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Deputy Solicitor, Water Resources

Brandon Middleton is currently the Deputy Solicitor, Water Resources for the Department of the Interior, a position he has been in since November 2017. The Division of Water Resources “provides legal counsel on matters regarding the administration of programs and activities of the Bureau of Reclamation and matters involving water resource development issues.”

Brandon Middleton attended St. Louis University, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, economics and international business, graduating in 2004. He attended the Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law, graduating with a JD in 2007. He was admitted to the California State Bar on May 21, 2008 and his registration is listed as active. Then, from September 2007 to August 2012, Middleton was a staff attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation PLF, an anti-environmental law firm founded by oil tycoons that has received funding from the Koch brothers, where he sued the Interior Department multiple times. From August 2012 to March 2013 Middleton worked in the private sector as an associate attorney at Harrison, Temblador, Hungerford and Johnson. From April 2013 to December 2014, Middleton was Senior Counsel for Senator David Vitter on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and from January 2015 to February 2017 was a legislative assistant for Senator Jeff Sessions. Before starting at Interior, Middleton was most recently Counsel at the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) at the Department of Justice from April 2017 to November 2017.

Sources: [Email Search Request OS-2017-00761, Department of Interior, accessed 08/02/18, Office of the Solicitor,” U.S. Department of the Interior, accessed 08/02/18, Jay Michaelson, “Brett Kavanaugh’s Environmental Record Looks Like Scott Pruitt’s,” Daily Beast, 07/11/18, LinkedIn Profile for Brandon Middleton, accessed 7/31/18, Search for Brandon Middleton, Legistorm, accessed 7/31/18, Sean Reilly, “Many recusals for acting chief of DOJ environment section,” E&E News, 04/25/17, Amanda Reilly, “Trump staffs up DOJ’s enviro division,” E&E News, 07/17/17, Brandon Middleton, ProPublica, accessed 7/31/18; Search for Brandon Middleton, Legistorm, accessed 7/31/18, Attorney Licensee Profile: Brandon Murray Middleton #255699, The State Bar of California, accessed 08/01/18]

Special Interests

Granite Construction Corporation (Resource Development on Public Lands)

While at Harrison Temblador, Middleton offered legal services to Granite Construction Co, which builds "power plants, airports, ventilation facilities, parkways, reservations, tollways, bridges, light rails, dams, and highways."

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also connected to:

Chevron (Resource Development on Public Lands)

While at Harrison Temblador, Middleton offered legal services to multinational energy corporation Chevron.

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Pacific Legal Foundation (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Middleton was a staff attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, an anti-environmental law firm founded by oil tycoons that has received funding from the oil billionaire Koch brothers.

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also connected to:

BoDean Co. (Resource Development on Public Lands)

While at Harrison Temblador, Middleton offered legal services for BoDean Co., a company that addresses construction material and aggregate needs.

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Background Information

Previous Employers

Additional Background on Employers of Note:

While at the Pacific Legal Foundation, Middleton sued Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) over the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Water Supply.

In 2009, while at the Pacific Legal Foundation, Brandon Middleton was part of the legal team that represented California farmers suing the Fish and Wildlife Service for allegedly violating the Commerce Clause of the Constitution by cutting off the farmers’ water supply. This was part of an ongoing fight regarding water in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The case was closed the next day. [Colin Sullivan, “ENDANGERED SPECIES: Calif. farmers sue over federal efforts to protect delta smelt,” E&E News, 05/22/09, Stewart & Jasper Orchards et al v. United States Fish and Wildlife Service et al, 1:09-cv-00892-LJO-DLB, 05/21/09]

While at the Pacific Legal Foundation, Middleton fought to remove the valley elderberry Longhorn Beetle from the threatened species list.

On September 9, 2010, the Pacific Legal Foundation filed papers with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to have the valley elderberry longhorn beetle removed from the federal threatened species list. The PLF attorneys represented a group including Sacramento, CA landowners, businesses and farmers. Middleton was quoted from a news release as saying, “In the midst of a deep recession, we should be facilitating economic development, not stifling it with unjustified restrictions on land use and job creation.” [Melanie Turner, “Developer, others seek to remove beetle from endangered list,” Sacramento Business Journal, 09/09/10]

On March 12, 2012, PLF filed another suit on behalf of farmers, property owners and levee maintenance agencies to remove the beetle from the endangered species list. Middleton was quoted as saying, “The clock has run out on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act.” [Matt Weiser, “Sacramento-area group sues to remove beetle from endangered list,” Sacramento Bee, 03/12/2012, North Sacramento Land Co., et al v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, et al, 2:12-cv-00618-JAM-CKD, 03/12/12]

While he was at the Justice Department, Middleton had several meetings with the Environmental Protection Agency and other staff over the Clean Power Plan.

On July 3, 2018, E&E News reported that an email sent on October 31, 2017 revealed Middleton, as a member of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division had met with EPA and other staff regarding the Clean Power Plan, a dispute on haze in Utah and policy on oil and gas. [Zack Colman, “Trove of emails reveals constellation of climate aides,” E&E News, 07/03/18]

While working for then-Senator Jeff Sessions, Middleton met with representatives of Drummond Coal, which was lobbying Sessions to oppose federal cleanup.

On August 2, 2018, Mother Jones reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was named as a witness for a trial for David Roberson and Joel Gilbert. Roberson, vice president of Drummond Coal, and Gilbert, a partner in the Birmingham-based law firm Balch & Bingham, who were each “found guilty of paying off an Alabama lawmaker to oppose a federal environmental cleanup.” Mother Jones reported that Balch & Bigham and Drummond Coal were the second and third largest contributors to Sessions’s Senate career. Sessions had previously intervened with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to block the cleanup at the location at the center of the case.

According to Mother Jones, Middleton was the only named lobbying contact for a February 4th, 2015 meeting regarding the inclusion of North Birmingham’s 35th Avenue neighborhood to the National Priorities List, which is a group of highly polluted sites that are targeted for a more accelerated and extensive cleanup process. Mother Jones reported that Gilbert contacted then-Sen. Sessions’s office the day after the meeting and that on February 18th, 2015, Steve McKinney, another Balch & Bigham attorney, “McKinney spoke with Middleton ‘regarding North Birmingham.’” [Nicholas Schwellenbach, Russ Choma, and Adam Zagorin, “Bribery Trial Reveals Jeff Sessions’ Role in Blocking EPA Action Targeting One of His Biggest Donors,” Mother Jones, 08/02/18]

While working for then-Senator Sessions, Middleton worked with Drummond Coal representatives on “how to deal with the EPA’s response.”

On February 26th, 2016, Middleton reportedly delivered a letter by Sen. Sessions, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), which had been drafted by Balch staff which “disputed the methods the EPA had used to determine responsibility for the pollution (and thus potential liability for the cleanup).” The letter “also summoned top EPA officials to a meeting ‘to discuss the concerns.’” After the letter was delivered, Balch internal records showed “Balch attorneys and Middleton exchanged emails and spoke over the phone about how to deal with the EPA’s response and prepare for the meeting with EPA officials.”

Balch & Bigham donated $1,000 to Sessions’s political action committee on June 30, 2016, and Mother Jones reported that on the same day Middleton “sent the EPA a message setting the agenda for a July 7 sit-down in Sessions’ office to discuss why the proposed Birmingham cleanup should not go forward.”

Mother Jones said Sessions had “appointed Middleton as a top deputy in the Justice Department’s environmental and natural resources division—the office responsible for bringing cases against corporate polluters, such as Drummond, to force them to fund environmental remediation.” [Nicholas Schwellenbach, Russ Choma, and Adam Zagorin, “Bribery Trial Reveals Jeff Sessions’ Role in Blocking EPA Action Targeting One of His Biggest Donors,” Mother Jones, 08/02/18]

Political Connections

According to the Louisiana Ethics Administration Program, a Brandon Middleton who resided in Alexandria, VA donated $100 to David Vitter on November 10th, 2015.

[Search for Brandon Middleton, Louisiana Ethics Administration Program, accessed 08/02/18]

 

Financials

Brandon Middleton currently makes $162,000 in his job at Interior as “Deputy Solicitor for Water Resources.”

[Brandon Middleton, ProPublica, accessed 7/31/18]

Other Information

Middleton has claimed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) “does a poor job” protecting imperiled species, and is “better understood as a job and innovation killer.”

The Endangered Species Act aims to protect and conserve imperiled species. As a Staff Attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, Middleton wrote a blog post titled “What the environmental movement does not want you to know,” where he claimed the ESA “not about protecting endangered species. It does a poor job at that (Does anyone really expect the status of fish species to improve as a result of biological opinions?) and is better understood as a job and innovation killer.”

Middleton claims the ESA is unpopular with those who “actually bear the brunt” of the ESA’s application and that it “places the interests of human beings below that of endangered animals.”[Endangered Species: Overview, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, accessed 07/31/18, “What the environmental movement does not want you to know,” Pacific Legal Foundation, 07/06/09]

Middleton has claimed “the Endangered Species Act represents a triumph of environmental extremism over human progress.”

In a blog response to a post from Doug Obegi of the National Resources Defense Council on a water crisis in California, Middleton wrote “… the Endangered Species Act is the law that codifies that ‘fish before people’ mantra that Mr. Obegi for some reason believes to be a lie.” Middleton continued, “…national environmental advocates like Mr. Obegi don’t want the public to realize that it is unmistakably clear that the ESA puts fish and endangered species ahead of people.”

Middleton continued, discussing the Supreme Court case TVA v. Hill, “The Endangered Species Act and TVA v. Hill have been numerous times used to stifle the reasonable economic development — in other words, the Endangered Species Act represents a triumph of environmental extremism over human progress.” [Brandon Middleton, “reality bites: the Endangered Species Act puts fish before people,” Pacific Legal Foundation, 07/13/09, “TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY V. HILL,” The United States Department of Justice, accessed 08/1/18]

Middleton agreed with a blog post that claimed the Endangered Species Act was “’synonymous with tyranny.’”

On the Pacific Legal Foundation blog, Middleton said “it becomes more and more evident that there something inherently wrong” with the ESA. He wrote the “skepticism towards overzealous enforcement of the ESA is well-justified.” Continuing in his blog post, Middleton cites the “The American Contrarian” blog: “On this subject, Sean Paige has a great post on why those in the West think the Endangered Species Act is “’synonymous with tyranny.’” [Brandon Middleton, “The misuse of the Endangered Species Act: becoming clearer everyday,” Pacific Legal Foundation, 08/25/09]

Middleton criticized the Endangered Species Act as “inflexible” when he testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources. He said the ESA had “flaws,” and called the success rate “dismal.”

On December 6th, 2011, while he was an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, Middleton appeared before the House Committee on Natural Resources to testify on the Endangered Species Act. In his opening statement, Middleton said: “The flaws behind the Endangered Species Act are numerous and well-known. Rather than provide incentives for conservation and environmental stewardship, the Endangered Species Act punishes those whose property contains land that might be used as habitat by endangered and threatened species. The statute’s success rate is dismal, at best–few species that are classified as endangered or threatened ever return to recovered, healthy populations. Further, expansive and inflexible Endangered Species Act regulation by federal agencies often frustrates innovative local and state conservation efforts, with the result being greater conflict and less compromise. These structural defects raise serious concerns over the Endangered Species Act’s efficacy as a conservation statute and demonstrate that the statute provides little meaningful benefit to endangered and threatened species.” [Brandon Middleton Testimony-The Endangered Species Act: How Litigation is Costing Jobs and Impeding True Recovery Efforts,” Hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources, 12/06/11]

Middleton claims that the Endangered Species Act makes humans a “second priority” over endangered species.

In a December 10, 2009 post, Middleton discusses a Public Policy Institute of California paper about California’s water crisis. But, according to him, “PPIC fails to address one key question, however: Does the Endangered Species Act put species ahead of people?” He claims further down in the blog entry: “The Endangered Species Act gives first priority to endangered species.  Who gets second priority? Everyone else, including humans. When it comes to debate on California’s water policy, this reality should not be ignored.” [Brandon Middleton, “Revisiting myths and the Endangered Species Act,” Pacific Legal Foundation, 12/10/09]

Middleton wrote a blog post asking: “Is anyone else tired of the word ‘conservation?’” The first line of the post was: “I know I am.”

On a Pacific Legal Foundation blog post dated June 21, 2010, Middleton wrote, “Is anyone else tired of the word ‘conservation’? He responds to his own question in the affirmative: “I know I am.” The blog entry continues with Middleton discussing regulations from the federal government to protect the delta smelt and other fish species and says: “Sadly, the government felt that considering the human impacts of ESA restrictions was unnecessary. At the conclusion of the blog, he writes, “The point: the next time you’re asked to conserve, be sure to do your part to help California’s water supply.  Just don’t expect the federal government to do the same–it’s gone fishin’.” [Brandon Middleton, “Is anyone else tired of the word ‘conservation’?,” Pacific Legal Foundation, 06/21/10]

Middleton gave a talk about the Endangered Species Act and California’s Water in 2010.

Middleton was scheduled to give a talk titled: “California’s Water and the Endangered Species Act.” The talk was scheduled by the Lamorinda Republican Women, Federated Club. [Lamorinda Sun, “Calendar — Best of the Sun, Jan. 8,” Contra Costa Times, 1/8/10]

Middleton says California bar dues are going towards diversity issues.

On February 22, 2011, Middleton wrote on the Pacific Legal Foundation blog on a post titled, “If you’re an attorney in California, and you’re wondering where your bar dues go, this is where …” that “rest assured, fellow attorneys, for the State Bar is wisely spending our dues to emphasize the importance of diversity in law schools throughout the country. He cites an article from The National Law journal discussing a proposal by the State Bar of California’s Council on Access & Fairness that the U.S. News adjust its law school rankings to include diversity.

The blog continues: “According to the proponents of this diversity initiative, law school rankings should be based less on the quality of the legal education offered, and more attention should be paid to ‘what schools are doing to promote diversity on campus.’” Middleton wrote “I find it hard to believe that attorneys and their clients will benefit from yet another call for increased diversity–especially in the context of legal education and ends the post with the comment: “Perhaps the State Bar should focus on ensuring that the lawyers which it governs are competent instead of spending member dues on the nebulous concept of diversity.  But then again, this is California.” [Brandon Middleton, “If you’re an attorney in California, and you’re wondering where your bar dues go, this is where…” Pacific Legal Foundation, 02/22/11]