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Breaking Up with the Sierra Club

March 23, 2012, by Sandra Steingraber

Orion‘s search for a more truthful relationship between humans and the natural world occasionally calls for the expression of outrage. The more we learn about a gas-drilling practice called hydraulic fracturing—or “fracking”—the more we see it as a zenith of violence and disconnect, impulses that seem to be gathering on the horizon like thunder clouds.

Long-time friend and Orion columnist Sandra Steingraber has been particularly vocal about the dangers of fracking. Her columns in recent issues of the magazine have frequently been dedicated to the issue; and last year, after receiving a Heinz Award for her work, Steingraber donated the cash prize to the fight against fracking in her home state of New York.

In February, Time magazine broke the news that the Sierra Club, an old and respected environmental defender, had, for three years, accepted $25 million from Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest gas-drillers in the world. (In 2010, Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s new executive director, refused further donations from the company.) The story prompted Steingraber to write an open letter to the Club, posted below. We invite you to read the letter, which testifies to the confusion, fear, and outrage that’s pouring out of communities in gasland—but which is also, importantly, a bold call to courage.


No right way is easy. . . .We must risk our lives to save them.
—John Muir, Sierra Club’s founder

Dear Sierra Club,

I’m through with you. 

For years we had a great relationship based on mutual admiration. You gave a glowing review of my first book, Living Downstream—a review that appeared in the pages of Sierra magazine and hailed me as “the new Rachel Carson.” Since 1999 that phrase has linked us together in all the press materials that my publicist sends out. Your name appears with mine on the flaps of my book jackets, in the biography that introduces me at the speaker’s podium, and in the press release that announced, last fall, that I was one of the lucky recipients of a $100,000 Heinz Award for my research and writing on the environment.

I was proud to be affiliated with you. I hoped to live up to the moniker you bestowed upon me.

But more than a month has past since your executive director, Michael Brune, admitted in Time magazine that the Sierra Club had, between 2007 and 2010, clandestinely accepted $25 million from the fracking industry, with most of the donations coming from Chesapeake Energy. Corporate Crime Reporter was hot on the trail of the story when it broke in Time.

From the start, Brune’s declaration seemed less an acknowledgement of wrongdoing than an attempt to minister to a looming public relations problem. Would someone truly interested in atonement seek credit for choosing not to take additional millions of gas industry dollars (“Why the Sierra Club Turned Down $26 Million in Contributions from Natural Gas Interests”)?

Here, on top of the Marcellus Shale, along the border between Pennsylvania and New York—where we are surrounded by land leased to the gas industry; where we live in fear that our water will be ruined, our mortgages called in, our teenage children killed in fiery wrecks with 18-wheelers hauling toxic fracking waste on our rural, icy back roads; where we cash out our vacation days to board predawn buses to rallies and public hearings; where we fundraise, donate, testify, phone bank, lobby, submit public comments, sign up for trainings in nonviolent civil disobedience; where our children ask if we will be arrested, if we will have to move, if we will die, and what will happen to the bats, the honeybees, the black bears, the grapevines, the apple orchards, the cows’ milk; where we have learned all about casing failures, blow-outs, gas flares, clear-cuts, legal exemptions, the benzene content of production fluid, the radioactive content of drill cuttings; where people suddenly start sobbing in church and no one needs to ask why—here in the crosshairs of Chesapeake Energy, Michael Brune’s announcement was met with a kind of stunned confusion.

The Sierra Club had taken money, gobs of it, from an industry that we in the grassroots have been in the fight of our lives to oppose. The largest, most venerable environmental organization in the United States secretly aligned with the very company that seeks to occupy our land, turn it inside out, blow it apart, fill it with poison. All for the goal of extracting a powerful heat-trapping gas, methane, that plays a significant role in climate change.

Climate change: identified by The Lancet as the number-one global health problem of the 21st century. Children, according to the World Health Organization, are among its primary victims.

It was as if, on the eve of D-day, the anti-Fascist partisans had discovered that Churchill was actually in cahoots with the Axis forces.

So, I’ve had many weeks now to ponder the whole betrayal and watch for signs of redemption from Sierra Club’s national leadership. Would it be “coming clean” (to quote the title of the executive director’s recent book)?

Freed from the silence that money bought, would it now lend its voice in support of environmental groups in New York State that seek a statewide prohibition on fracking? Would it come to the aid of those in Pennsylvania calling for a halt to the devastation there?

Would it, at the very least, endorse the modest proposal of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, who recommend a national moratorium on fracking until human health impacts are researched?

And would Michael Brune humbly ask forgiveness from antifracking activist Lisa Wright, formerly on the executive committee of the Sierra Club’s Finger Lakes chapter? As recently as last May, in response to a direct query from Wright, who had become suspicious, Brune wrote, “I do want to be clear about one thing: we do not receive any money from Aubrey McClendon, nor his company Chesapeake. For that matter, we do not receive any contributions from the natural gas industry. Hopefully this will alleviate some concerns.”

The answer to all of the above questions: No.

So, Sierra Club, call some other writer your new Rachel Carson. I’ll be erasing your endorsement from my website.

And take back these words, penned by your own fierce and uncorruptible founder, John Muir, that have hung for years by my writing desk:

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The wind will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

There is no peace in the mountains and hills over the Marcellus Shale. No glad tidings. The forests of Pennsylvania are filled with chainsaws, flares, drill pads, pipelines, condensers, generators, and the 24/7 roar of compressor stations. The wind that blows east from the gas fields carries toluene, benzene, and diesel exhaust. Sunshine turns it all into poisonous ozone. Storms send silt into trout streams from denuded hillsides and cause good people to lie awake at night, worried about overflowing impoundment pits full of neurotoxic chemicals and overturned frack trucks full of carcinogens.

Even now, plans are being laid to transport 88.2 million gallons of liquid propane and butane to caverns that lie beneath the idyllic New York lakeshore where my ten-year-old son was born. (“This transaction is yet another example of the successful execution on our plan to build an integrated natural gas storage and transportation hub in the Northeast,” says the company called Inergy.) When you tramp through the fields and forests where I live—40 percent of the land in my county is leased to the gas industry—cares don’t drop off like autumn leaves. They accumulate like convoys of flowback fluid laced with arsenic, radium, and barium with no place, no place to go.

And, yes, they are fracking in Rachel Carson’s beloved Allegheny County, too.

The hard truth: National Sierra Club served as the political cover for the gas industry and for the politicians who take their money and do their bidding. It had a hand in setting in motion the wheels of environmental destruction and human suffering. It was complicit in bringing extreme fossil fuel extraction onshore, into our communities, farmlands, and forests, and in blowing up the bedrock of our nation. And I can’t get over it.

So, here are some parting words from the former new Rachel Carson.

The path to salvation lies in reparations—not in accepting praise for overcoming the urge to commit the same crime twice. So shutter your doors. Cash out your assets. Don a backpack and hike through the gaslands of America. Along the way, bear witness. Apologize. Offer compensation to the people who have no drinkable water and can’t sell their homes. Whose farm ponds bubble with methane. Whose kids have nosebleeds and mysterious rashes. Write big checks to the people who are putting their bodies on the line in the fight to ban fracking, and to the grassroots groups that are organizing them.

Finally, go to Washington and say what the Sierra Club should have said in 2007: Fracking is not a bridge to the future. It is a plank on which we walk blindfolded at the point of a sword. There is no right way to do it. And the pirates are not our friends.


Sandra Steingraber

Sandra Steingraber, PhD, is the author of Living Downstream, published in second edition by Da Capo Press to coincide with the release of the documentary film adaptation.

filed under: Letters from the Field


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1 Bridgette Moroney on Mar 23, 2012

Brilliant article & thank you for imparting your wisdom & knowledge upon your readers. Our current worldly condition seems just like a movie. I live in Door County, Wisconsin. The news is reporting loud noises & shaking in the town of Clintonville, WI. One resident reported hearing sonic like booms. The experts are calling it an earthquake. When first reported, the seismologist reported nothing…...Bond, James Bond where are you?

2 Bridgette Moroney on Mar 23, 2012

Oh, Orion is a magazine…I assume you are an eco friendly print?

3 John on Mar 23, 2012

I had somehow missed this whole Sierra Club scandal.  How horrible. I’m more involved with the AMC and hope they don’t make the same moral mistakes.  A good friend used to have a cabin on the East Branch of the Delaware. Lovely country, great trout fishing.  But he had to get out because of the fracking.  Fracking is the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

4 Erik Hoffner on Mar 23, 2012

Bridgette: yes, Orion is printed 6 times a year w/ vegetable inks on sustainably certified paper that’s 50% post-consumer recycled, and processed without chlorine. And as we like to say, Orion endeavors to publish the absolute best thinking and art in each issue: content that can live up to the lives of the trees it’s printed on.


5 Rosa Zubizarreta on Mar 23, 2012

Thank you Sandra for taking such a clear and strong stance, and writing such an eloquent article about it. Fracking is madness, a sign of a society gone completely insane and bent on self-destruction. The only thing I would recommend adding to your article, is a link to where we can donate to the brave heroes and heroines who are working so hard to stop the madness.

6 Bridgette Moroney on Mar 23, 2012

Erik thats awesome! Being disabled I’m on a seriously tight budget but when I can I will subscribe to Orion!  What I’ve read so far is exactly what I’ve been thinking. Like Minds will Conquer!  Thank you again Erik & Orion.  Peace, Bridgette

7 Michael S Knapp on Mar 23, 2012

Couldn’t make it past the author’s obnoxious self-aggrandizing first paragraph. 

But oh, the irony! The natural gas industry has done far more to make the environment a safer place than even the Sierra Club has.  Close to 1,000 old coal fired plants, pumping our BILLIONS of tons of noxious pollutants into the air and water, causing thousands of deaths and millions of illnesses, have been shuttered as a direct result of clean burning natural gas. 

The author would easily be able to smell the improvement, had she not already cut off her nose to spite her face. 

Mike Knapp
Knapp Acquisitions & Production
Heart of the Marcellus Shale
Proud Natural Gas Industry Employer

8 barbara Coyle on Mar 23, 2012

Thank you Sandra for all that you do. Your insight and truth telling is a beacon for many of us living in gasland. The Sierra Club and its leadership has blood on its hands. It’s a shame - a dirty toxic shame.

9 Rosa Zubizarreta on Mar 23, 2012

It seems like part of the larger problem is people looking at one narrow part of the cycle, and NOT considering all of the other “side effects” of any given industry… I believe the economists call that “externalization of costs”.

Another part of the problem, seems to be the ancient tactic of “divide and conquer”... attempting to pit “clean gas” as an improvement over “dirty coal”, and “clean nuclear” as an improvement over both…

oh yes and, “better be grateful for any job you have now”, even if it will kill you and your family down the road, often sooner rather than later…

how about a SANE equation, such as…

Solar = Good Jobs AND a Healthy World!

10 Zim on Mar 23, 2012


I “love” your apples to oranges comparison. Yes natural gas burns more cleanly than coal. However extraction via fracking is not a clean process.

By your own logic, then nuclear power is superior to fracking, and we need to replace your operations with reactors. Because nuclear power produces less waste than your clean burning natural gas.

11 steven wright on Mar 23, 2012

it’s hardbreaking but of no surprise that the sierra club, a liberal institution meant to protect the environment, would underhandingly make a deal with fracking.

i think after the iran problem , and oil prices skyrocket to 9 dollars a gallon, they will continue to exploit fracking and the sierra club will back them up

12 Lucille Loop on Mar 23, 2012

Self-aggrandizing, Mr. Knapp? She didn’t mention that she lives what she preaches, did she. She didn’t mention that she uses unbelievable energy and ingenuity to take care of her family while attending to writing and research. She didn’t mention that though living on an extremely modest income, she and her husband recently gave her latest book prize money to support fracking prevention. While you, meanwhile, want to risk our beautiful environment up here, in order to sell gas to other countries (because we have a surplus). Shame. Show a little respect for someone who’s trying to protect your grandchildren.

13 Bob Kincaid on Mar 23, 2012


As a very wise man once remarked, “You can fool some of the people some of the time . . . “

No one here, I suspect, is fooled by your pathetic paean to “clean burning natural gas.” That’s not a fact, it’s an advertising slogan, just like “Clean Coal.”

And thanks, Ms. Steingraber, for your principled stance. As a person living in the Appalachian Sacrifice Zone known as “Mountaintop Removal,” I couldn’t help notice that in much of what you wrote “Fracking” could have been replaced with “Mountaintop Removal” and the essential meaning would not have changed.

Add this to your list of complaints. Bank of America finances Mountaintop Removal. Sierra Club, to the best of my knowledge, still has an “affinity program” with BoA to hustle credit cards to its members. How is that OK, doing business with the people who are destroying the mountains one ostensibly “fights” to protect? Still can’t sort that one out.

14 Dirk Hermance on Mar 23, 2012

Mr Knapp,

“The natural gas industry has done far more to make the environment a safer place than even the Sierra Club has.”

Tell that to the people whose lives have been ruined by fracking near their homes. Tell them that to their face- I dare you. No? Then you have no guts at all compared to this writer whom you chidingly mock. If it were not for the fact that people started working to change our environment during the 1960’s it is quite likely you would not be here to say anything. If you cared the least bit for the environment, your interests in profits energy, would be best invested in creating the technology for unlimited sources, rather than short term profit that gives the earth doses of poison to kill us all.
Go ahead- talk to the people you have poisoned so far, convince them of your sincere concern for the environment, have a glass of flammable water from their tap with them on camera and prove the safety of what you are doing to the world. How much do you value your life?

15 Art Evans on Mar 23, 2012

I’ve been a SC member and local and state SC leader since 1971. This is the first time I have been mortally ashamed of my club’s leadership. I want to know who at the top sold us out. $25 million will not buy back our credibility. It might as well have been 30 Sheckels of silver.

16 David Meiser on Mar 24, 2012

Sorry you feel that way.  However, I feel with this letter you are also alienating all the volunteers activists and staff of the Sierra Club working on this issue.

If it wasn’t for the Sierra Club activists in PA ( along with other organizations) who have fought a long and hard battle with the two previous administrations regarding gas drilling and all the issues which go along with this extraction method the horrible legislation passed in PA would be even worse. 
If it wasn’t for the activists and staff of the club who rallied people in Harrisburg PA, Trenton NJ and NYC the Delaware River Basin Commission would have most likely issued its gas drilling regulations instead of having to re-review of these regulations. 

One never hears about the 10,000 letters sent to the DRBC via the Sierra Club.  You should know as you were there at that rally last November.

In addition, what about the efforts in MD where the club has taken the lead role in stopping the Maryland LNG export terminal? 

What about the efforts of Sierra club activist nationally to push for the Frac Act in Congress?  Lobby to stop the natural gas act? Supply pages of comments and expert testimony to the EPA concerning air emissions from drilling?  Is all that moot?

I hate to say this but sometimes it seems people only see what they want to see and not look at the “big picture.”  Have you examined what the club has been advocating in, California Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Michigan and Texas with regard to gas drilling?

I met you in Trenton NJ last November, We had a short conversation on the steps of the War memorial building, we talked about the t-shirts I supplied with the don’t frack my water as well as the don’t frack my water posters (which were provided by the Sierra Club).  We also talked about my wife’s stage IV cancer, and how her chemotherapy sessions were progressing.  Sadly, my wife passed away on Jan 3rd.

I take offence that you feel the sierra club has not done enough on this issue.  I feel by saying such, you are discrediting my work on this issue as well as the other activists and volunteers in the club.  I know some people will say that there is a difference, between the national leadership and the volunteers/staff.  I disagree, The Sierra Club is one entity and by saying, you are done with the club you are also done with all the club’s volunteers and staff, Including Jeff Tittle the director of the NJ Sierra Club which you stood next to last November in Trenton at the rally. (He was wearing the t-shirt made by Sierra Club activists who you now say are not being vocal enough.
I am sorry that you feel the Sierra Club has not done enough, or spoken louder, but maybe you have not been looking in the correct locations. Sometimes you have to look behind the curtain and see who is operating the sound and lights for the people on the stage, such as you.  You may feel the club has not been vocal enough of the issue, but sometimes-real progress happens behind the scenes and the lights.

Sadly, I am returning my signed copy of Raising Elijah as by saying you are done with the Sierra Club I have to say I am done with you, as I take great personal offence to your letter.

17 Alex L on Mar 24, 2012


It’s true that Sierra Club activists such as yourself have been diligent in your work and I don’t question your commitment to stopping drilling. New Jersey, Maryland, and New York are great examples of Sierra Club chapters on point, in the trenches, from what I can tell. It’s important to highlight that work to guys like Michael Brune and the Sierra Club leadership who have advocated for natural gas in the past as a “bridge fuel” and put us all under the bus.

Since 2010, when Mr. Brune appeared on CNBC’s Mad Money to endorse natural gas stocks, I have watched the grassroots members of the Sierra Club agitate against his support for gas drilling and for more resources on the ground. The official Sierra Club position, as of last quarter, was pro-“safe drilling,” a holdover from 2009.

Moreso, the field organizing staff and legal counsel for contaminated and fracking impacted residents has been lacking. I could give you anecdotes of how the Club failed to support residents with legal counsel or co-counsel, but I won’t out of privacy for those folks. I’m glad that Mr. Brune said we need to “leap frog” natural gas in the Chesapeake article in Time. He messaged me tonight to say that his legal team will be looking into the 32-family eviction in Jersey Shore, PA for a water withdrawal facility. That’s a start.

Sandra’s piece, at the end, asks for “reparations”. I think that’s a very important ask. The truth is, Sierra Club has a reservoir of cash, staff time, expertise, media contacts, and political muscle that is not trickling down to those who need it most, at least not at the rate it should be.

As you can observe in the Truth-Out piece titled “Why the Environmental Movement Is Not Winning,” failing the grassroots is a critical reason why major legislative victories aren’t won by the environmental movement.

I think that the Sierra Club leadership needs to 1) follow the lead of their grassroots base and come out for a ban on oil and gas drilling that uses fracking as it has for “Beyond Oil and “Beyond Coal” 2) Put organizers on the ground in heavily fracked states like Pennsylvania to be on the road, visiting campuses and communities and coordinating an anti-fracking campaign. 3) Devote national attention and real assistance to impacted communities and not use them as poster children. 4) Focus on Obama’s policies that support natural gas and CALL HIM OUT in the election year, similar to the Tar Sands pipeline campaign.

I’ll finish with one big example of Sierra Club dropping the ball: the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. The SRBC is made up of the governors of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and President Obama. It votes, unanimously, every quarterly meeting to increase the water withdrawn by the gas industry from the river, which enables THOUSANDS of more gas wells in north central and northeast PA.

Since December, when dozens of people gave public comment against the permits and there was a huge victory stopping the vote with a chant, it’s been obvious that this is a huge problem. It no longer was an obscure federal commission working behind the curtain.

The SRBC scheduled a public comment hearing in February and the vote for their quarterly meeting last Thursday. Not Sierra Club, not Clean Water Action, and not PennEnvironment (Environment America) put out a call or scheduled a protest of this meeting. A week and a half prior, I personally called together folks on a conference call to discuss a protest of the hearing. No one from Sierra Club was on the phone.

On the call, we decided to have three call in days to two governors of MD and NY plus the White House, we decided to have a rally at the Capitol following the vote, we scheduled a non-violence training that I gave the night before with a woman whose family farm is leased, we discussed making a website, and we discussed possible ways to disrupt the meeting by chanting.

That entire next week, I didn’t hear a peep from the Club. No one from the Club showed up in Harrisburg, not even the paid staffers. We had 25 people. As a result of the vote, 32 families in Jersey Shore will be losing their homes:

Michael Brune told me tonight he will have his legal team look into it. I hope he means that. I really do.

Again, I really appreciate your work David and all of the Sierra Club members who have fought at my side in this lopsided war. I see so much potential in the Sierra Club and all I can do is let the leadership know that it’s ok to take a strong position against fracking, like blazing a trail.


18 michael Brune on Mar 24, 2012

I recognize in Sandra Steingraber’s blog post one of the key qualities that motivated me to accept the position of Executive Director of the Sierra Club two years ago. Heartfelt passion for protecting the water, air, landscapes and communities we love is what drives the Sierra Club’s 1.4 million members and supporters. It is the organization’s strongest value and greatest asset. I can see why we have praised Steingraber’s work.

Here’s what happened. Soon after accepting leadership of the Sierra Club, I learned that the Club had accepted $26 million from the natural gas industry to support the organization’s history-making fight to move our country beyond coal, an extremely dirty fuel source and significant contributor not only to climate disruption but to an array of public health problems, including childhood asthma and mercury poisoning. With a nationwide movement, we have blocked over 165 new plants from being built and have pushed another 106 dirty plants into retirement. Like most of the environmental community, however, we had also become aware that the threats gas poses are much more severe than we originally thought. At my urging, the Club’s grassroots-elected board of directors ended all funding from the natural gas industry. We do not and will not accept such funding. We should never have taken this money.

Looking forward, I invite Orion readers to pay close attention to what the Sierra Club is doing now, as our members and supporters work relentlessly to help create a clean energy future powered by wind, solar and other renewable energy sources while ending the nation’s dependence on all fossil fuels, including natural gas.

Our chapters are aggressively fighting this rogue industry anywhere the drillers are attempting to move in. We have endorsed fracking moratoria in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and North Carolina. Sierra Club volunteers have lent their voices and protest signs to hearings in every fracking state from Texas to Colorado to West Virginia to California to New York. Sierra Club lobbyists and activists are working on the federal level to close the loopholes that the industry exploits, and to make sure safeguards are put in place where drilling is already taking place. Our attorneys are taking gas companies to task in the courts, are supporting local activists with technical resources on the ground—and have opened a new front in the battle over fracking by leading a national effort to challenge the export of liquefied natural gas that will increase demand for drilling. When fracking contaminated the wells in Dimock, Pennsylvania, we were there with others to supply clean drinking water.

I’m eager to discuss with Orion editor in chief H. Emerson Blake the possibility of contributing a longer post or essay fully detailing the Sierra Club’s campaign to fight fracking and hold the natural gas industry fully accountable. In the meantime, I encourage Steingraber and readers to visit our natural gas campaign’s website and see for themselves that the Sierra Club is on their side.—Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club

19 norm on Mar 24, 2012

Thank you Sandra, my sentiments exactly. I was listening to the Spring peepers last night, two weeks earlier than usual by the way, and thinking how odd it feels to be surrounded by frogs and gas leases both.

And poor Mr. Brune still doesn’t have the courage to take strong medicine.  Robert Kennedy Jr. is in the same position I believe: oops, “mistakes were made…” 

I suspect that this points to a deep and inherent problem with national environmental organizations and the figures who lead them.  They end up behaving just like the corporations they are supposed to be fighting, in much the same way that regulatory agencies end up in bed with the industries they are supposed to regulate.

It reminds me of Marshall McLuhan’s formula about the medium and the message; how you operate is ultimately what you do.  Somehow, although we want to believe otherwise, democratic process don’t scale up. ExxonMobil is not going to solve our energy problem, and the Sierra Club is not going to solve our environmental mess.

20 debbiew on Mar 24, 2012

I think one simple truth are clear…every organizations, even Sierra Club included has their good and bag moments, the negative move of one individual isn’t always the belief of the whole group… Although I don’t agree with much of this, I would still like to believe Sierra Club has the best interests of it’s core mission statement.
I think that the individual (s) should be held accountable, in the best way possible, that is something to be decided by it’s board or governance. If not by them than by the public actions taken however painful it maybe.

21 Lorenzo on Mar 24, 2012

What comes through this whole discussion for me is the inescapable fact (and blessing) of complexity, and the importance of distinguishing between some specific actions of a person or organization and the totality of that person or organization. Specific actions may need to be uncompromisingly detested and opposed, but we should be careful not to identify such actions with the totality of the person, much less the totality of an organization comprised of many persons. Facing a tyrannical force that succeeds through divide and conquer, we only strengthen the tyranny if we dismiss good-hearted potential allies by assuming them to be monolithic and unchangeable, and and as a consequence we remain divided and conquered.

22 Jane F on Mar 24, 2012

While I agree 100% with Sandra’s emotional reaction as I have also had to wrestle with my feelings of betrayal by MY own organization, I cannot abandon the ship. I know it is the only organization in which I can have an influence and I believe it is because of members like me that the organization is changing for the better. Other organization do what their founder or commander in chief want to do without being accountable to their membership except to the extent that they can draw in new members by their actions. But the Sierra Club is different. Its board of directors are all member volunteers and they do influence the way the club’s “director” functions. While there is a “corporate structure” which can act without taking into account the direction given to it by the members or even the Board of Directors, it is not wise to do so. Our past director, Carl Pope, did that. And while I can’t prove it, I believe confrontations with the members greatly influenced his decision to leave the club. I’m glad he left. But the representative nature of this organization makes it not only venerable but vulnerable as well. The members of the board are elected by the members at large, many of whom could represent anti-environmental points of view. In fact, many club members can be (and I know some who are) pro fossil fuel. Unless the members who are passionate about ending fracking (as Sandra, Lisa and me are) remain with the club, the club will not be able to stop the practice. And I would like to point out that while it took some extraordinary efforts to find out where the funding for the club came from, it is no less difficult to find out where the funding comes from for other organizations, some of which have greatly surprised and disappointed me. I have stopped supporting many because after contacting them, no changes took place AND they didn’t seem to care that had objections to where they were getting funds from. At least with the Sierra Club, changes took place (though they were slow to happen). The national energy policy was altered allowing us more latitude in taking anti-fracking actions, our director (Pope) was replaced by Micheal Brune (who seems to be more in tune with our needs), and our board of directors is beginning to include more anti-fracking members as we, the members at large, learn more about the candidates and fracking and vote accordingly. Those who oppose the use of fossil fuels MUST stay connected if there is to be a strong national voice against the use of fossil fuels. We stand as supporters of (1) energy efficiency, (2) energy conservation and (3) non-fossil fuel energy production. We know these create more, better and more sustainable jobs than does the fossil fuel industry. We also know it will result in a lower cost to everyone because of lower health costs, lower taxes to pay for damages done, sufficient healthy foods, a healthier life, and more.
As for Michael Brune “humbly ask[ing] forgiveness from antifracking activist Lisa ...”, I wonder if he knew last May that the club had taken money from the oil and gas industry. If he did, then surely he is continuing the deceptive practice of our past “leader” and we, the members, must use our full force to right that. But please remember that Michael he is not the one who accepted the money. That was done under Carl Pope. Finally, actions taken by local groups occur because there are group members willing and able to take those actions and others in that group or local groups willing to stand up and be counted. This is even more of a reason for people who are passionate about protecting the environment to stay with the club, not leave it. Sierra Club is the only organization I have found that can be driven by its members. We can make a difference and so I will not give up the fight or my membership.

Having said that, I would like to see Michael take a stronger stand against fracking.

Hope lives eternal.

23 Steve on Mar 24, 2012

What Michael Knapp calls the obnoxious self-agrandizment of the first paragraph I would call the writer’s very real claims to credibility as an authority on this subject. What is truly obnoxious is Mr. Knapp’s lack of respect for or understanding of Steingraber’s work.

But to more important items, such as Mr. Brune’s recent comment, which is the exact kind of PR response that Steingraber originally complained about. Instead of addressing her concerns head-on, with thoughtfulness (and/or even an ounce of contrition), he goes into damage control mode and tells us all the wonderful things the Sierra Club is doing. The problem here is that no one is taking issue with the good work the Sierra Club does. At issue is the lack of explanation, accountability, and transparency for this breech in judgement. You can’t just hang an “under new management” sign in the window and expect people to forget an institution’s betrayal of its members’ trust.

That someone as prominent and respected as Steingraber has a problem with the club’s direction should be a wake-up call to its board of directors.

24 Kathy Jankowski on Mar 24, 2012

Orion, thank you for being a place for this critical dialogue! 
Ms. Steingraber, thank you for voicing your outrage. 
Mr. Brune, thank you for your explanation and invitation.
Ms. Steingraber, Mr. Meiser, Alex L, and Mr. Brune, other people reading and writing here, and the people working in the field at this moment, please don’t lose hope and keep being the “one person that changes the world” who also reaches out to another person who is changing the world, who reaches out to another….
Thank you.

25 Michael Knapp on Mar 24, 2012

The fact is that the Sierra Club not only took money from gas drillers, they (rightfully) promoted natural gas as an environmental boon.  Same as RFK Jr and a whole host of other environmental groups.  It was not until it became chic to be a fractivist that these folks changed their tune.

Over 4,000 shale wells have now been drilled in PA.  Even with thousands of environmentalists and the media circling like starved buzzards waiting for an issue to pop up, there has been hardly any issues with groundwater contamination, and NO issues that could not be remedied by the installation of a simple water filter, paid for by the gas companies.  When an accident happens it is a minor inconvenience, not an apocalypse.  The statistically insignificant risk versus the nearly incomprehensible rewards that come from PROPERLY (strict, ever evolving regs and hawkish oversight/enforcement) developing natural gas is an absolute no-brainer.  In 10 years, once the massive benefits to the environment have fully sunk in, those who are opposed to drilling now probably won’t even admit it publicly because “blue” will be the new “green”.  It’s a solution that benefits everyone.  I know oil companies are your natural enemy, but you’ve got to come together on this, for the benefit of the planet.

26 Michael Knapp on Mar 24, 2012

In response to the Sierra Club’s support of gas drilling bans: It’s either coal or natural gas.  If you are for banning natural gas drilling, you are promoting coal.  Coal has lost nearly a 10% market share in power generation, while natural gas has gained nearly as much.  While I wholeheartedly agree that we need to be advancing carbon-free renewable energy technologies, groups like the Sierra Club need to pull their head out of the sand and acknowledge that we can’t just jump right off of fossil fuels.  And they also need to acknowledge that renewables like wind and solar carry a VERY steep environmental cost as well (have you SEEN a rare earth metals mine?).  Right now we need to use the best, VIABLE option we have, until we can transition to a non-fossil fuel society.

27 David Meiser on Mar 24, 2012

All I am going to say on Michael Knapp’s comments are that he is directly profiting from gas drilling. 

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”
- Upton Sinclair

28 Anthony Henry Smith on Mar 24, 2012

Finally! An eloquent and highly appropriate repudiation of the Sierra Club, one of the most conspicuously hollow of the empty shells that remain from the long dead environmental movement of the 1960s.

No higher honor exists than the honor Sandra Steingraber has brought upon herself and her community through this public statement of her unflinching respect for the truth.

29 Michael Knapp on Mar 24, 2012

David Meiser,

You directly benefit from gas drilling too.  Everyone does.  Whether you like it or not.  Lower energy prices, infinitely cleaner air and water, jobs, national security… I could go on an on. 

In reality, it’s difficult to get a man to understand something that he wishes not to understand, because enlightenment would undercut his emotional, willfully ignorant opinion.

30 David Meiser on Mar 24, 2012

There is no differentiating between the club volunteers and paid staff, the Sierra Club is one entity.  Therefore, any criticism of the one is a criticism of all.

I am one of the people with the Sierra Club working to stop the SRBC from approving additional water withdraws.

First, you and the individuals who discussed the actions at the SRBC meeting had indicated the use of illegal activity.  The Sierra Club does not advocate or will not support any illegal activity, ever!  Because of your group’s indication to use such actions the Sierra Club is not allowed by policy to endorse such. You were notified that this was the specific reason as I was on the email.

Second the club may not have been at your meetings and such (again see above) I say again as in my original letter to look behind the curtain at the people operating the equipment. The Sierra Club is working on the SRBC, just not in the way you wanted us to.  We are pressuring the governors of MD and NY to stop rubberstamping the water withdrawal permits. 
The Club is working on this issue, but just because we did not attend your meetings or approve of your particular type of actions does not mean that the club isn’t working on the SRBC. The SRBC is not going to change their actions immediately, and this is going to take a long-term approach, which is how the club is working on this issue, to change the attitudes of the SRBC and the governors of NY and MD.  Yelling and screaming at meetings and trying to disrupt the voting may be good public relations items which get people’s names in the paper but steady pressure on the legislative and executive branches of the state governments is what will ultimately stop the rubber-stamping of these permits.

As for your comment regarding the support of natural gas as a bridge fuel, as with all science as more data is gathered and additional information is obtained theories change.  As Sandra can attest, the more data gathered the better we understand how systems work.  Therefore, if you look, since 2010 the sierra club does not advocate natural gas as a bridge fuel, and has changed the club’s energy policy as such.

For the point about, “I could give you anecdotes of how the Club failed to support residents with legal counsel or co-counsel”.  First off, the club is not a public legal assistance program, I am sorry that people have the perception that club has an army of lawyers, but that is where the club becomes a victim of its own success.  As you said, the problem with your statement is that your information is anecdotal.

For your statement regarding what the club should be focusing upon, I again go back to my analogy of look behind the curtain.  The Sierra Club was first in line to deliver water to the residents of Dimock when Cabbot Oil and gas shut the deliveries.  The club HAS been working on the gas drilling issue in PA well before the Corbett and the even before the Rendell administrations were in Harrisburg, The club has been yelling at the PA legislature to change the PA Oil and Gas act for Decades. The cub HAS staff in these states (the PA Harrisburg office, The Trenton NJ Albany, NY and most other state capitols).  Who do you think helped organize the rallies in Harrisburg, Trenton, Ohio, Michigan and other states?  In addition, who do you provided the expert testimony to the EPA for Proposed Air Pollution Standards for Oil and Natural Gas Production, as well as rally citizens to come give testimony at these hearings?  Finally, the Sierra Club did condemn the Obama administration on its recent moves regarding the Keystone XL.  One should always check their facts before making inaccurate statements.

As I have pointed out on other locations and in other publications, the Sierra Club has revised its hydraulic fracturing policy just recently. Many people still want the Sierra Club to call for a ban on the process of Hydrofracking and say that the policy is not good enough.  I posted a challenge at the time of the publication of the new policy for anyone to find any gas drilling/fracking operation, which meets all the criteria listed in the new policy.  As of this date, no one has provided a single instance. Therefore, I pose the same challenge to others reading this comment.

It is easy to sit back and criticize others from afar and to point out flaws, especially you are naive on what those actions are being performed by others.

I leave with two quotes, which are relevant to everyone criticizing the Sierra Club
“Criticism is an indirect form of self-boasting”. -Emmet Fox

“Never judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins’ -Indian proverb

31 norm on Mar 24, 2012

We are addicts.  Our addiction is expensive and it’s killing us. Enter Mr. Knapp, Beezlebub (the demon of gluttony) in disguise, our friendly neighborhood dealerman, he’s very sympathetic. He knows we are jonesing for fix, and he has the goods—from his new marcellus meth lab, cheap powerful stuff. And having sold it to us, he’ll turn right around and blame us for using.

Which would be fine and Mr. Knapp could have his thirty pieces of silver, and we would likewise deserve our fate for having bought into something so foolish in the first place, if what he and we were mortgaging was merely our own lives; but his feckless greed will doom our children and theirs for ever after.  That’s different.

The billion dollar propaganda and lobbying effort of the fossil fuel industry is precisely why we have no national conversation about energy waste or climate or extinction.  How obscene is this: we are trading life on earth for the right to piss this precious stuff away—in poorly built buildings (48% right there), in a corrupt food supply, in inefficient transportation and so on. 

High time for rehab—the hard painful work it takes to be honest, independent, and resilient. We don’t need and shouldn’t want what Knapp sells—the cheap fix, business as usual; greed, pollution, selfishness, laziness, and destruction.

32 Earthspeakorg on Mar 24, 2012

When our son died from two sips of creek water in 1997, we became aware of a danger and tried to get help from any environmental group. No one would do anything, because “we don’t do personal injury claims.”
We did our own investigation, found a lab willing to test our samples, and wrote and filed our own legal complaint, within the one-year statute.
Although I love the Earth and am an activist, DIY! & Don’t trust anyone with the word “environmental” in their name.

33 Rosa Zubizarreta on Mar 24, 2012

Thank you Jane, for saying more about the Sierra Club as an organization and how it works. I agree that can be a valuable thing for activists to not “abandon ship” and work hard to change an organization from the inside, and I support you in doing so… I think it’s great that Sandra’s actions have clearly sparked a very necessary conversation, and I hope they inspire people both inside AND outside the Sierra Club, to look more deeply at this issue.

I actually agree with Michael, that we all “benefit” from gas drilling… in the same way that the people of Japan, “benefitted” from Fukoshima before the explosion. As Norm wrote, we are all “addicts”... addicted to cheap and wasteful energy. Yet while another “fix” might address our perceived short-term needs, that does NOT mean that it is in our own best interest—nor that of future generations.

Earthspeak, I am terribly sorry about your son. And I am grateful for all of your dedication, persistence and activism….

34 Jennifer Kaplan on Mar 24, 2012

Thank you for publishing this, what thousands speak of every day. Sierra Club is a gas promoting entity, regardless of how many good people still strive there, leaving one by one, like me, who stopped giving, in the three figure range every year,  a few years ago. They sought to stop the Atlantic Chapter form supporting a total BAN on fracking in NYS. THat said it all. Ban fracking, not a moratorium. Sad, but so it goes. And there is no dearth of defenders, since that is their job!

35 Caroline Snyder PH.D. on Mar 24, 2012

Thank you Jane F. for urging us not to abandon ship during this temporary storm. By advocating a fracking moratorium, Michael Brune and the Board are acknowledging the seriousness of this dangerous practice. And, yes, it would be good if they took an even stronger stance against fracking. But we have to remember the Club’s legacy: its willingness to take on so many other issues, and funding significant legal battles that protect our planet.  The Club remains one of our most important voices in the current anti-environmental, anti-scientific climate and needs our in-put and support now more than ever.

36 Sally Buttshaw on Mar 24, 2012

this whole article and all of the responses are missing one key point. I do think, and my knowledge on this issue is pretty limited, that fracking is probably not a good idea.  However, if we are to become an energy independent country, we need to start producing some of our own energy and quit relying on the middle east. Those people need to have money taken away from them so that they are not the force that we have been forced to deal with since way before 9/11. SO,the question is - what are we doing to create our own energy within this country’s borders to create our own security, energy and otherwise.  It is all well and good to blame the other person/organization/corporation. BUT, what we need is some solutions with no blame.  Anybody have any suggestions here ?

37 zoe on Mar 24, 2012

Mike, I couldn’t hear you over the sound of your obnoxious self-aggrandizing toxic farts.

38 Greg Palast on Mar 24, 2012

The biggest single problem with the Sierra Club taking the money from the gas industry is that it covered it up while lobbying on the industry’s behalf.  This was a fraud upon its members, a fraud upon government agencies, a fraud upon the public. 
    And I note that the new ED of Sierra Club has made no promise to open the files on the donations, open the files on the correspondence with their cash sources nor promise not to take money from ANY industry which may profit from its positions.  Period.  Ever.
    So, please answer me these questions:
    What other industries have juiced Sierra Club?  Nuclear?  Oil? Mining?
    This is not a new story.
    I first began covering the pollution of the environmental movement for The Guardian of Britain in 1999 when I received internal documents of the Environmental Defense Fund with their plans to go into the for-profit trade in “pollution credits” in secret partnership with the lobbyist for the biggest polluters.  (Their latest hook-ups include shilling for the nuclear power industry and BP.)
    The problem, the Wilderness Society leader Stewart Brandborg once told me is that, “The new green group executives get $200,000 a year.  [Way more now.]  So they need those corporate donations.  Once the needle goes in, they have to keep up the habit.”  - GP

39 Conrad Toepfer on Mar 24, 2012

As supposed allies of the environment betray it, Rachel Carson’s spirit must be indeed sad.

40 David Meiser on Mar 24, 2012

Jennifer Kaplan
“And there is no dearth of defenders, since that is their job!”

Really? my profession is a scientist, analytical chemistry to be specific. helped to develop anti-HIV medications

My volunteer time is with the Sierra Club.

(Still no takers on this)
the Sierra Club has revised its hydraulic fracturing policy just recently. Many people still want the Sierra Club to call for a ban on the process of Hydrofracking and say that the policy is not good enough. 

I posted a challenge at the time of the publication of the new policy for anyone to find any gas drilling/fracking operation, which meets all the criteria listed in the new policy. 

As of this date, no one has provided a single instance. Therefore, I pose the same challenge to others reading this comment.


I leave with two quotes, which are relevant to everyone criticizing the Sierra Club
“Criticism is an indirect form of self-boasting”. -Emmet Fox

“Never judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins’ -Indian proverb

41 Bob Kincaid on Mar 24, 2012

Ironically, Sierra Club was listed as a principal adviser on this important report regarding how to reinvigorate the environmental movement:

One hopes that, since Mr. Brune was a principal adviser, he understands that top-down funding of the environmental movement is no longer effective (assuming it ever was).

The people who deserve the funding are the ones in the trenches, the people who stand up to a multi-billion dollar industry at the same time they sweat whether they’ll be able to make next month’s rent . . . or the insurance . . . or the car payment.  The vast majority of people doing effective work in the struggle to save us from the poisoners are exactly those kinds of folks, not the $200K+ types referenced by Mr. Palast above.

Read the report, folks, or at least the executive summary.  You’ll find much of what it describes as being wrong is contained within the four walls of the various “big greens.” One hopes that those big greens, more than anyone else, understand this.

42 Rosa Zubizarreta on Mar 24, 2012

Sally, last I knew, Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute had produced a TON of work about how the U.S. could achieve energy independence. I am not an expert in this area, but that would be a good place to start. You can Google him to learn more about his work.

Greg, thank you for stating so clearly what Sierra Club members might start demanding from their leadership: 1) a clear policy re open information on all sources of donations as well as communications with donors, and 2) a clear policy re refusing all income that can create a conflict of interest.
Makes sense to me…

David, it sounds like you are saying that the SC’s new fracking policy is very stringient. I assume you are right about that… and, I would probably still belong to the people who are advocating for a complete ban, as the very idea of injecting toxic chemicals into the earth does not make any sense to me.

As a scientist, you may be interested in the Natural Step sustainability principles which were developed through scientific consensus… they seem to spell out pretty clearly, the general direction in which we need to be moving, as a society. Of course, it will take a lot of creativity, initiative, and collaboration to do so!

43 David Slottje on Mar 25, 2012

Re: Mr. Brune’s reply to Dr. Steingraber:

Is this really the best response Mr. Brune can muster? Or does he just not give a damn?

The issue here is NOT Club volunteers, and it is NOT about the Chapters. SHAME on him for attempting to cloak himself in the good works of the members.

This is about an Executive Director who is at best tone-deaf.

To heck with being “eager to discuss” anything with Orion’s Editor-in-Chief. Mr. Brune should focus on the substance of what Sandra S. wrote, whether or not he is ‘eager’ to do so. 

Is it really too much to expect that Mr. Brune simply acknowledge that he was disingenuous with the members, and promise that that will NEVER happen again?

Mr. Brune’s response is patronizing and insulting. If he can not bring himself to acknowledge PUBLICLY that what he did was wrong, perhaps it is time to start a nationwide petition demanding his resignation.

David Slottje

44 Stephanie Stoneleigh on Mar 25, 2012

Sandra Steingraber has well and rightly torpedoed Sierra Club’s Michael Brune for Getting in Bed with Shale Gas Co.  His actions and his excuses weigh heavily on the shoulders of those whom he walked over to get to the top - those Tireless and True Anti-Shale Activists. Shame on you Mr. Brune.  And accolades to Sandra Steingraber for telling it like it is with no holds barred!!

45 Stan Scobie on Mar 25, 2012

About Michael Brune’s reply to Dr. Steingraber:

  He almost had me at: “When fracking contaminated the wells in Dimock, Pennsylvania, we were there with others to supply clean drinking water.” That water delivery took place in 2011.

  But, wait a minute,  Sierra was not there in 2009 when Norma Fiorina’s water well exploded, in Dimock.

  They were not there in 2009 when I and others wondered just what the Sierra-asserted scientific evidence was that natural gas was “safer”  than coal.

  And they are still not there now with regard to the enormous threat methane (natural gas) poses as a greenhouse gas more than 100 times more potent than CO2.

  Mr Brune does not mention specifically why Sierra is down on fracking, and that makes me sad and wary.

  Sad because I read carefully the 50+ page document on “Draft Model Regulatory Framework on Hydraulically Fractured….”(Jan, 2012). which Sierra apparently had a hand in along with several other national environmental groups and four drillers (source:

  Those “model” national regulations are just awful. The worst is the de facto provision to leave out of the model regulations baseline testing of millions of water wells near gas wells by requiring attention only to “permitted” water wells.

  Interestingly,there are no “permitted” water wells in PA and very few in NY - two states with a lot of shale gas and much actual and potential fracking.

  PA doesnt permit private water wells and NY has done so only since 2005. The clever wording in the proposed model regulations would leave millions of NY and PA residents out in the fractured cold. One of them would have been and was Norma Fiorino.

  Not there in 2008 when Sierra national did not endorse the de facto moratorium on fracking in NY, and fought with the NY chapter when it wanted to pursue the issue rigorously.

  In 2008 and 2009 Sierra was promoting the notion of shale gas as a “bridge” fuel.

  Not there in 2008/2009, sigh. And still, not there in 2012, because Sierra is not making clear its role with the “Gang of Seven’s” drafting of model national regulations for fracking. Bigger sigh.


  Really not there on the huge issue of the devastating medium-term effect of methane on global warming; argueably the biggest environmental threat ever to all of us.

  And not there on the absurd notion that a national model for regulation of fracking, constructed with the help of the same set of drillers that brought us Dimock and many other fracking disasters, could possibly make any positive difference.

  Mr. Brune would have us look to the future and not look back. When I do that I see the same thing: too little, too myopic and, probably too late.

  I am terminally wary.

Stanley R Scobie, Senior Fellow, Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy. Ithaca and Binghamton, NY

46 Michael Knapp on Mar 25, 2012

I’d like to see the Sierra Club take a look at the horror stories behind wind and solar, the preferred sources of energy for you oblivious, self-righteous,baby-boomer “i-have-to-act-like-a-hippie-again-to-recapture-my-youth” obstructionists.  They are not the utopian answers you are seeking.  They are a big part of our energy future, and I endorse them wholeheartedly, but they are just as “impactful” as oil and gas drilling.  There is no perfect energy source, but natural gas drilling leaves as small a footprint as any energy source.  And that includes the extraction process.  Its a fact.  It’s scientifically verifiable.  Deal with it.  And grow up.  Toxic farts?  Ugh.

47 Dr. John Harding on Mar 25, 2012

My sister (from the Elmira, NY area) has been writing me for a long time about the complications associated with the still-questionable) practice of ‘fracking’. She has become deeply involved in trying to help her community avoid the problems their neighbors to the immediate south have tragically experienced, including, but not limited to, water and air pollution.

Then, last week, I attended a lecture by Dr. Sara Steingraber here in Charlotte, NC—a state where another shale formation is also threatened. Dr. Steingraber’s talk dealt mainly with how today’s children are breathing ever more-contaminated air—absorbed into their young and forming lungs, and passed into their bloodstreams. She listed a number of proven harmful chemicals that were admitted by-products of ‘fracking’ practices, chemicals that have long-term adverse effects on the physical and mental growth of children.

The capacity audience at her talk gave her a couple of standing ovations, and was followed by a Q&A session, during which she fielded and answered thoughtful queries from the audience. There was only one brief reference by her to the problem with the Sierra Club, and I’d hoped to ask her for a more-thorough detailing of that situation, but time limits expired.

So I was glad to read her article in ORION, and to follow the responses online. There seem to be problems with both coal extraction and burning (aspects of which have been known for some time, but were not as well known when those practices began so long ago, culminating in the obvious and deplorable ‘rape’ of mountain tops).

Now, even at the outset of this supposed alternative known as ‘fracking’, strong environmental, ethical, and moral questions abound. Obviously, the industry that stands to financially benefit the most (drilling companies, and the gas companies themselves) defend their actions. And (I thought obviously)The Sierra Club would abhor the already-seen detrimental effects on the environment. But apparently, GREED once again raised its ever-present lure, with the ‘bottom line’ being the villain
that clouds otherwise-decent peoples’ minds. This same situation has also pitted neighbor against neighbor, with one wanting to capitalize on appealing (and maybe quick) personal profit, while the neighbor has understandable deep concerns about not only their and their children’s health, but also their property values—and having to consider moving their families to ‘safer’ venues.

It is time to put a halt to ‘fracking’, until far more investigation into long-term consequences has taken place. Then, too, perhaps all of us—Sierra Club members and the rest, should devote energy and support to causes that seek to simplify our lives, create and keep a greener environment, and pass along to the next generations an earth that is not completely ‘spoiled’ by noxious emissions and devastated landscape.

Doctor J

48 Fred Elbel on Mar 25, 2012

$25 million?  That’s nothing compared to the $100 million sellout.

Since 1996, leaders of the Sierra Club have refused to admit that immigration driven, rapid U.S. population growth causes massive environmental problems. And they have refused to acknowledge the need to reduce U.S. immigration levels in order to stabilize the U.S. population and protect our natural resources. Their refusal to do what common sense says is best for the environment was a mystery for nearly a decade.

Then, on Oct. 27, 2004, the Los Angeles Times revealed the answer: David Gelbaum, a super rich donor, had demanded this position from the Sierra Club in return for huge donations! Kenneth Weiss, author of the LA Times article that broke the story, quoted what David Gelbaum said to Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope:

“I did tell Carl Pope in 1994 or 1995 that if they ever came out anti-immigration, they would never get a dollar from me.”

In 1996 and again in 1998, the Club’s leaders proved their loyalty to Gelbaum’s position on immigration, first by enacting a policy of neutrality on immigration and then by aggressively opposing a referendum to overturn that policy. In 2000 and 2001, Gelbaum rewarded the Club with total donations to the Sierra Club Foundation exceeding $100 million. In 2004 and 2005, the Club’s top leaders and management showed their gratitude for the donations by stifling dissent and vehemently opposing member efforts to enact an immigration reduction policy.

49 Anthony Samsel on Mar 25, 2012

I applaud Michael Brune’s leadership of the Sierra club and will continue to support their efforts.  As Michael explains, the Sierra Club should never have taken the money.  However, that was then, this is now ! 

The Sierra Club is making a stellar effort along with members of the Union of Concerned Scientists to bring attention to ‘Dirty Coal’ in the public debate.  I personally have ‘Bird-dogged’ for both of their efforts and been one of the few to land key questions to Presidential candidates on the subject.  The media has been less than willing to bring light to ‘dirty coal’s’ lies.  Scientist who asked Romney about coal pollution responds:
An anecdotal article written against the coal industry appears here:

We must not let our emotions cloud our thinking, but rather make use of every avenue to fight this ‘Profit Motivated Beast’.  Forgiving the past actions of the Sierra Club allows us to move forward with a greater cause.  Mahatma Ghandi once said: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

Anthony Samsel

50 Wendi Taylor on Mar 25, 2012

Many people felt betrayed and disappointed to learn that the Sierra Club took money from the natural gas industry. I liken it to finding out that your beloved mother cheated on your father. “How could she?” her children ask. This happens in families. In some instances, the children break off ties with their mother and the relationship is lost forever. Other times, the children puzzle through it and accept that their mother is not perfect. They come to realize that one mistake doesn’t mean that everything she has done is suspect. In the end, the children still love their mother, forgive her and even learn a life lesson from it. We learn that we are all subject to temptation and seduction and that we need to redouble our efforts to guard against these things. I am one of those children that still loves her mother.

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