Russian Influence May Taint Fracking Debate

There’s new information indicating a possible link between American environmental groups opposed to fracking for natural gas and funding from Russia.

A new report published by The Daily Signal suggests there are charities funneling money from the Putin government to the Sierra Club Foundation (SCF) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that may, among other things, help promote anti-fracking efforts in New York that would benefit Russian interests.

National Center Senior Fellow Dr. Bonner Cohen, who was quoted in the article, noted:

The Sierra Club Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council and other advocacy groups may have their own “green” reasons for opposing America’s realizing the energy potential of its abundant fossil fuels. At the same time, these groups know full well that they receive funding from the Sea Change Foundation and the Energy Foundation, both of which, according to a congressional report, are funded by Russian interests via a Bermuda-based shell company.

[These groups and Russian interests] have a common interest in demonizing fracking and related technologies that have tilted global energy markets in America’s favor.

Just as the shale revolution has been an economic godsend to millions of Americans, providing them with affordable electricity and transportation fuel, it has been a nightmare for Russia and environmental activists.

The Sea Change Foundation and Energy Foundation are reported to have donated millions of dollars to the SCF and NRDC. According to the Daily Signal article, Sea Change receives money from a shadowy Bermuda-based company called Klein, Ltd. According to a 2014 report issued by the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works, Klein “was set up for the sole purpose of funneling anonymous donations to Sea Change.” The group has acknowledged receiving “general support” from Klein.

It was also reported that the Energy Foundation received approximately $64 million from Sea Change between 2010 and 2015. The Senate report called the foundation a “pass through” for making donations to American green groups.

The NRDC and SCF have both opposed and continue to fight against domestic extraction of natural gas by hydraulic fracturing. As the American natural gas boom continues, a loser in the marketplace is Russia – which has been an importer of natural gas into places such as Massachusetts, among other places. The United States is now a natural gas exporter in part because of increased production due to fracking.

Former CIA analyst and current Virginia Tech instructor Ken Stiles said: “Follow the money trail, and this ban on fracking could be viewed as an example of successful Russian espionage.”

Klein, Ltd. was allegedly set up by the law firm of Wakefield Quin. Another group investigating special interest involvement in the fracking debate, the Energy Policy Alliance, claims the law firm can be linked to figures in the Russian government and energy industry. A Wakefield Quin lawyer denied any Klein ties to Russia. The NRDC, SCF and the Sea Change and Energy Foundations refused or were unavailable for comment for the Daily Signal article.

If this is proven to be an effort by the Putin government to influence American energy policy by leveraging the power of green groups, Stiles said the revelation “would certainly impact the debate” on fracking. “It’s either a lack of due diligence or incompetence, or they may actually know something about a particular donor, but they don’t want to ask that question. I tend to think the issue is more that they are just not looking the gift horse in the mouth, and they are just taking the money.”

Putting it in a historical perspective, particularly with the past KGB history of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bonner added:

Putin, let’s not forget, is an old hand at using Western pressure groups to serve the Kremlin’s purposes.

When, in the 1980s, the old Soviet Union was manipulating self-styled “peace groups” in Western Europe and the U.S. in an effort to divide NATO and isolate the U.S., Putin was a mid-level KGB agent in East Germany.

Though that effort ultimately failed, Putin learned his lesson well. Then it was U.S. missiles to defend Western Europe that had to be demonized; today, it is U.S. oil and natural gas that are portrayed as a threat. In both cases, money changed hands, and scare tactics were the order of the day.

To read Kevin Mooney’s Daily Signal article, “The Connection Between Russia and Two Green Groups Fighting Fracking in U.S.,” in its entirety, click here.




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