment from shale gas development. DeSmogBlog has analyzed some of the common talking points the industry and gas proponents use to try to convince the public and lawmakers that fracking is safe despite real concerns raised by residents living near gas drilling sites, whose experiences reveal a much more controversial situation.

DeSmogBlog extensively reviewed government, academic, industry and public health reports and interviewed the leading hydraulic fracturing experts who challenge the industry claims that hydraulic fracturing does not contaminate drinking water, that the industrial fracking fluids pose no human health risk, that states adequately regulate the industry and that natural gas has a lighter carbon footprint than other fossil fuels like oil and coal.

Below are ten of the most commonly repeated claims by the industry about the ‘safety’ of hydraulic fracturing and unconventional natural gas development, along with extensive evidence showing their claims are pure rhetoric, and not reality.

‘Energy In Depth’ Was Created By Major Oil and Gas Companies According to Industry Memo

Update 11:35am PST: IPAA link is broken again, so use this link to view the memo.

Update 9:48am PST: It looks like the IPAA link works again. Here is the original link. In case similar access issues arise, I will continue to host the document at DeSmogBlog.

*Update 9:03am PST: It appears IPAA may have removed the memo from its website today in the wake of this report, so I have attached it to this post as a PDF and updated the links in the post so the memo is available for the world to see.

DeSmogBlog has uncovered an industry memo revealing that ‘Energy In Depth’ is hardly comprised of the mom-and-pop “small, independent oil and natural gas producers” it claims to represent.  In fact, the industry memo we found, entitled “Hydraulic Fracturing Under Attack,” shows that Energy In Depth “would not be possible without the early financial commitments” of major oil and gas interests including BP, Halliburton, Chevron, Shell, XTO Energy (now owned by ExxonMobil), and several other huge oil and gas companies that provided significant funding early on and presumably still fund the group's efforts.

According to the 2009 memo, Energy In Depth was orchestrated as a “major initiative to respond to…attacks” and to devise and circulate “coordinated messages” using “new communications tools that are becoming the pathway of choice in national political campaigns.”

Energy In Depth (EID) is featured in the news a lot these days, chiefly for attacking the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland, but also for its extensive efforts to malign the excellent reporting done by ProPublica, the Associated Press and other outlets. EID seems to attack everyone who attempts to investigate the significant problems posed by hydraulic fracturing and other natural gas industry practices that have been shown to threaten public health and water quality across America.

BREAKING: Chevron Guilty of Amazon Rainforest Destruction, Judge Issues $8 Billion Fine

Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network just announced a major victory for the Amazon rainforest. An Ecuadorean judge today found Chevron guilty of one of the largest environmental crimes in history and ordered the company to pay a whopping $8 billion to clean up its damage in the Amazon. 

Chevron immediately issued a statement condemning the judgement as “ilegitimate and unenforceable” and announced plans to appeal.  This ruling clearly has Chevron riled up, as the statement suggests the ruling is “the product of fraud” and included this ominous line: “Chevron intends to see that the perpetrators of this fraud are held accountable for their misconduct.”

Chevron apparently fails to see the irony of the phrase “held accountable for their misconduct” since today was a major slapdown of the company’s destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador.

As the L.A. Times notes in its piece about the verdict,

“Residents of Ecuador’s Amazon region have said that faulty drilling practices by Texaco, which was bought by Chevron in 2001, caused damage to wide areas of jungle and harmed indigenous people in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Head over to The Understory blog of the Rainforest Action Network for more details.

Environment Minister Peter Kent Claims Climate "Plan Is Working" and Canadians Are "Proud" of Tar Sands

Peter Kent, Canada’s Minister of the Environment, suggested in a raucous Parliamentary exchange on Tuesday that Canadian leaders “have a plan, and the plan is working” to address climate change.  He also suggests that “Canadians are proud of the Canadian oil sands” which are “well regulated” and operated in an “environmentally sensitive and sustainable manner.”

Check out this video from the floor Q+A session from Tuesday February 8th when MP Kent was asked to respond to a question about Climate Action Network’s demands that Canada come up with a credible plan to deal with the climate crisis, and to move toward clean energy solutions instead of sinking deeper into the dirty tar sands. Here is the exchange:

David Koch and Wife Julia Observe Real Grassroots From A Safe Distance

A photograph from the billionaires’ Kochtopus summit in Rancho Mirage this weekend shows a very concerned looking David and Julia Koch witnessing the 1000+ protestors gathered on the street for the “Uncloaking the Kochs” rally.  David and Julia peer down at the masses from their safe rooftop perch.

The Other 98% is running a caption contest for the photo on their Facebook page, and the photo made the rounds on Twitter earlier today as well.

David and Julia Koch

What photo caption ideas do you have? 

Greenpeace Airship Hovers Over Secretive Koch Summit with Message "Koch Brothers: Dirty Money"

UPDATE: Video footage of the Greenpeace airship flight below this post.

A Greenpeace airship today flew over the secretive Rancho Mirage polluter strategy meeting hosted by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries. Wealthy elite interests and oil tycoons arriving at the posh resort to plot their anti-democracy agenda were greeted with the aerial message “Koch Brothers: Dirty Money.”

Greenpeace also released information collected from tax records confirming that the Koch Family Foundations continue to fund climate denial organizations.  The most recent records available document that the Kochtopus dished out $6.4 million in 2009 to front groups and think tanks that spread inaccurate and misleading information about climate science and clean energy policies. That brings the Kochtopus’s confirmed Dirty Money total to $54.9 million since 1997, with the majority, $31.3 million, spent since 2005.

Coal Money And Violent Rhetoric Hold Appalachia Captive to Dirty Energy

While Rep. Gabrielle Giffords continues her amazing recovery in the wake of the tragic Tucson shootings, the coal industry and its captive members in Congress and the right wing media continue to talk about a “War on Coal.”

The industry front group Friends of Coal issued “A Call to Arms” yesterday announcing the “Rally for Coal” taking place this afternoon at the West Virginia capitol and featuring the state’s top politicians. Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s office quickly labeled the “Call to Arms” rhetoric “an unfortunate use of words,” but wouldn’t confirm whether Tomblin had any plans to discuss the use of such violent rhetoric with the coal industry.

Oil Supermajors Desperately Chasing a Tar Sands Pipe Dream

The six major oil companies that for decades enjoyed phenomenal profits and power over the world’s oil supply now find themselves fighting over the dirtiest and most dangerous oil left - Alberta’s climate-wrecking tar sands and the dangerous deepwater deposits in the Arctic, Gulf of Mexico and other difficult to reach areas. Geoff Dembicki reports today in The Tyee that the oil supermajors once known as the “Seven Sisters” now control a tiny fraction of the world’s dwindling oil reserves - just seven percent - while state-owned oil companies and national governments control 93 percent.

That shift in power has left the six Anglo-American oil majors sparring fiercely for control of the remaining dregs to feed our oil addiction.  Dembicki writes that:

“aggressive oil sands development appears to be one of the few viable growth strategies left for ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, ConocoPhillips and Chevron. These six energy giants are among the top-earning private companies on Earth. Yet their continued corporate existence, at least in its current form, is far from assured.”

In their race to the bottom, these six oil companies are all vying for control of Canada’s dirty tar sands. Dembicki notes that:

“all the supermajors own – or plan to develop – huge operations in Alberta’s oil sands. Canada is one of the few countries left on Earth offering unbridled private sector access to major known oil reserves (in this case, the planet’s second-largest).”

David Koch Denies Climate Change, Appears Bewildered When Asked About Citizens United by ThinkProgress

Lee Fang from ThinkProgress had the chance to conduct an impromptu interview with billionaire polluter magnate David Koch of Koch Industries last week in Washington.  Despite the best efforts of Americans For Prosperity president Tim Phillips to end the interview by pestering Fang and his cameraman continously, Fang succeeds in getting Koch to answer several questions.  In part one, Koch acknowledges there are “some extremists” in the Tea Party, but that most of them are “normal people like us” - where “us” equals the handful of people worth $21.5 billion or more.

In part two, when asked about Americans For Prosperity’s work to confuse public understanding of climate change, and about his own grasp of climate change science, David Koch delivers a barely comprehensible response demonstrating his need to brush up on the usual climate denier arguments.

FANG: Why does Americans for Prosperity focus so much on the science of climate change? I’m just curious why they spread so much information that denies the existence of climate, of global warming?

KOCH: Well… I think it’s uh, regulating CO2 excessively is going to put — uh really damage the economy.

FANG: Do you believe in climate change yourself, Mr. Koch?

KOCH: Climate does fluctuate. It goes from hot to cold. We have ice ages.

FANG: But do you believe carbon pollution affects climate change? [Koch shrugs]


David Koch: "There's Some Extremists" in the Tea Party, But Others "Normal People Like Us"

Lee Fang from ThinkProgress was able to interview David Koch briefly today during Koch’s visit to Washington to congratulate his freshly purchased Congress.