Department of Energy Photographer Fired for Leaking Photos of Secretary of Energy Meeting With Coal Mining CEO

Department of Energy Photographer Fired for Leaking Photos of Secretary of Energy Meeting With Coal Mining CEO

A staff photographer for the Department of Energy was recently fired and is now seeking whistle-blower protection after he leaked photos of Secretary of Energy Rick Perry meeting with a major coal mining CEO.

Photographer Simon Edelman frequently followed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry as part of his official duties. One such meeting took place early last year, just a few weeks after Perry had taken the job, between him and coal executive Robert E. Murray, who was also a major donor to the Trump campaign. At the meeting, Edelman took several photographs, including one of Perry and Murray hugging, as well as a few of an "action plan" that Murray had brought along, detailing policy changes he wanted that were beneficial to the coal mining industry. Edelman shared the photos with some other journalists in September and they eventually made their way out, where they were held up as evidence of an inside track for the coal industry in policy-making.

Once it was revealed that Edelman took the photographs, he was fired, had his personal laptop and belongings seized, and was escorted from the federal headquarters. He, with the help of his lawyer, has now filed a complaint seeking federal whistle-blower protection, which is specifically offered by the Department of Energy where it notes "it is unlawful for agencies to take or threaten to take an adverse personnel action against an employee because he or she disclosed wrongdoing." During the meeting, Edelman notes he heard Murray say "this needs to be done" in regards to the plan he put forth (part of which was visible in the photographs and later became part of Perry's proposal six months later), to which Perry responded: "I think we can help you with this." Edelman noted he was startled by this and tried to hover in the room until his presence was eventually questioned. It wasn't until Perry revealed his proposal in September that Edelman noticed similarities between it and what he had seen in the meeting in March and decided to release the photos to help oppose it. 

After being fired, an agency supervisor sent an email demanding that Edelman give over the administrative access to his photo storage, while in a recorded phone call, another employee said: "I would suggest that doing it sooner rather than later would probably be a good thing for you." As mentioned, Edelman has now retained a lawyer from Whistleblower Aid, who argues the photos were not classified and fall under public domain and is fighting the termination of his employment. 

Lead image by Gage Skidmore, used under Creative Commons.

[via New York Times]

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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I wish this guy luck. That's a rough road to tread...

Yeah I am surprised he hasn't vanished

I wouldn’t presume to speak for Bob. But, he did say private meetings. What would be wrong with requests made in the light?

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Does not matter what I say, does it? This is an American issue, leave the good folks of America to sort it out, or at least one photographer without a job to sort it out.

Voting me down, as some have, is not going to give the photographer his job back, is it?

You're still making zero sense. You're babbling randomly.

If you say any event, I was not asking you to mark my comments. My original comments were directed to Alex, the author of this In future please bear this in mind.

Free speech dude. I don't need your permission to mark your posts down when they warrant it.

Is that all you have.

That's all I need.

So, it is possible to reduce free speech into few words. Great stuff. Less is more.

Dude, I do have a message for you. I do listen to the debate taking place in the US of A, via CNN and other news channels, Britain via BBC, so forth and so on.

Obviously, you are free to express your views, but should not assume that those of us who do not live in the US of A should always bow to its citizen.

We are proud of our heritage just as much as you are of yours. Nobody should expect me to say anything less. And we should be able to agree to disagree with respect.

This point has been debated on CNN and on the BBC. Great Nations don't have to kick ass William. They just command respect by their sheer presence.

I will admit that you're making total sense here, and I agree with you.

You’re adorable.

Pardon john littlehands, he thinks this is nazi America.

Here's some suggested reading...

"had his personal laptop and belongings seized" Wow! I could understand if it was a government laptop, but seizing personal property is draconian.

This "rat-fink" you speak of helped expose documents created by Murray Energy that listed their demands on the administration (demands they could make because of their close relationships with administration leaders and the millions of dollars in donations they gave).

These demands include: vastly diminishing safety inspections on mines, forcing the federal government to fund pensions and medical benefits for injured workers of private coal companies (instead of that burden falling rightly on the owners of the companies), reversing laws protecting miners against prolonged exposure to coal dust, and overturning fines against coal companies that violate workplace safety laws consistently. All of these are now either implemented or are in the process of being implemented.

Our "wonderful energy people's" health and well-being are being sacrificed to line the pockets of the executives of coal companies like Murray Energy (which–by the way–has been found responsible for the collapse of multiple mines and the deaths of multiple miners due to insufficient safety measures). And because people like you paint such a wide, simplistic brush and blindly want "big government" out of your lives, you unwillingly become accessories to these monsters.

A pox on Murray and his underlings, and shame on you for your complacency and uninformed statements.

There’s nothing more contemptuous than a person who avoids the truth:

What hollow, irrelevant rhetoric. If you’re mentally able, try reading first, then articulating a response to specific facts.

But don’t waste my time by ignoring the truth with rambling nonsense.

Typing words too difficult for you? Did you give up? I know, thinking is like, hard and stuff.

I wish you guys would all go down in a coal mine for a few weeks and see how sick you get from breathing it in.....

Just go to the Body World's exhibit and look at the coal minors lung sitting next to the smokers lung.

I'm not going to get in-between a political argument between you two, but you are factually and inarguably incorrect in saying coal is clean burning.

- Coal plants release 146,000 tons of PM2.5 pollution per year, which leads to 3.45 million early deaths every year.
- 44 percent of the world's CO2 emissions come from burning coal.
- CO2 sequestration technology is not 100 percent effective and requires burning 25 percent more coal to make up equivalent energy output.
- The rate of CO2 production far exceeds our ability to move it underground.
- There's evidence that CO2 stored underground will eventually make its way back into the surface and the atmosphere.
- Coal burning produces nitrogen oxides that interact with volatile organic compounds and produce ozone and smog.
- It produces sulfur dioxide.
- It produces Mercury.
- It produces black carbon.
- There is no process that can simultaneously capture all pollutants produced by burning coal.

You said "clean burning" in both comments, which as I addressed, is not true. I'm not sure what a volcano, being outside both human control and energy production, has to do with this.

No, it is not that simple; otherwise, hundreds of thousands of scientists wouldn't work on the problem every day of their lives. Whatever a creature does is not always in "harmony" with that habitat. That's why species go extinct. That's why habitats are run into extinction themselves. It's a horrendously complicated problem. Here's the most basic example of it:–Volterra_equations

I didn't say a word about global warming. You made an incorrect statement about pollutants that showed a lack of basic understanding of the chemical makeup of coal and its associated combustion reaction. Please don't try to reframe the argument. I specifically refrained from addressing politics and addressed an incorrect scientific statement.

Excuse me, but as an avid JC fan for decades, when and where exactly did you get the claim that what he said in the 80s about all the fish disappearing? Would appreciate citations. And YES, check UNICEF reports that every year, MILLIONS die of starvation, he might be two decades off but is true nonetheless. Illinois may be an unsuitable place to observe this.

“UNICEF, the purveyors of child pornography” WTF are you talking about?! Where’s your reputable source for this wild claim (and not “I heard it on the TV 25 years ago like your “citation” on Cousteau).

Honestly, you’re exhibiting the research and critical thinking skills of an elementary school student. And where would be a good place to observe oceanic fish population decreases? I’d start with the ocean.

Oh, now you read the Times, when it suits your interests. Although I do appreciate you finding a source, which–barring an further information that disproves it–I accept as fact. Try doing the same with evidence I posted relevant to this article on Murray Energy that you avoid because it might shake your opinion and poor little sensibilities.

"I do appreciate you finding a source, which–barring an further information that disproves it–I accept as fact. " How are those "fabulous" reading skills working out for you?

Good Lord! Is “I don't think so" the best juvenile excuse you got? You know you got nothing to say to back your claims and instead you Hid in an obvious attempt to cover your lies? You, sir, are a proper dolt, but hey, best of luck. Can't believe you came to an exchange childishly unprepared except for claims that are poorly backed. Good for you and ta! Funny your photo does not look like the face of an eight year old... btw, not only UNICEF but from Bloomberg as well, where you might probably label as “purveyors of white slavery of Scientologists”

It's not clean burning... The coal mines near new Mexico gave indigenous people mental, physical deformities and cancers to this day....

First, I don’t get how “whatever we people do is in harmony with nature”? That seems to equate a lot of “evil” to harmony.
Second, coal is clearly not “clean”. There may be other reasons to use it. But it’s not “clean”. The vast majority of evidence shows otherwise. Do you actually think there is a conspiracy to destroy the coal industry?

Why would anyone advocate for policies that harm themselves, their community, their country and future? Either you are a paid advocate for industry or have psychological issues. Denial of factual data does not make the denial real.

"[coal] is much cleaner than a volcano"

This belongs on a shirt.

Uh oh! Those look like facts!

" I am inclined to disbelieve government or NGO scientist, as I believe they are conflicted." but you believe a scientist employed by the coal industry to be non-conflicted? I think you have a future in politics, believe the highest bidder!!

Coal will be around for along time but big coal is losing ground to NG because it's cleaner and cheaper. Last year, gas used in utility plants cost about 2/3 the cost of coal.

^ This fool would trust Philip Morris' research on the effects of cigarette smoking on lung cancer over the CDC's. Absolutely hopeless.

You’re a damn fool. It’s a link to the PDF of the Action Plan that they’re holding in their hands in the photos for this article. But you’re so closed minded that you won’t even click a link? How ignorant.

I’m calling you out for what you are. Stop hiding behind your ignorance. Look at facts. Read. Think.

What in God’s name are you talking about? You’re defending a man whose company is literally responsible for the negligent death of coal miners, and I’m the one who doesn’t care if they live or die? Stupid, ignorant man.

I know reading doesn’t seem to be your thing, but read what’s in his plan (removing safety regulations and health protections) and then tell me it’s there to help the miners.

On second thought, don’t get back to me. You’re a lost cause.

I wrote that his company was negligent and responsible for miners’ deaths, not that he was a murderer. You really can’t read effectively, can you? Have an adult (or child with adequate reading comprehension skills) read to you about the Crandall Canyon Mine Disaster for reference.

We’re done here. You’re obviously unable and/or unwilling to hold even a basic conversation.

If they were shown to be negligent in their safety protocol, then yes. Tell those families you have such supposed respect and admiration for that you agree with the CEO of a corporation whose actions (or lack thereof) led to the death of their fathers, brothers, or sons.

And prior evidence confirms your reading skills are shit.

I certainly have empathy for coal mining families that are seeing job lose as coal mining slows down. But that doesn’t mean we essentially deregulate an industry. By now we’ve figured out that unregulated capitalism doesn’t work. Look at the treatment of people during the industrial revolution in the UK or the slave trade. At the meat packing in turn of the century Chicago.
I’ve intentiaonally left aside arguements about global warming for other comments above.

William, capitalism is not a form of government, it’s an economic model. Nowhere in the US Constitution does it state the US will or should maintain capitalism as its economic model. The US is a republic (government) and currently exists in an economic model that strongly resembles an oligarchic capitalism.

Unregulated capitalism is a complete failure when it comes to the protection of citizens of a nation and the preying on those citizens by those who are wealthy. Note the recent housing market crash 10 years ago. Unregulated capitalism has included and if left unchecked would continue to include: child labor, extended or excessive work hours, little pay, harsh working conditions, little or no worker safety laws, no worker rights, the inability to form unions, etc. Unregulated capitalism is a dream for those who have wealth and power and little concern for the average citizen. Our life spans have extended due to regulated capitalism in conjunction with advanced sciences and medicine.

I would recommend reading more on the history of worker conditions in the early US when much of capitalism was unchecked. Are you arguing that children are a viable workforce and the average citizen is expendable? I’m from a coal town, and I’ve seen what greedy coal operators can do to an area when they come in, dig out the coal, destroy the water tables, break the citizens and then pull out while counting their money. The owners go on to the next thing and the average citizen is broken and tossed aside while begging for crumbs, and that’s in a slightly regulated capitalism.

I’m for energy independence as well; one of the things that has put the US where it’s at is through innovation and invention, by both private industry and through government initiatives. Future energy independence (and global leadership) will not be based on who burns the most fossil fuels, but rather, it will be based on who can innovate and develop the most efficient and clean system of energy. If you have been anywhere near a coal mine then you will know the process is neither efficient nor clean.

You argue about coal mining jobs and the poor people; I agree, they need work and it’s sad the situation many mining communities face. Yet, if politicians and coal companies would have had any foresight, other than putting money into their own pockets, then many communities could have developed alternative industries and skills while the areas were money and job abundant. In many of those areas mining was the only industry pushed and people didn’t know much outside of that. It’s hard to pursue alternatives if you don’t know they exist or have to work constantly to keep your head above water.

You really think politicians and wealthy coal operators have cared (or do now) about the future of those communities? What happens when that next coal seam runs out? What will the communities do then? You think they won’t be left as they are now or potentially worse off? You think the politicians and operators are somehow going develop a sense of morals and focus on growing alternative ideas rather lining their pockets?

What a shocking combination of outright fallacies, twisted rationalizations, simplistic unprovable generationizations and rambling nonsense. None of which warrants or deserves a reasonable response.

Your ignorance is an example of a major problem in modern American society.

A response stating how assine your post is is not responding to the specifics in the post. Tough concept, I know.

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