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The Sierra Club Took Millions From Fracking Industry

Last week, I wrote an article about how Chesapeake Energy, through its fracking activity, was destroying the rural way of life in West Virginia.

After the article ran, an insider called me with a tip – Sierra Club has taken money from Chesapeake Energy.

I called Sierra Club on Monday and asked – Are you taking money from frackers – in particular Chesapeake Energy?

Waiting for a response, I called Sierra Club activists in West Virginia to see if they know anything.

Two of them – Jim Sconyers and Beth Little – e-mailed Michael Brune, the executive director of Sierra Club, and asked him whether the Club has taken money from Chesapeake Energy.

Brune writes back to Little and Sconyers:

“We do not and will not take any money from Chesapeake or any other gas company. Hope all’s well with you both.”

Simultaneously, I get an e-mail from Maggie Kao, the spokesperson for the Sierra Club.

On Tuesday, Kao writes to me: “We do not and we will not take any money from any natural gas company.”

I write back – I understand you do not and will not.

But have you taken money from Chesapeake?

That was Tuesday.

All day Wednesday goes by.

All day Thursday goes by.

And I can’t get an answer.

Then Thursday night, Kao writes says – okay, Brune can talk to you at 7:30 pm EST.

And by the way, Kao says – check out this story just posted in Time magazine.

The headline: How the Sierra Club Took Millions from the Natural Gas Industry – and Why They Stopped.

Turns out, Sierra Club didn’t want the story to break in Corporate Crime Reporter.

The millions from frackers.

And how as late as Tuesday, Sierra Club tried to mislead it’s own members about the money.

According to the Time report, between 2007 and 2010 the Sierra Club accepted over $25 million in donations from the gas industry, mostly from Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy – one of the biggest gas drilling companies in the U.S. and a firm heavily involved in fracking.

Time reported that the group ended its relationship with Chesapeake in 2010 – and the Club says it turned its back on an additional $30 million in promised donations.

Waiting to speak with Brune.

And ask him what he meant by:

“We do not and will not take any money from Chesapeake or any other gas company.”

Lisa Wright was on the executive committee of the Sierra Club’s Finger Lakes chapter in upstate New York.

But she soon got fed up with the national organization’s coziness with the natural gas industry and Chesapeake Energy.

Wright wanted Sierra Club to take a position against fracking – similar to a position the Club took on coalbed methane – it’s too dangerous to regulate – you have to prohibit it.

But Sierra Club wouldn’t budge.

Sierra Club’s position was to regulate, not prohibit.

So, on May 3, 2011, in an e-mail to Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune, Wright withdrew her membership.

“National Sierra Club has handled its affairs in regards to shale-gas in such an egregiously arrogant, ill-informed and out-of -touch manner that I simply cannot continue to pretend that my grassroots efforts in association with Sierra Club will in any way help the movement,” Wright wrote to Brune. “The high level associations of the gas industry with NGOs – evident in the Aspen Energy Summit – is like an infection that cannot be cured with sophisticated PR campaigns that obfuscate the underlying problem of your corporate associations.”

“It is my hope that you will reconsider your views on America’s shale-gas future, and provide the forward-thinking leadership that the Sierra Club brand once promised.”

On May 11, Brune wrote back, thanking Wright “for her thoughtful response.”

But then he added:

“Before I sign off, I do want to be clear about one thing: we do not receive any money from Aubrey McClendon, nor his company Chesapeake,” Brune wrote. “For that matter, we do not receive any contributions from the natural gas industry. Hopefully this will alleviate some concerns. Thank you for all your work.”

So, when Wright heard yesterday that in fact Sierra Club had taken $25 million from Chesapeake Energy between 2007 and 2010, she went back and dug up her e-mail correspondence with Brune.

“I took his response to mean that he had not taken any money from Chesapeake or the gas industry,” Wright toldCorporate Crime Reporter. “It was misleading.”

Brune’s position is that his “do not and will not” position was not misleading – because he didn’t address the past.

But Brune is going to be facing an angry grassroots this weekend when he holds a conference call for members to address the issue.

He might want to consider a different answer.

How Sierra Club Misled Its Members about the $25 Million from Chesapeake Energy

Lisa Wright was on the executive committee of the Sierra Club’s Finger Lakes chapter in upstate New York.

But she soon got fed up with the national organization’s coziness with the natural gas industry and Chesapeake Energy.

Wright wanted Sierra Club to take a position against fracking – similar to a position the Club took on coalbed methane – it’s too dangerous to regulate – you have to prohibit it.

But Sierra Club wouldn’t budge.

Sierra Club’s position was to regulate, not prohibit.

So, on May 3, 2011, in an e-mail to Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune, Wright withdrew her membership.

“National Sierra Club has handled its affairs in regards to shale-gas in such an egregiously arrogant, ill-informed and out-of -touch manner that I simply cannot continue to pretend that my grassroots efforts in association with Sierra Club will in any way help the movement,” Wright wrote to Brune. “The high level associations of the gas industry with NGOs – evident in the Aspen Energy Summit – is like an infection that cannot be cured with sophisticated PR campaigns that obfuscate the underlying problem of your corporate associations.”

“It is my hope that you will reconsider your views on America’s shale-gas future, and provide the forward-thinking leadership that the Sierra Club brand once promised.”

On May 11, Brune wrote back, thanking Wright “for her thoughtful response.”

But then he added:

“Before I sign off, I do want to be clear about one thing: we do not receive any money from Aubrey McClendon, nor his company Chesapeake,” Brune wrote. “For that matter, we do not receive any contributions from the natural gas industry. Hopefully this will alleviate some concerns. Thank you for all your work.”

So, when Wright heard yesterday that in fact Sierra Club had taken $25 million from Chesapeake Energy between 2007 and 2010, she went back and dug up her e-mail correspondence with Brune.

“I took his response to mean that he had not taken any money from Chesapeake or the gas industry,” Wright toldCorporate Crime Reporter. “It was misleading.”

Brune’s position is that his “do not and will not” position was not misleading – because he didn’t address the past.

But Brune is going to be facing an angry grassroots this weekend when he holds a conference call for members to address the issue.

He might want to consider a different answer.

Russell Mokhiber edits the Corporate Crime Reporter.

More articles by:

Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter..

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