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.

Washington Post Editorial Slams Ken Cuccinelli "Embarrassing" Witch Hunt Against Climate Scientist

The Washington Post penned an excellent editorial yesterday deriding Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s political attack against climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann, a former UVA professor whom Cuccinelli has targeted in a witch hunt.  

The Post editorial notes that “the overblown critique of climate science that emerged early this year continues to underwhelm,” citing several examples of the recent rash of politically-motivated attacks on climate science, including the much-ado-about-nothing ‘Climategate’ episode last winter, the repeated attacks against the integrity of the U.N. IPCC, and of course Mr. Cuccinelli’s witch hunt against UVA and Mike Mann. 

This week’s ruling by Circuit Court Judge Paul Peatross confirming that Cuccinelli lacked “an objective basis” for his witch hunt “put a damper on a pernicious fishing expedition,” the Post says.

But that hasn’t checked “Mr. Cuccinelli’s zeal,” since he immediately announced plans to re-rig his fishing pole and try again to smear Dr. Mann, “thereby extending his assault on academic freedom,” says the Post.

The editorial closes with sharp criticism for Cuccinelli’s attempt to “embarrass Virginia”:

“We hope he rethinks his course. At this point all he can do is waste more taxpayer money, force the university to waste more of its money and embarrass Virginia in a way that can only harm its higher education system.” 

Check out the full editorial, 
A judge puts a damper on Mr. Cuccinelli’s U-Va. witch hunt.” 

Bjorn Lomborg Now Says Climate Change “Chief Concern,” Calls for Carbon Tax

The Guardian reports today that long-time global warming contrarian Bjorn Lomborg has changed his tune a bit, and now acknowledges that climate change is “a challenge humanity must confront.”  In an interview with the paper, Lomborg calls for a carbon tax and a $100 billion annual investment in clean technologies and other solutions to climate disruption. 

Lomborg has never been among the outright climate deniers, acknowledging repeatedly over the years that he accepts the science confirming manmade global warming.  But until now he has downplayed the need for massive investment to solve the problem, and is often seen cavorting with the ExxonMobil-funded denier crowd.  In his 2007 book ‘Cool It,’ he argued that spending huge amounts of money to address climate change would do little to address the problem.  

Now it appears Lomborg has come to his senses, becoming an unlikely advocate for massive public investment in creating a low carbon energy future. 

It’s about technologies, about realizing there’s a vast array of solutions,” he tells the Guardian.

Judge Rules Against Cuccinelli’s Witch Hunt Of Michael Mann

Virginia Attorney General and global warming denier Ken Cuccinelli has been rebuffed by a state Circuit Court judge who ruled today that Cuccinelli’s politically-charged subpoena against the University of Virginia and climate scientist Michael Mann lacked an “objective basis.”

Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. ruled that Cuccinelli’s subpoena failed to include a “reason to believe” that Mann violated Virginia fraud statutes by receiving research grants from the state to study climate change.  Cuccinelli is seeking years’ worth of documents related to Mann’s work at UVA, but his political attacks on climate science and efforts to waste Virginia taxpayers’ money will have to return to the drawing board. 

In his six-page ruling Judge Peatross wrote:

“What the Attorney General suspects that Dr. Mann did that was false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth is simply not stated.”

Dr. Mann, who now works at Penn State University, said in a statement: “It is a victory not just for me and the university, but for all scientists who live in fear that they may be subject to a politically-motivated witch hunt when their research findings prove inconvenient to powerful vested interests.”

Toxic Coal Ash Threatens At Least 137 Sites In 34 States

A new study by three top environmental groups reveals another 39 coal ash threats in 21 states, bringing the total number of known coal ash threats to 137 in 34 states.  

The report by the Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice, and the Sierra Club details the newly identified slurry ponds and impoundments filled with toxic coal ash that threaten drinking water supplies and public health at sites around the country.  

Earlier this year the groups identified 31 coal ash disposal sites in 14 states, adding to the 67 sites already identified by the Environmental Protection Agency.  The latest report brings the total number to 137 sites where coal ash threatens public health and water supplies. 

The U.S. EPA is currently grappling with how to regulate the toxic coal ash threat, which is now checked only by individual state laws that have failed to adequately protect the public from this growing problem.

Oil & Gas Industries Spent Record $175 Million Lobbying Against Climate Action

The oil and gas industries unleashed a massive $175 million lobbying spree last year to derail U.S. efforts to address climate change, according to a new series of reports by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). blogger Evan Mackinder reveals just how badly oil and gas interests pummeled the environmental community, which spent its own record $22.4 million trying to convince Washington to get its act together to fight global warming.  

As CRP notes, “Goliath whipped David.”

CRP’s new series, titled “Fueling Washington: How Oil Money Drives Politics,” details the oil and gas industries’ outsized influence in Washington. 

The New Yorker Exposes Koch Industries "Kochtopus" Behind Tea Party and Climate Denial Machine

The New Yorker has published a must-read article exposing the long reach of the “Kochtopus” network set up by Koch Industries to fuel the Tea Party and fund the climate denial machine.  

Written by investigative journalist Jane Mayer, the piece titled “Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging war against Obama” explores the decades-long efforts of brothers David and Charles Koch to manipulate and deceive the public on issues ranging from climate change to cancer-causing chemicals. 

Koch Industries has done far more than even ExxonMobil to fund the climate denial machine in recent years, and media coverage about numerous Tea Party and GOP candidates who deny the science of climate change confirm that the Kochs’ reach has infected national politics in unprecedented ways.

The lengthy New Yorker article covers many interesting new angles about the Kochs’ influence-peddling empire, and adds to a growing body of research about Koch Industries’ anti-science, anti-democratic activities.

Building upon the research from Greenpeace’s excellent Koch report earlier this year, Jane Mayer expands on Koch’s role in funding climate deniers and anti-science think tanks, not to mention the Tea Party. 

Head over to The New Yorker to read the slimy details.  

UVA Students, Faculty and Alumni To Protest Ken Cuccinelli Witch Hunt Against Climate Scientist On Friday

University of Virginia faculty, students and alumni will gather Friday afternoon to protest against Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s witch hunt against former UVA Professor and leading climate scientist Michael Mann.  The protest is timed to coincide with the ruling of a Virginia Circuit Court judge who is set to rule on whether to allow Cuccinelli’s frivolous investigation to continue. 

Cuccinelli’s political attack on climate science has two ongoing fronts right now, one targeting climate scientist Michael Mann, and another involving a lawsuit filed by Cuccinelli against the EPA attempting to block the agency’s efforts to regulate carbon dioxide pollution. 

Charlottesville, Virginia ABC affiliate WHSV reports:

Students, faculty members and alumni of the University of Virginia will gather to protest Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s investigation of UVA and former UVA Professor Michael Mann Friday at 1 p.m. on the north (street) side of the University’s Rotunda at 1826 University Ave.

Climate Skeptic Pat Michaels Admits On CNN Forty Percent of His Funding Comes From Oil Industry

Notorious climate skeptic Pat Michaels of the CATO Institute finally admitted openly on CNN this weekend that 40 percent of his funding comes from - wait for it - Big Oil. 

DeSmogBlog readers have known for years about Michaels’ long-time association with a network of at least eleven think tanks and industry front groups funded by ExxonMobil. Many of these same outlets have received funding from other oil interests like the Koch Family Foundations.

Michaels’ admission that he receives around 40 percent - his guess - of his funding from Big Oil is important, because he is quoted widely in the media for his skepticism about manmade climate change.  As the ExxonSecrets profile of Pat Michaels sums up well, he is “possibly the most prolific and widely-quoted climate change skeptic scientist.”

Fareed Zakaria deserves a round of applause for challenging Michaels directly to cough up a figure for how much oil money he receives to defend the status quo fossil fuel addiction and to confuse the public about the threat of climate change.  Far too few journalists bother to ask that question, and Zakaria has sent a much needed reminder to journalists - it is your job to expose the potential conflicts of interest among your interviewees.  Zakaria gets an A+ for outing Michaels’ oily funding.

Wetlands Front Group Funded By Big Oil Wants To Ensure Taxpayers Foot The Bill For BP's Gulf Destruction

UPDATE: Sandra Bullock has issued a statement through her publicist saying that,

“Ms. Bullock was originally contacted through her attorney to be a part of the PSA in order to promote awareness of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. At no time was she made aware that any organization, oil company or otherwise had influence over Women of the Storm or its message. We have immediately asked for her participation in the PSA be removed until the facts can be determined. Her commitment to the Gulf region has been apparent for many years and she will continue to pursue opportunities that will bring awareness and support to the plight of the Gulf region.”

A group of oil companies including BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Citgo, Chevron and other polluters are using a front group called “America’s WETLAND Foundation” and a Louisiana women’s group called Women of the Storm to spread the message that U.S. taxpayers should pay for the damage caused by BP to Gulf Coast wetlands, and that the reckless offshore oil industry should continue drilling for the “wholesale sustainability” of the region.

Using the age-old PR trick of featuring celebrity messengers to attract public attention, America’s Wetland Foundation is spreading a petition accompanied by a video starring Sandra Bullock, Dave Matthews, Lenny Kravitz, Emeril Lagassi, John Goodman, Harry Shearer, Peyton and Eli Manning, Drew Brees and others.

The video urges petition signers to “Be The One” to demand the government devise and fully fund a plan to restore the Gulf. There is no mention that BP, Halliburton, Transocean, Cameron, or any other oil industry player “be the one” to pay for the damage done to the Gulf. Why call on the government to once again foot the bill for this dirty industry’s reckless behavior?

SolveClimate: EPA Rejects 10 Petitions Charging Climate Science is Flawed

SolveClimate’s David Sassoon reports on the EPA’s finding that climate deniers are full of hot air:

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today denied 10 petitions challenging its 2009 endangerment finding which said that climate change is real, is occurring due to emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities, and threatens human health and the environment.

EPA found no evidence to support the claims of the petitions which assert that a conspiracy invalidates the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program. On the contrary, EPA’s review of the petitions found that climate science is credible, compelling, and growing stronger.

The endangerment finding is based on years of science from the U.S. and around the world. These petitions – based as they are on selectively edited, out-of-context data and a manufactured controversy – provide no evidence to undermine our determination. Excess greenhouse gases are a threat to our health and welfare,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

Defenders of the status quo will try to slow our efforts to get America running on clean energy. A better solution would be to join the vast majority of the American people who want to see more green jobs, more clean energy innovation and an end to the oil addiction that pollutes our planet and jeopardizes our national security.”

Head over to SolveClimate for the rest of this story.