Sierra Club moves beyond coal to target natural gas

This article demonstrates something that I have been telling listeners in my writing and public speaking for years. When the environmental industry feels comfortable in its ability to attack and suppress one form of energy, they inevitably move on to the next. For those who believed the stories that green groups viewed natural gas as a good transition fuel, this is the outcome. For them natural gas was simply the next target.

Sierra Club representatives personify the Sun Tzu quote that one should “keep their friends close, but keep your enemies closer.” For those who did not know, the Sierra Club had taken $26 million in funding from natural gas producer, Chesapeake Energy from 2007 – 2010. They shamelessly funded their anti-coal campaigns on fossil energy dollars and then – with Mayor Bloomberg’s $50 million in hand – abandoned their one-time anti-coal ally and plunged their dagger into the next exposed back. They now publicly attack natural gas as “dirty, dangerous, and running amok.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Readers should question where they plan to get their energy and electricity in the future; now that the green industry has attacked nuclear, large hydro (and dams), coal, and is beginning its campaigns against natural gas.

This article is reprinted with permission from

The Sierra Club, which for several years has pushed its Beyond Coal Campaign to get the country off coal-fired power generation, is now taking aim at natural gas, the fuel that many power generators are turning to in place of coal.

On May 3, the Sierra Club unveiled a new campaign name – Beyond Natural Gas – for its ongoing efforts to move away from natural gas and towards a cleaner energy future. “Switching from one dirty fossil fuel to another only creates a new set of problems,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “We need to wean ourselves from all fossil fuels, including natural gas, by 2050, and we need to start that transition from natural gas to clean energy yesterday.”

“Today’s announcement of the Beyond Natural Gas campaign bolsters the Sierra Club’s commitment to getting off dirty, dangerous fossil fuels, including natural gas, as soon as possible,” said Deb Nardone, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas campaign. “With significant public health concerns and numerous loopholes in air and water safeguards, the natural gas industry continues to focus more on their profits and less on the people. We must push back and do everything we can to rein in an industry run amok.”

While the Sierra Club has been publicly critical of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” to produce natural gas, a group spokesperson said May 4 this new effort might also include opposition to licensing new natural gas power plants.

The club said the Beyond Natural Gas Campaign is working to close industry-exploited loopholes that endanger public health; put in place more stringent safeguards that protect air and water; keep dangerous oil and natural gas fracking off of public lands; and prevent the export of liquefied natural gas.

Notable is that the Kentucky Power unit of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) managed to turn up the fact that the Sierra Club took in $26m worth of contributions from natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) and associated parties over the 2007-2010 period, but stopped when it got concerned about hydraulic fracturing. The Sierra Club is an intervenor in an ongoing case at the Kentucky Public Service Commission where Kentucky Power is seeking approval to install a dry SO2 scrubber on the 800-MW, coal-fired Unit 2 at the Big Sandy power plant. The Sierra Club contends the unit should be shut and alternative supply- and demand-side options be used to make up for that lack of capacity.

Kentucky Power during the course of the case asked the Sierra Club for a list of its contributors, which the Sierra Club refused to turn over. An April 27 filing by the Sierra Club at the PSC had attached to it an April 26 affidavit from Sierra Club official Bruce Nilles. He oversees several conservation priorities for the Sierra Club, including the Beyond Coal Campaign.

“From 2007 through 2010, Sierra Club received more than $26 million in contributions from entities or individuals associated with Chesapeake Energy, a natural gas company,” Nilles wrote. “This money was used to support Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. As time progressed, Sierra Club became increasingly concerned about hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ a technique where millions of gallons of water, laced with other ingredients (including, often, toxic chemicals) are pumped into rock to release gas deposits. In 2010, Sierra Club stopped accepting donations from entities or individuals associated with Chesapeake Energy. The Sierra Club does not accept funding from any other natural gas company.”

Barry Cassell

About the Author

Barry Cassell

Chief analyst, coal sector. Cassell has covered the coal industry for more than 23 years, most recently as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report.  Cassell has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.

GenerationHub is a multi-channel, robust resource providing in-depth industry intelligence for professionals that operate, plan, regulate, invest in or build electric power generation systems.

04. May 2012 by Jason Hayes
Categories: carbon, Energy, Environment, Marketplace Information, NIMBY, Utilities | Tags: , , , , | 4 comments

Comments (4)

  1. Pingback: Moonbattery » Natural Gas Funded Crocodile That Is Now Biting Off Its Leg

  2. Pingback: Sierra Club takes money from nat gas to shut down goes after nat gas companies - Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Conservatives, Liberals, Third Parties, Left-Wing, Right-Wing, Congress, President - City-Data Forum

  3. Somebody better start educating the next generation on the true facts about energy and reasonable environmental protection. The Environmental extremists are moving forward to weaken America and those of us that understand energy and environmental protection need to stand up for the true facts. Remember the good that Investor owned Utilities did 50 years ago with “Reddy Kilowatt” the mascot of good energy education has been replaced with almost all negativity on the forms of energy that power America. I suggest that those of us who know better, should stand up and be counted.
    Dick Storm

  4. Pingback: Coal Leadership Advancement Seminar Series @ Coalblog