Campaign to Shut Down Texas Oil & Gas Funded by Shadowy Web of Out-of-State Foundations and Extreme Environmental Groups

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New report lifts curtain on who bankrolls anti-fracking activism in Texas

Activists use deceptive advocacy like “local control” to mask radical “Keep It In the Ground” agenda

DALLAS, TEX. – Deep-pocketed foundations and companies with investments in renewable energy are major funders of anti-fracking groups in Texas, according to a new report released today by North Texans for Natural Gas. The report, Messing with Texas: Exposing the Campaign to Shut Down Oil and Natural Gas in the Lone Star State, also highlights how Texas environmental groups use terms like “local control” and “best practices” to mask their extreme agenda, including their active membership in the anti-fossil fuel “Keep It In the Ground” campaign.

“This kind of sunlight on the job-killing ‘Keep It In the Ground’ movement is overdue, particularly here in Texas, where environmental activists work so hard to conceal their real agenda,” said North Texans for Natural Gas spokesman Steve Everley. “Texans support oil and natural gas development, and they deserve to know the truth when activists come to their towns with messages like ‘local control’ or other shady talking points.”

The highest-profile fight over fracking in Texas occurred in the city of Denton in 2014, when residents voted to ban hydraulic fracturing. A Washington, D.C.-based group, Earthworks, was the largest funder of the “Frack Free Denton” campaign, though it refused to disclose information about its donors. Earthworks famously promised to shield the city from litigation expenses from the illegal ban, but exited the lawsuit when it discovered it would have to pay attorneys’ fees, effectively offloading those costs onto taxpayers. Earthworks is designated as a tax-exempt “charity” by the IRS, to which donations are tax deductible.

“It is Texas taxpayers and Texas workers who suffer when these activists are able to declare even the smallest of victories,” Everley added.

Very little has been reported on the funding sources for environmental activism in Texas. Using information from IRS tax filings and other sources, the new report shows how foundations headquartered in New York, San Francisco, and other parts of the country fund the environmental groups active in Texas. In several cases, activist groups in Texas are funded by companies with investments in renewable energy, and the Sierra Club even receives a $750 donation every time a particular solar company installs a rooftop solar system.

Other key findings in the report include:

  • Anti-fracking groups in Texas often support anti-drilling policies, such as extreme “setbacks” and other prohibitive regulations that make development impossible. This allows them to support bans on drilling without having to tell the public they are trying to ban drilling.
  • Environmental activist groups in Texas typically have parent organizations headquartered on the East or West Coast. Those organizations have explicit calls to ban fracking and stop drilling, even if their Texas affiliates rarely if ever admit it.
  • Texas anti-fracking groups advocate for regulations that are either unnecessary or contradictory. Public Citizen, for example, wants to mandate that pipelines be in place before drilling begins, but the group actively opposes new pipeline projects.
  • The Energy Foundation, which funds all of the major groups listed in the report, has received millions of dollars from the Sea Change Foundation, an entity with little public presence and which has been described as the philanthropic arm of a green energy venture capitalist in California.
  • Between 2010 and 2011, more than 40 percent of all contributions to Sea Change came from a Bermuda-based firm called Klein, Ltd.

The full report – Messing with Texas: Exposing the Campaign to Shut Down Oil and Natural Gas in the Lone Star State – can be downloaded here. The report will also be distributed to legislative offices in Austin.

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