Russian Funding of American Environmental Groups Alleged

Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and Randy Weber (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy, have sent a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin requesting an investigation into what appears to be a concerted effort by Russia to funnel millions of dollars through various nonprofit groups to influence the U.S. energy market. Specifically, the congressmen point to evidence Russia is funding anti-fossil fuel and anti-hydraulic fracturing groups in order to bolster its own energy sector dominance.
Russia Map

“This scheme allows money originating from foreign countries like Russia to funnel through Bermuda-based shell companies to environmental groups in the United States with the aim of disrupting the U.S. energy industry,” the letter alleges.

Further, “entities connected to the Russian government are using a shell company registered in Bermuda, Klein Ltd., to funnel tens of millions of dollars to a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) private foundation, the Sea Change Foundation. This money appears to move in the form of anonymous donations.”

The letter asserts Sea Change passes money in the form of grants to organizations such as the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, and others. The purpose of the circuitous exchange of foreign funds is to shield the source of the money. “It is easy to see the benefit to Russia and Gazprom that would result from a reduction in the U.S. level of drilling and fracking—a position advocated by numerous environmental groups in the U.S. Gazprom and the Russian government have infiltrated U.S. organizations at home and attempted to sway public opinion and thereby government opinion,” the letter alleges.

Outlined is that San Francisco-based Sea Change’s IRS Form 990 shows Klein contributed $23 million in 2010 and 2011, an amount representing 49% of total contributions it received in that period. “Klein’s contributions to Sea Change are not by chance. Sea Change’s founder and president, Nat Simons, is appropriately positioned to give the Russian funds to environmental groups that push back on U.S. domestic fracking and gas advancements. Nat Simons has said the mission of Sea Change is to facilitate the transfer of money and advance a shift away from carbon-based energy,” the letter maintains.

It adds that the strategy of Sea Change is to apply domestic political pressure using its deep pockets—with most of its funding coming from Russia. Sea Change pro- vides funding grants to well-known environmental activist groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council Inc. and many similar organizations. From 2010 to 2011, Sea Change contributed more than $20 million “in an attempt to suppress the U.S. domestic oil and gas industry using funding from a foreign entity that intentionally conceals its funding sources.”

(Published in the Weekly Propane Newsetter, August 28. 2017. For pricing updates, news and analysis not found elsewhere subscribe at BPNews.com)