Dan Zegart Remembered

Memorial to Dan Zegart 1955-2024

Honoring here our friend and colleague, Dan Zegart who passed away a couple weeks ago after fighting off the cancer that his doctors discovered about two years ago. It was so sad to watch the disease make him feel so rotten, ravage his fitness, sap his strength, limit his ability to get around town and to travel, to keep working…and it cut into his endurance for one thing he really loved, drumming! Boy he had great rhythm and creativity on a drum set.

May Dan rest in peace and power. We will keep the corporate accountability machine churning in his memory.

As Walt Bogdanich, NYTimes reporter and an old friend of Dan’s wrote. “I will miss him.  So will everyone who has been hurt, trampled and abused by corporations that make a living out of deceit and greed.   You stood with him.  I know that, because he spoke of you often.  You gave him a chance to do what he loved.   Our job is to carry on the good fight and remember Dan as the good, caring soul that he was.

I met and eventually hired Dan in 2014 when he was writing freelance for The Nation about the over-the-horizon possibility of climate lawsuits that might resemble the tobacco lawsuits he tracked in his 2001 book Civil Warriors, here excerpted and reviewed by the NYTimes.

I met and eventually hired Dan in 2014 when he was writing freelance for The Nation about the over-the-horizon possibility of climate lawsuits that might resemble the tobacco lawsuits he tracked in his 2001 book Civil Warriors, here excerpted and reviewed by the NYTimes.

It was a wild ride working with Dan for the past 10 years. Never a dull moment. When he would call and say “listen, I think I’ve got something here…”, for sure you dropped what you were doing and listened up! Everyone who worked with Dan learned something. His mentoring role is coming through in tributes from colleagues and reporters he worked with, especially younger folks he took under wing. He mentored us all on writing and reporting and technical investigative work – how to handle whistleblowers and interesting but tricky human sources of intel that surfaced in our investigations and how to do this work in the field under difficult circumstances, on the ground, on the frontlines. One night he called from Mississippi saying he was sure he had been tailed back to his hotel and relayed his plan for the following day, calm and confident.

He had a way with people in crisis who he approached deftly and got to know while doing field investigations from Mississippi to suburban Philadelphia. He had gentle and very direct way of talking to people under stress, getting and giving information, but also empowering them to find their voices and use what they were documenting in creative ways.

Dan became an expert on “carbon capture and sequestration” (CCS), technology intended to capture carbon dioxide pollution and bury it underground. Dan’s work would help reveal CCS to be a dangerous false solution.  His research led him to Mississippi in 2015 where he helped uncover the Southern Company’s failed Kemper carbon capture powerplant project, eventually helping a whistleblower at the plant connect with the New York Times in 2016. The plant, that was supposed to burn the dirtiest form of coal and magically tuck all the pollution underground, was eventually scuttled and turned into a simple natural gas boiler powerplant. The scandal caused big problems at Southern Company. Dan documented the CEO of Southern cavorting with Ernie Moniz, head of the Department of Energy under Obama. Dan and legal colleagues eventually won a lawsuit with the Department of Energy over FOIAed documents relating to the project. The US Government had supported Kemper with millions in grants and loans.

In February 2020, Dan got a call from a contact in Mississippi saying that a CO2 pipeline had ruptured in the town of Satartia and it was on local TV news.  Dan flew down the next day, and spent days gathering information, recording hours of interviews with victims and first responders, gathering medical records and emergency responder 911 recordings. The CoVid lockdowns cut off his field reporting, but he continued to do research and gather information which eventually he wrote up in the widely acclaimed 2021 Huffington Post piece, Gassing Satartia on this unprecedented industrial carbon dioxide accident.

Dan kept working until the very end with his friends/colleagues from Satartia, who continue to tell their story. I know it gave him energy to fight his sickness watching the Satartia story grow beyond our expectations into a national issue, a rallying call for activists. We had a lot of “who’d a thunk it!?” laughs and conversations on how well this work had landed.

Dan spent the last couple years doing a lot of very effective things quietly and not so quietly at times to advance the ball on Satartia. He had to choose what he did carefully, the requests for his time and work were many, in addition to his busy health care schedule.

His HuffPo story kicked off a federal investigation into the Satartia accident that resulted in the largest fine ever issued for such a pipeline failure (almost $4 million dollars) and the Department of Transportation making major recommendations for changing the regulations governing these specific pipelines. Those regulations are currently being rewritten by Congress in an ongoing heated debate about how to (impossibly) make safe the expected massive buildout of tens of thousands of miles of CO2 pipelines. 

Dan travelled back to Satartia several times, with photographers, filmmakers and doing his own reporting and recording a live interview sit down with all involved (see YouTube “the reality of carbon capture” below). He also travelled with the Satartia victims and their first responder rescuers again and again around the country to convey their story, in person, to regulators and citizens on the frontlines of proposed carbon capture CO2 pipelines projects.

Dan came to Washington DC this March to meet with members of Congress, hosted by an ally organization. The photo at the top is Dan and his Satartia crew with Senator Ed Markey (left to right, Cassandra & DeEmmeris Burns, the Senator, Dan and first responder Jack Willingham, who saved DeEmmeris’ life that day.)

Cassandra & DeEmmeris Burns from Satartia wrote this on a memorial website – “We will miss Dan dearly, we had named ourselves the A team. We all had grown to be just like family, it´s nothing he wouldn’t do for me and my husband. It was never a dull moment when Dan, DeBrae, Jack, Jerry get together, It was always love and laughter. He would always tell us just whatever you need, just call or sometimes it would be just a phone call to hear his voice. At the end of every conversation he would always say I Love you Guys. Our last trip to Washington he told us this will be my last rodeo with y´all, so he was already preparing us for what was coming. We talked about his legacy, we told him no matter what the outcome may be , we still will carry the torch on. Dan was our number one man, we loved him deeply.” (small typos from Legacy.com post corrected)

He attended conferences as an expert and was consulting with various law firms and non-profit organizations. Once he requested or insisted on a meeting with the Department of Transportation’s pipeline safety administration, PHMSA. They confirmed the meeting, which they thought was going to be on Zoom, but Dan got on a train to Washington and showed up in person! He spoke to room full of regulators for as long as they would listen, never reported publicly on what happened, but said it went well.

His pipeline investigation was really embraced by activists in the midwest in 2021 who were fighting the first major proposed carbon capture CO2 pipeline buildout across many states. The amazing coalition that formed spanned from indigenous activists, to environmentalists, environmental health activists and somewhat conservative “century farmers”. Dan went on barnstorming cross country scurries with sturdy young activists in Iowa to hit multiple “stakeholder” meetings, scheduled back to back, on the proposed CO2 pipelines. He got to see, in person, Iowa corn farmers whose families had been farming their land for 100+ years, carrying dog-eared printouts of the Huffington Post story, as they stood at the mic one after another railed on federal regulators that they would not allow what happened in Satartia happen to them!

The reverberations and echos from Dan’s Satartia story are a long way from going quiet.

Dan returned to Satartia in late 2022 to interview the victims and rescuers of the 2020 pipeline rupture
Dan testifying at a Pipeline Safety Trust meeting a year ago.

Testimonials from colleagues and friends

Dan’s dear friend Sharon Eubanks wrote, “I met Dan Zegart when he called me up out of the blue to talk about the tobacco industry. Those conversations—and there were many–led us to the fossil fuel industry, and how similar the industry behaviors were. Dan decided that this was an area he needed to apply his skills as an investigative journalist, and boy, did he ever! There was no one who loved an investigation—pulling together all the facts—the way that Dan did; he simply immersed himself. I don’t know how he got people to talk to him, but he always did, and he always tried to help the victims of bad corporate behavior that he wrote so passionately about.
Dan and I worked together for seven years on a FOIA case when he was at Climate Investigations Center—the man was relentless, and I mean that in a good way. He never gave up, and he read documents in the same way a lawyer would read them; I mean, he even read and took in the footnotes. I always enjoyed reading what Dan wrote. Dan was able to turn a dry factual document like an affidavit into something of a page turner, the reader always wanting to know what happened next. He had a way of presenting the facts, and he did not disappoint when using those facts in his storytelling.
I’ve heard it said that a person who is not forgotten is never dead. I will never forget Dan. Dan will always live on as a familiar friend and colleague. I am fortunate to have known him.”

Carolyn Raffensperger of the Science and Environmental Health Network wrote, “As the Quakers say, I am holding both Dan and all who loved him in the light. I have so much gratitude and affection for Dan. I know you magnified his skill and impact in the world. That impact was huge. May he travel well now. May he be at peace. May those of us here carry his work forward.

Jane Kleeb of Bold Alliance, a big booster of Dan’s voice, wrote, “not sure there would be as strong a movement and education around carbon pipelines without Dan’s groundbreaking reporting and storytelling.”

Jess Mazour of the Sierra Club (who was instrumental in getting Dan into the game, in person, in Iowa) wrote,  “I am so sorry to hear this news.  His story sparked the movement in Iowa. We wouldn’t be where we are without him.”

Emma Schmidt of Bold Alliance wrote, “Dan was fanatical about unveiling the corruption driving powerful industries, strongly protective of those he cared for, and never afraid to put up a fight against all odds. He dedicated the final years of his life to raising awareness about the dangers of carbon capture and storage schemes, leaving behind an immeasurable impact that will not be forgotten. Dan was the first person to shine a light on the Satartia CO2 rupture with his article in The Huffington Post and he continued bringing attention to carbon capture scams until the end. We owe more than words can express to Dan. Without him, our efforts to stop carbon schemes may have never gotten off the ground. Dan was a truth seeker, an ally in the fight against injustice, and a friend. He will be greatly, greatly missed.”

June Sekera, a professor and colleague on the CCS fight, wrote, “I’m devastated. What a loss of a friend, an invaluable worker in the movement and a wonderful person. What an incredible difference he has made.”

Bill Caram, the Executive Director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, who worked closely with Dan over the past two and a half years, wrote, “I count myself lucky that I got to work closely with Dan over the last few years. I always knew my time with him would be limited, so I did my best to cherish the time we had. Dan was dogged, passionate, always looking out for people who were being trampled by power. He was fiercely loyal and deeply generous. Rest in peace, my friend.”

Sharon Kelly, a great journalist who collaborated with Dan on many stories while at DeSmog wrote “In memory of a true legend in investigative reporting, whose tenacity, sharp intellect, and courage remains an inspiration. Dan’s spiritedness, dedication to justice, and kindness left a lasting impression on those around him, just as his rigorous reporting left a profound mark on the issues and industries he covered.”

Lisa Graves of True North Research wrote, “Dan Zegart was—and always will be—a hero to me. His courageous and intrepid investigations into the powerful illuminated destructive and reckless policies, plans, practices, and public health disasters that huge corporations and dangerous industries sought to keep in darkness. Dan was both fierce and kind, and it is a huge loss for our world that he walks this earth no more. But the stories he told with such truth and with the help of so many sources who deeply and rightly trusted him for his real integrity will live on and will continue to help save people’s lives. He continued to fight valiantly for truth even as he battled the scourge of cancer. I will miss my friend and his laughter and his music and his absolute determination to fight injustice no matter where he found it. To Dan, may he rest in power and then, I hope, return to battle some how, some way, some when.”

Rebecca John, our colleague here at CIC wrote, “I feel so lucky to have worked with Dan and was struck by his intelligence, warmth, generosity and spirit. And also of course by his brilliant work, the legacy of which lives on. Like many, I learnt so much from Dan’s book Civil Warriors, and loved the way he would get fired up about an idea then bounce back thoughts and suggestions, interweaving references to Shakespeare with the history of corporate malfeasance and gripping personal anecdotes – all with an infectious enthusiasm. Alongside his accurate and unflinching insights ran his deeply empathetic observations of human character. A true example of courage, to the last he was working to save the world he loved so much. Thank you, Dan.”

Author and activist Dr. Sandra Steingraber and journalist Emily Sanders on Twitter:

Below is the obituary posted by Dan’s family:

Leave comments on the bottom of this page for his family and friends to see https://memorialsource.com/memorial/daniel-andrew-zegart

Daniel Andrew Zegart

January 7, 1955 – May 27, 2024 Lambertville, NJ

Daniel Andrew Zegart, 69, of Lambertville NJ, passed away on May 27 after a long fight with pancreatic cancer. 
Dan was born on January 7, 1955, to parents journalist and mystery novelist Patricia Sargent and documentary filmmaker Arthur Zegart in NYC. Named after Arthur’s friend EB White, nicknamed “Andy”, who was at his birth. Dan grew up in Nyack, NY, attended Nyack HS, and went on to study history at Wesleyan University.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree he moved to New York City where he worked as a carpenter and a bicycle messenger before getting his first writing job at Energy User News. It was here that he began his long career as an investigative reporter, calling out bad actors and uncovering misdeeds of industry, politics, and public health. 

Moving north, he was a reporter at The Evening Sun in Chenango, NY, and then onto the Newburgh Evening News where he broke the Tawana Brawley story in 1987, as well as numerous other award-winning articles that often impacted change on the local and state level.

After being on staff at The Trenton Times, he moved on to bigger things, writing for Ms. Magazine, The Nation, Reader’s Digest, Salon, The New York Times, PBS Frontline, CBS Evening News and most notably authored two books, “Civil Warriors: The Legal Siege on the Tobacco Industry” and “Your Father’s Voice: Letters for Emmy about the Life with Jeremy and Without Him after 9/11”.

His expertise on the history of tobacco litigation led him to investigate evolving similar litigation around climate change, holding fossil fuel companies accountable. His most recent work as a senior investigator with the Climate Investigations Center led Dan to spend 19 months digging into the story of a carbon dioxide pipeline that ruptured near a small Mississippi town, sending 49 victims to the hospital resulting in his intense expose, “The Gassing of Satartia”, written for the Huffington Post in August, 2021. The Post submitted it as their entry for a Pulitzer prize.

The story catalyzed and inspired a nationwide movement around the safety of these pipelines, along with additional media coverage, a record fine on the pipeline owner and proposed new regulations now being debated in Congress. Dan’s research and knowledge informed citizens and activists working against carbon capture projects on the front lines who question the safety of the technology and the deadly risks it poses to communities nearby. The people of Satartia who were injured and the first responders who rescued them all deeply appreciated Dan’s ongoing work to tell their story as he traveled with them to Iowa and Washington DC over the past few years. Over his career, Dan always centered the victims he spoke to and wrote about with compassion and grace, and as one close friend commented this week, he fought for those trampled and abused by corporations that make a living out of deceit and greed.

Never was Dan more proud than when his daughter Lana showed her own strengths as a writer as well her interest in his reporting, often working with him on stories he was investigating in recent years when his illness began taking a toll. 

His other passion was playing the drums which he did professionally for a spell. If it weren’t for his writing, Dan, would’ve immersed himself in playing music for anyone who would’ve listened.

Dan leaves behind Lana, 23, and his sister Caroline of West Haverstraw, NY, an artist and music teacher.

For those wanting to honor Dan’s life and work, the Pipeline Safety Trust organization is accepting donations in his name to carry on the work on carbon dioxide pipeline hazards. Add Dan’s name in your note if you choose to contribute. https://pstrust.org/donate/

Some excerpts of Dan’s massive book of work at Climate Investigations Center over the past 10 years:


Several friends have sent pictures and videos of Dan and some he had shared with them. Here are a few:

At a pipeline protest in Iowa in 2023

And the non-work side of Dan, drumming!

Dan drumming in a favorite front yard in Lambertville, NJ
Drumming in Lambertville, NJ
Dan jamming with Brendan Demelle and Dave Ihmels exactly two years ago in a basement studio in DC. Great night!
Basement studio June 2022

And this is Dan on the road in the late 1990s, while embedded with attorneys prosecuting big Tobacco, working on the book Civil Warriors.

There are some investigations we didn’t broadcast widely, but are worth telling to honor Dan’s work:

Mariner East pipeline

Dan’s field work in suburban Philadelphia on the Energy Transfer “Mariner East” pipeline, was virtually all behind the scenes. He spent years working with people on the frontlines fight against this pipeline, along with advocacy groups in Pennsylvania trying in vain to stop it. The “Natural Gas Liquids” pipeline, was railroaded through the approval process in a highly deceptive way by the company Energy Transfer. They declared it a public utility, when in fact it had one purpose, to make massive profits these liquid petroleum chemicals (think of the clear liquid in a Bic lighter or your propane tank), stuff that came up unexpectedly from the fracking wells of Pennsylvania. The fracking companies had no where to sell it. This pipeline has allowed them get it to to the Delaware River just south of Philadelphia where they are filling huge tanker ships to go to Scotland to make single use plastic plates forks and other soon to be trash.

Nothing could possibly go wrong… Except that years later the undisclosed “blast zones” around these pipelines was discovered by residents doing freedom of information requests. Those people’s property values are now diminished as they live in fear of being incinerated, all for the profits of frackers, Energy Transfer and Ineos (the plastics maker in Scotland).

Dan met with community members, helped document the damage the pipeline operation was doing to people’s property, ruining the wells, creating huge sinkholes. Dan tried to help them figure out who the goons were that were trying to intimidate them, following parents to their kids’ little league games and driving slowly by people’s houses taking pictures. A very ugly corporate thuggery scene in Delaware and Chester Counties. Dan wrote about some of this plot on DeSmog with Sharon Kelly.

On one field trip to the area where the pipeline was being built, Dan witnessed men in uniforms, hired as “constables” by Sunoco (Energy Transfer) trying to chase off residents who were objecting to a natural gas liquids pipeline being buried through suburban Philadelphia. He ended up being a witness in a case to prosecute these men for impersonating law enforcement.

Commonwealth v. Murphy

We glean the following facts from the certified record. Beginning in 2017, Murphy and several co-conspirators were investigated for their involvement in providing security services to Sunoco in connection with the company’s Mariner East Pipeline Project (MEPP). As a result of the investigation, Murphy was charged by information with the following offenses: 

• 3 counts of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities,  with 1 count for each of the 3 subsections of the statute; 
• 27 counts of criminal conspiracy to commit the crime of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities; 
• 2 counts of bribery in official and political matters,  with 1 count for each of 2 subsections of the statute; 
• 10 counts of criminal conspiracy to commit the crime of bribery; and 
• 7 counts of criminal conspiracy to commit restricted activities-conflict of interest.

Dan Zegart (Zegart), a journalist who worked for the Climate Investigation Center, was the first witness at the preliminary hearing. On June 5, 2018, Zegart was in Chester County interviewing residents for an article on the MEPP. He went to the Lisa Drive construction site for the MEPP to learn more about sinkholes that had been reported in residents’ yards. 
While Zegart was parked on the side of the road and writing notes, he saw a hard-hatted worker nearby taking pictures of him and photographing his license plate. Zegart got out of his vehicle to speak to the man and recorded their conversation with his cell phone camera.  He asked the man if he was working for a security firm or a pipeline contractor, and the man responded that he was working for both. He then pointed Zegart to another man standing nearby and said he could answer any questions about security on the site. He told Zegart that the man was a state constable. 
The Commonwealth introduced Zegart’s video as an exhibit at the hearing.
Zegart went over to speak to the man, who told him not to step off the street and onto the property. The man had a badge on his hip and an insignia on his shirt and he told Zegart that he was recording their interaction. Zegart could not recall whether the man had a firearm. He refused to answer any questions about security on the site. At that point, another worker in a hard-hat approached Zegart and gave him a phone number to call with any questions about site security. He then told Zegart he would call the police to have him arrested for harassment if he did not leave.

Pembina Oregon pipeline scandal

Another great investigation Dan coached from the sidelines and contributed research to, was a similar pipeline scandal in Oregon. A Canadian pipeline company, Pembina was discovered (through really good investigative journalism) to have hired the local sheriffs offices to intimidate activists questioning the Jordan Cove Energy Project. Dan had for years studied the “security” firms who were selling their services to pipeline and petroleum companies. He worked closely with the journalists doing these stories.



All for now, I will update this page as the stories and accolades keep coming in. Peace.

Posted by Kert Davies