Sierra Club Admits to Taking $26 Million from Natural Gas Industry to Attack Coal Industry

By Matt Cover | February 3, 2012 | 4:52 PM EST

This coal-fired power plant is located in Ellinger, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

(CNSNews.com) – The liberal environmentalist group Sierra Club admitted that it took $26 million in donations from a major natural gas company and used the money to fund the group’s anti-coal campaign.

“In 2010, soon after I became the organization's executive director, I learned that beginning in 2007 the Sierra Club had received more than $26 million from individuals or subsidiaries of Chesapeake Energy, one of the country's largest natural gas companies,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune wrote on the Sierra Club website.

Brune said that the reason the Sierra Club took the money was that it felt that it shared a “common purpose” with Chesapeake Energy – ending the use of coal.

“The idea was that we shared at least one common purpose – to move our country away from dirty coal,” Brune wrote.

The story first broke Thursday in Time magazine, which reported that Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon had made the bulk of the donations to the Sierra Club.

Brune said that when he took over in 2010, he put an end to Sierra’s relationship with the natural gas industry.

“We cannot accept money from an industry we need to change. Very quickly, the board of directors, with my strong encouragement, cut off these donations and rewrote our gift acceptance policy.”

Brune said the move came because the Sierra Club no longer supported the natural gas industry – due in large part to the environmentalist movement’s opposition to the practice of hydraulic fracturing – known as fracking – that is becoming increasingly common as companies try to develop more of the nation’s natural gas resources.

“By mid-August 2010, with gas industry practices and our policies increasingly in conflict, I recommended to the Board, and it agreed, to end the funding relationship between the Club and the gas industry, and all fossil fuel companies or executives.”

The move drew the ire of fellow liberals groups, including the United Mine Workers of America, which called the Sierra Club “a knee-jerk shill.”

“They’ve [Sierra] cynically put people at risk for years to come with this campaign, and made themselves little more than tools of an energy industry competitor in the bargain,” UMWA President Cecil E. Roberts said in a statement Friday.

“Let’s get real here: Just like any business, the gas companies are about selling gas, period. And they will gladly funnel cash to any organization that will help them do it,” Roberts added.

Roberts said that instead of taking money from the natural gas industry to attack its competitors, Sierra should put its efforts into supporting clean coal technology.

“Instead of merely being a knee-jerk shill for a competing industry, the Sierra Club would do well to take a step toward joining with those of us who seek not just a cleaner, but also a more stable and secure long-term energy future for our children and grandchildren.”

Brune, however, said that the only alternative to fossil fuels were the longtime environmentalist favorites wind, solar, and geothermal energy, not clean coal or natural gas.

“Ultimately, the only safe, smart, and responsible way to address our nation's energy needs is to look beyond coal, oil, and gas, and focus on clean, efficient energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal,” Brune wrote.

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