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.

Robert Manne: How Vested Interests Defeated Climate Science

Watch this thoughtful presentation by Professor Robert Manne at the University of Melbourne earlier this summer. It's a concise review of the whole climate change denial movement as chronicled in Merchants of Doubt, Climate Cover-up and elsewhere. It lasts just over an hour, so make some popcorn first.

Deepening Doubts About Fracked Shale Gas Wells' Long Term Prospects

This month, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection released its bi-annual report on how much natural gas has been produced in the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation which stretches underneath much of Appalachia. Investors were shocked because the production numbers seemed far lower than expected.  Watched closely by market and energy analysts, the report sparked a heated debate about the oil and gas industry's excited rhetoric about fracked shale gas as the cure-all to many of America's energy and jobs needs.

But the story quickly got complicated. The report was released despite lacking data from the state’s second largest driller, Chesapeake Energy, and state regulators never flagged the omission. The amount of gas flowing out of Pennsylvania had actually climbed dramatically.

It was a major flaw, and suddenly the searing spotlight of the media honed in on questions about whether regulators were keeping accurate track of how much gas the wells in their state really produce. How could they overlook such a massive error? Can the public be sure that the updated tally gives an accurate picture of how these wells are performing?

If regulators make mistakes in tracking energy production in their state, how reliable is the companion to that report, which tracks the toxic waste produced by these same companies?

Those are all valid questions that need honest answers. But the most important questions raised in the controversy were largely overlooked.

Virginia Judge Tosses Frivolous American Tradition Institute Lawsuit

A Virginia judge issued an order today putting an end to the American Tradition Institute (ATI) frivilous lawsuit that sought to compel the University of Virginia (UVA) to release the private emails of climate scientist Michael Mann.

Mann, author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, posted the news on his Facebook page earlier today:

Breaking: A victory for science! ATI loses ATI/UVa FOIA case. Judge issues final order. Affirms the university’s right to withhold scholarly communications and finds that the documents & personal emails of mine demanded by ATI were indeed protected as the university had contended.

I am gratified for the hard work and vigorous defense provided by the university to protect scholarly communications and raw materials of scholarship. Fortunately Virginia has a strong exemption in the public records act that protects research and scholarly endeavors. The judge ruled that the exemption under Virginia’s public records protecting information in furtherance of research on scientific and scholarly issues applies to faculty communications in furtherance of their work.

This finding is a potentially important precedent, as ATI and other industry-backed front groups continue to press their attacks on climate scientists through the abuse of public records and FOIA laws and the issuing of frivolous and vexatious demands for internal scholarly deliberations and personal correspondences.

The ATI litigation effort was led by Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow Christopher Horner, well-known to DeSmog readers for his anti-science activism.

Want to Communicate More Effectively? Buy Joe Romm's book Language Intelligence

If you are a blogger, a commenter, a tweeter, a public speaker or any type of communicator, you will benefit immensely from picking up a copy of Joe Romm’s fantastic new book, “Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga.”

DeSmog readers are likely familiar with Joe’s incredible work over at Climate Progress, where he and his team – including my new friend Stephen Lacey, another fantastic writer – expertly cover the politics and science of climate change and energy issues. A big part of the secret to the success of Climate Progress is Joe’s communications expertise.

Language Intelligence has garnered incredible reviews and praise from a who’s who of top communicators, from Van Jones to Bill McKibben, Representative Ed Markey to Michael Mann and John Cook.

DeSmog contributor Chris Mooney, who interviewed Romm about the book on his Point of Inquiry podcast, says of Language Intelligence:

Everybody who cares about why science doesn’t get through to the public should read it.”

Romm covers everything about effective communication, from the critical importance of metaphors (especially extended metaphors), language simplicity, repetition, using figures of speech, creating anticipation through foreshadowing, and other persuasive rhetorical techniques. As Romm explains so well, the key to effective writing is to engage the reader’s emotions, and work to inspire and activate your audience through honest and powerful communication.

Coalition Calls On Duke Energy To Dump American Legislative Exchange Council

A coalition of environmental, civil rights and democracy reform groups today called upon Duke Energy to join the 38 other companies that have left the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. In their letter sent to Duke CEO Jim Rogers this morning, the coalition requests that Duke Energy “disassociate and stop funding ALEC immediately.”

“We collectively call upon Duke Energy to drop all financial and staff support to ALEC due not only to their role in blocking clean energy implementation and solutions to global warming, but due to their direct attacks on democracy and our civil rights.”

As Greenpeace's Connor Gibson points out in his blog about the effort,

“Duke Energy has distinguished itself from other polluters with rhetorical commitments to tackling global warming and implementing clean energy, but stops short of meaningful action. By dumping ALEC, Duke would take a step in the right direction toward the potential it has to become a cleaner energy company.”

Here is the full-text of the letter to Jim Rogers:

Daily Kos Climate Change SOS Blogathon Features Wide Range of Climate Hawk Voices

Our friends over at Daily Kos are running an amazing Climate Change SOS Blogathon this week, featuring dozens of voices from the climate hawk community. Bill McKibben, Michael Mann, John Abraham, Rep. Ed Markey, A Siegel, Richard Heinberg, Heather Libby, Brad Johnson, Kelly Rigg and DeSmog's IT director Evan Leeson are just some of the many friends of DeSmog that are contributing posts throughout the week-long blogathon.

I jumped into the action as well, contributing a piece on Tuesday titled Breaking Up With Polluters To Save The Climate.

Greg Laden just posted a scary piece about the implications of sea level rise for future generations.

There is a lot of great content. I highly recommend heading over to Daily Kos to check it out. Here is a full run-down of the posts so far. Stay tuned to the Climate Change SOS Blogathon box at the bottom of most posts to keep up with the newer entries.

Hundreds of Concerned Citizens Protest Governor Andrew Cuomo's Plans To Frack New York

Over 350 concerned citizens turned up at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s policy summit today to protest his risky plan to allow hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in New York. The state has had a moratorium on the dangerous shale gas drilling technique since 2008, but Governor Cuomo is expected to announce the green lighting of fracking in sections of New York in the coming weeks.

New Yorkers concerned about threats to their drinking water and public health showed up en masse to deliver their message to Cuomo in person at a summit geared toward exploring a possible 2016 run for the White House. The gathering drew several Clinton administration veterans.

CREDO Action and New Yorkers Against Fracking organized the protest “to send a clear message to Gov. Cuomo that if he hopes to count on the support of New Yorkers and environmentalists for a future presidential run, he must say no to fracking New York.”

Gov. Cuomo, don't frack New York,” said Zack Malitz, Campaign Manager of CREDO Action. “We have a moratorium against fracking in place now, and Gov. Cuomo lifts it at great peril to his political future. If Cuomo wants the support of New Yorkers who care about clean water, their health and the environment when he runs for president in 2016, he should abandon his plan to frack New York.”

David Braun of New Yorkers Against Fracking, a coalition of over 160 organizations across New York that supports a ban on fracking, says that “Governor Cuomo has a choice between dirty fracking and safe renewable energy. We are here on behalf of millions of New Yorkers who want Cuomo to represent the interests of our communities and not those of the oil and gas industry.”

A "War on Shale Gas"?

Since late 2009, there’s been a slowly-growing wave of attacks from the unconventional oil and gas industry on media outlets that cover the controversies surrounding hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and other shale gas practices. Reporters who write for publications ranging from Rolling Stone to Reuters to the New York Times have had their professional bona fides called into question after unearthing documents and facts that challenge claims that fracked shale gas is cheap, abundant, and clean.

These industry attacks on media occur against the backdrop of a larger campaign to establish unconventional oil and gas at the forefront of the nation’s energy options.

Only a few years ago, it seemed likely that gas would increasingly be a mainstay of power generation, especially in the wake of high profile disasters like the Massey Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster and the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. The industry (at the time) received support from surprising allies like the Sierra Club and the Center for American Progress. Fukushima tarnished the nuclear industry, further shifting momentum towards shale gas for utility-scale electricity generation.

But a popular movement fueled by growing concerns about water contamination and public health impacts posed by fracking, coupled with a clearer look by press and by Wall Street analysts at the industry’s claims, has threatened to derail the ascendency of unconventional gas.

Quite often, rather than responding to the issues raised in a responsible fashion, industry PR shops have questioned the motives and qualifications of journalists who investigate the problems with shale gas development, and especially those who delve into the industry’s economic prospects.

UK Police Cease Botched Investigation into Stolen UEA Climate Scientists' Emails

“Our Priority is You,” reads the tagline of the Norfolk Constabulary. The rest of the sentence ought to read, “unless you are a climate scientist.”

The Norfolk Constabulary announced today that it has called off its investigation into the criminal hacking of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit. The November 2009 breach of servers at the University led to the publication of private emails between climate scientists, an event that climate change deniers whipped up into a phony controversy they called “Climategate.” 

As DeSmogBlog has previously reported, the UK police appear to have spent an astonishingly inadequate amount of money and resources on their investigation into the criminal hacking. Now that they've given up entirely on finding the perpetrators, there will be many more questions about who should be held accountable for the failed effort. 

The Norfolk Constabulary confirmed in its announcement that there is no evidence to support the claims made by climate deniers that the stolen information was released from within the university, noting in the statement that the crime was the “result of a sophisticated and carefully orchestrated attack on the CRU’s data files, carried out remotely via the internet.”

But apparently the UK police have no intention of following through to mete out justice for the crime. We will have a lot more to say about this in the coming days, but for now you can read the full statement released by the Norfolk Constabulary below:

Scientists Tell US State Department Excluding Climate Impacts in Keystone XL Review 'Neither Wise nor Credible'

Ten of the nation’s top climate scientists penned a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today questioning why the State Department isn't considering the enormous climate change impacts of developing the Alberta tar sands in its review of the controversial Keystone XL export pipeline project

“At the moment, your department is planning to consider the effects of the pipeline on ‘recreation,’ ‘visual resources,’ and ‘noise,’ among other factors,” the scientists wrote. “Those are important—but omitting climate change from the considerations is neither wise nor credible.” 
The State Department is currently accepting comments on the scoping evaluation that will determine what environmental considerations will be included in the supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) required for the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline.The public comment period ends July 30.
The department’s previous draft EIS downplayed the climate risks of Keystone XL, arguing that the Alberta tar sands would be developed with or without it, so therefore the Obama administration has no accountability for the additional global warming pollution that will result from burning dirty tar sands oil.