Look Who’s Ashamed to Be Taking Coal Money

After call for divestment, Hennessey PR pulls down website.
This post is 4 in the series: Look Who's Taking Oil & Coal Money

Well, that was satisfying. Yesterday, DeSmogBlog caught coal PR flak Lauri Hennessey laughing about people worried about climate change. (Sightline has called out Hennessey before.) After that, I publicly asked whether we should begin a targeted divestment campaign that would encourage Northwest clients to stop working with her private consulting firm.

Today, all that’s left of the Hennessey PR website is smoking rubble. The subpages are 404 errors, and this is all that’s left of the front page:

hennesseypr.com ruins

Needless to say, I saved the pages in advance just in case she decided to delete them. And it may still be worth inquiring with the list of clients she used to boast about:

Lauri works primarily with non-profit organizations (including the Greater Seattle YMCA, Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Camp Fire USA’s Central Puget Sound Council) government agencies (including the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the City of Seattle)…

But I’m not really being fair by picking on Hennessey alone. After all, there are other local firms that also adopt a green posture in public, but then privately do dirty work for coal.

So in the spirit of fairness, what do folks think about calling out clients for Nyhus Communications or Smith & Stark? Their rosters include some progressive firms and organizations that probably have no idea who their PR contractors really are. And it’s probably a safe bet they would rather not be publicly associated with the coal industry.


Update 10/10/13: A senior official at the City of Seattle informs me that the City has reviewed its relationship with Hennessey. There is only a single contract on record and it dates to 2007, which of course predates the current administration as well as the Northwest’s coal exports debate.


Please also see Sightline’s previous investigative reporting on this subject: Look Who’s Taking Coal Money, Look Who’s Taking Coal Money, Part 2, and Look Who’s Taking Coal Money: Seattle Times Investigates.



  1. Terry Wechsler says:

    Well, at the least, I can’t imagine any on that list would want to do business with one who represents climate deniers and uses her EPA past to deliberately give those clients a false veneer of caring about the climate.

  2. Barbara Keller says:

    I am particularly bothered that the BLM, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the City of Seattle would use this woman to represent them. It does not speak highly of them, either their intelligence or their motives.

    It also would appear to be a conflict of interest on her part, developing informational strategies for parties that should, given their currently voiced positions, be on opposite sides of a future lawsuit over the GPT EIS.

    I understand that there exist people like Laura, totally lacking in moral compass, who can speak out of two sides of her mouth without a twinge on conscience. These people are called sociopaths. Our public agencies and non-profits should not be hiring sociopaths to represent them.

  3. Robert Pregulman says:

    Call them out. You’re just telling the truth. If they don’t like it they can stop working for polluters.

  4. J Smith says:

    I thought Hennessy worked at Edelman?

    • Eric de Place says:

      She does, or did anyway.

      On the side, she also runs her own communications/PR firm.

  5. Stefanie Wickstrom says:

    Nice work, Eric. Thanks!

  6. Christin says:

    It seems to me that dismantling the PR game that these groups are playing by exposing their connections and allowing citizens to obtain easier access to accurate information is essential to gaining any ground on the education front of the issue.

  7. andyg says:

    Ah, a fine witch-hunt! Let’s call out lawyers who represent coal companies next!

    • Eric de Place says:

      • andyg says:

        Fair enough–calling out people for what they do is legit. I don’t think it’s legit to publicly air a video or soundtrack of someone’s private conversation at a conference, as Desmogblog did. I don’t approve when Breitbart or the NSA invade people’s privacy either.

  8. richard pauli says:

    Great report Eric, thanks.

    I am a former colleague of Lauri, years ago. She is brilliant. This might be the perfect opportunity for her to revise and rededicate to a new issue.

    Global warming will unfold as it must, but human must endure suffering to some and perform amazing feats of adaptation. She has a chance to be a real leader here.

    Heck, she has all the publicity she needs, now just to step up to it. I hope she gets good advice.

  9. Jon Shaughnessy says:

    “Outing” educated people like Lauri who takes fossil fuel money in 2013 and is only smart enough to be ashamed, but too greedy to walk away from the money is morally OK, Eric.
    People in the 1930’s and 1940’s faced the same moral dilemma outing people who were on the direct or indirect payrolls of the German and Japanese empires. Those genocides were more intentional than climate change, but the body count may run higher in the long run and the “I didn’t know the consequences” defense is just as thin.
    The fossil fuel corporate empire[s] will fall just like the losers in WW II, but many “nice” people in our own backyard will have to get hurt in the process. [Consider Charles Lindburgh’s support for Hitler.]
    No, I’m not playing the “Nazi card” – I could rewrite the above using the analogy of Americans who supported US war crimes in Vietnam or Iraq and make the same point while angering a different set of Americans who don’t “get” analogies.
    The real question for the rest of this century is how to reverse human-caused climate changes before the body count reaches into the billions. Some condone ruining fossil fuel companies; others include their acolytes in the meida and politics; others set fire to construction sites.
    I understand your sensitivity about messing with Lauri, but outing her firm is just one small step in the right direction, Eric.

  10. Norm Cimon says:

    You mean what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas? I’m told endlessly by everyone around that I don’t have any privacy any more. Or is that just one more dividing line between the “special people” and the rest of us? There’s only one message to the Internet and it’s this: the democratization of all information, every last bit of it. Don’t want people to really know what your position is? Then don’t state it to anyone ever – or act like and adult and change it to match your stated beliefs.

    @richard pauli:
    “Global warming will unfold as it must, but human must endure suffering to some and perform amazing feats of adaptation.”

    Dude, you have got to be joking. The notion that we can “endure” even a 1 meter sea level rise – and that’s the low end of the current projections over the next 100 years – is near delusional. It took centuries, and in some places millenia, to build up the current urban infrastructure in our urban megaplexes. Do you sincerely believe those can be transplanted overnight?

    As one simple example of the impacts from that rise, New York will go from one catastrophic flooding event every 100 years, to one every three years. Should we send the people who’ll be affected to your backyard? Moreover, the notion that such a mass migration somehow represents beneficial economic activity – bandied about by some as if this is some sort of video game – is lunacy, the sort of thinking that brands modern economics as a discipline in crisis.

Leave a Comment

Please keep it civil and constructive. Our editors reserve the right to monitor inappropriate comments and personal attacks.


You may add a link with HTML: <a href="URL">text to display</a>