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, 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.
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?
Oh, Orion is a magazine…I assume you are an eco friendly print?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Knapp Acquisitions & Production
Heart of the Marcellus Shale
Proud Natural Gas Industry Employer
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
“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 er..um.. 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?
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.
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 wasnâ€™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 wasnâ€™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 â€œbig picture.â€ 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 donâ€™t frack my water as well as the donâ€™t frack my water posters (which were provided by the Sierra Club). We also talked about my wifeâ€™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 clubâ€™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.
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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21-s2cNF14I&feature=share
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.
I recognize in Sandra Steingraberâ€™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 Clubâ€™s 1.4 million members and supporters. It is the organizationâ€™s strongest value and greatest asset. I can see why we have praised Steingraberâ€™s work.
Hereâ€™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 organizationâ€™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 Clubâ€™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 nationâ€™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 groundâ€”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.
Iâ€™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 Clubâ€™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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 groupâ€™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 isnâ€™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 peopleâ€™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 clubâ€™s energy policy as such.
For the point about, â€œI could give you anecdotes of how the Club failed to support residents with legal counsel or co-counselâ€. 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
â€œCriticism is an indirect form of self-boastingâ€. -Emmet Fox
â€œNever judge a man until youâ€™ve walked two moons in his moccasinsâ€™ -Indian proverb
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.
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.
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….
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!
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.
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 ?
Mike, I couldnâ€™t hear you over the sound of your obnoxious self-aggrandizing toxic farts.
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
As supposed allies of the environment betray it, Rachel Carson’s spirit must be indeed sad.
“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 DARE EVERYONE TO PROVE ME WRONG!
I leave with two quotes, which are relevant to everyone criticizing the Sierra Club
â€œCriticism is an indirect form of self-boastingâ€. -Emmet Fox
â€œNever judge a man until youâ€™ve walked two moons in his moccasinsâ€™ -Indian proverb
Ironically, Sierra Club was listed as a principal adviser on this important report regarding how to reinvigorate the environmental movement: http://www.ncrp.org/files/publications/Cultivating_the_grassroots_final_lowres.pdf
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.
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!
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.
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!!
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: http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com/frackgangofseven03142012.htm)
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
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.
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.
$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.
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: http://thinkprogress.org/green/2011/07/23/277135/scientist-who-asked-romney-about-coal-pollution-responds-romney-cannot-pick-and-choose/?mobile=nc
An anecdotal article written against the coal industry appears here: http://forumhome.org/for-all-who-breathe-p15818-78.htm
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.”
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. â€œHow could she?â€ 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 doesnâ€™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.
As I finished reading your statement I realized that I had tears in my eyes. Thank you for so eloquently putting into words what many of us have been thinking.
I am a resident of Allegheny County, PA – the birthplace of Rachel Carson. You are a new Rachel Carson. I stand with you.
A lot of my environmental activist friends and I “broke up” with the Sierra Club in the early 2000’s when they abandoned their long help position of stabilizing the population of the States by addressing both birth rate and immigration levels.
This coincided with a $100 million donation to the Sierra Club by David Gelbaum. In a 2004 Los Angeles Times Article Gelbaum was quoted as saying
“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.”
It seems that the Sierra Club has a decades old history of accepting large donations from people/companies based on its willingness to compromise real environmental principles such as stabilizing the US population.
The Club sank to its lowest under Carl Pope. He waged a smear campaign against honorable members who wanted a candid discussion of U.S. population growth. This necessitated a frank examination of the fact that immigration is the major source of that growth.
What we learned was that Pope accepted over $100 million donation on the grounds that immigration talk was off the table.
The result: the U.S. is now over 300 million and growing as if there was energy, water and open space to support these numbers. In California alone we are at about 40 million and the dim wits are urging ‘smart growth’ instead of a real answer: smart immigration, i.e. immigration reduction.
As the students at the University of California, Santa Cruz asked, “Immigrants or Redwoods?”
I see this has turned into a bitch session about the Sierra Club!
I think David Meiser hit the nail on the head when dealing with all the distractors.
Quite simply if you don’t like the club don’t be a member!
I see this has turned into a bitch session about the Sierra Club!
I think David Meiser hit the nail on the head when dealing with all the distracters.
Quite simply if you don’t like the club don’t be a member!
Complaining about an organization you don’t belong to (as I bet are 99% of the people complaining)
is just immature and selfish. “Criticism is an indirect form of self-boastingâ€. and that is all you people are doing!
As for Immigration population issues have to be dealt with on a global scale, just like climate change immigration is moot.
On the first Earth day in 1970, the US had 200 million people and environmentalists were united behind stabilizing the population of the US.
US birth rates were below replacement level and immigration levels from 1920-1965 were about 200,000 per year. The Immigration Reform Act of 1965 opened the floodgates on immigration and we now let in about 1.5 million immigrants per year. New immigrants and their descendants have been responsible for around 70% of the US population growth since 1970 and will account for 82% of projected US population growth from 310 million today to 438 million by 2050. This immigration fueled population growth is environmentally disasterous for the US and the world, yet the Sierra Club does nothing to address it. Thank you Carl and Sierra Club for aiding and abetting the tripling of the population of the US in my lifetime.
“As for Immigration population issues have to be dealt with on a global scale, just like climate change immigration is moot.” – Eric Yimmerman
Ah, so we as Americans should not make any effort to reduce our CO2 emissions because it too has to be dealt with globally; domestic CO2 levels are moot.
This is the kind of nonsense from members that made me ‘break up’ with the Club. The same mind that can readily accept the need for local height limits on buildings, state building codes and national environmental laws can’t entertain population/immigration goals.
Forrest Gump was right.
I hope the people who are concerned about immigration, are also concerned about the huge agribusiness and other business interests who also support continued immigration behind the scenes as a steady source of cheap labor — while their public statements are designed to hypocritically fuel backlash against the people who come here as immigrants to carry out that work. Sorry guys, but it’s not just the Sierra Club who is “aiding and abetting” the current hypocritical situation, for their own benefit!
Clearly, we need to be thinking about the Earth as a whole, and the well-being of everyone on it, as we are all interdependent, like it or not…
“I hope the people who are concerned about immigration, are also concerned …”-Rosa Zubizarreta
Completely agree. And I remind folks that Cesar Chavez recognized illegal immigration was undermining efforts to raise wages and improve conditions for ag workers.
“Overpopulation is perhaps the biggest problem facing us, and immigration is part of that problem. It has to be addressed.” – David Brower, Sierra Club’s first executive director
(resigned his board position in mid-May-2000. He charged the club’s leadership with a craven refusal to confront population problems.)
There are a lot of businesses that benefit from exploiting cheap immigrant labor. There are also ethnocentric groups and politicians that benefit from promoting mass immigration.
Efforts to educate people on the population and environmental impact of mass immigration are not efforts to create a backlash against immigrants.
I understand why immigrants want to come here and don’t blame them. I don’t have the same tolerance for environmental groups that ignore the consequences of mass immigration or the cheap labor interests or politicians that profit.
What I advocate for are immigration policies which will allow for stabilization of US population. That would be about 200,000 per year. See NumbersUSA.org for more info.
We deeply appreciate Mr. Brune’s explication of the matter.
I certainly hope that Sierra Club has spent beyond 26 million in its fight against fracking. Mr. Brune was a refreshing change for that organization, and has taken difficult ethical steps.
Yet Ms. Steingraber has a point.
Chesapeake Energy owes quite a bit to those who suffer due to its policies and industry.
The fact that Sierra Club has some of their profits may be unethical in several ways.
Unless Sierra Club (there are so MANY chapters, that we outside it cannot easily know where the $25 mil went) is able to show lack of influence (You see, just as in judicial proceeding or high public office, THE APPEARANCE OF WRONGDOING must be held as wrongdoing), an ethical act would be to use the entire amount to either directly fight fracking, or to right some of the wrongs resulting.
The Sierra Club is largely concerned with environmental issues, and such use of the donation should not be financial reimbursement to humans involved. The damage is not financial, but widespread health of all the organisms affected, and pollution of ecosystems.
Although I have lived in and now visit the home of the Sierra Club, I have not been a member, for several reasons:
1. They have softer positions on issues I feel require firm stands, no matter how unpopular.
2. They, themselves, historically schedule massive ecologically damaging intrusions into the wilderness. The old Sierra Club used to create truly massive encampments, and still offer group trips in far too large a number to avoid affecting or respecting wilderness values. A proper number for wilderness travel is certainly less than 5, and no plains animals such as horses should be a part of mountain/forest wilderness travel (they are just too damaging on the trails – ask anyone who studies trail erosion!
The remaining limited wilderness experience is not about overwhelming the wild.
3. Local Sierra Club has promoted things like adding picnic tables and enlarging trails for purposes other than respect for nature. Instead, they attempt, like county parks, to “improve.” This is so inappropriate to John Muir’s ideals that it requires no elaboration.
Many writers here have made valid points, while some are just hysterically attacking whomever they feel they can, with energy better used in directly responding to the larger issue. They will no doubt vote for Obama, although he is still pursuing policies directly counter to the environmental and the personal health of our nation.
Yet, his hands are more tied than yours, mine, or Mr. Brune’s. All politicians must compromise. You and I don’t have to, and we may yet seek representation by those who do not.
I live in upstate NY above the Marcellus Shale. In 2008, when the gas rush began in my county, the Sierra Club’s website was the first place I looked for information. I learned nothing from the site. There was a little bit of information there, but I had to hunt for it and it wasn’t terribly helpful. I quickly found that it was the tiny, grassroots groups that did have the information. They were operating with almost no money and almost 100% volunteer labor and yet they were way out ahead of the national Sierra Club.
And it gets worse. It turned out that instead of opposing shale gas extraction, the Sierra Club was very publicly supporting shale gas as a “transition” fuel. It wasn’t that no one knew at the time that this was a bad idea–there were a lot of people at the grassroots level who already had it figured out and who were working to stop the impending crisis. But then, they hadn’t just accepted millions of dollars from the gas industry, so maybe they were seeing things a little more clearly than the Sierra Club.
These grassroots volunteers were working without pay, going without sleep, giving up vacation time and family time and time with their friends and volunteer time that they had planned to devote to other things (like building sustainable communities) to try to save their communities from the ravages of shale gas extraction. Meanwhile, the national Club was working against these grassroots volunteers by promoting shale gas as a “transition” fuel.
In 2009, after decades of donating to the Sierra Club, I made the painful decision not to renew my membership. When the news came out about the Sierra Club’s having accepted $26 million from the gas industry, that put to rest any remaining doubts that I had about my earlier decision to stop donating to the Club. I was furious. I felt betrayed. I still do.
I recognize that there are many individuals within the Sierra Club who are aware of the dangers of fracking for shale gas and who are working actively within the Club to try to change national Club policy. And I know that some of the individual chapters of the Sierra Club are also fully aware of the dangers of fracking for shale gas, and that some within those individual chapters would like to see shale gas extraction banned. I know that in any crisis of this sort there are some who rebel and some who try to change things from within. Maybe those who are working from within the Club will be able to effect real change. I hope they can and I wish them luck. But given what I know about shale gas, I cannot, personally, be a member of an “environmental” organization that does not oppose fracking for shale gas. Nor can I be a member of an “environmental” organization that was accepting anonymous donations from the gas industry and that still has not offered a full apology for doing so.
The national Sierra Club has a list of “best practices” that it believes should be implemented at all shale gas extraction sites. At present, the list is probably not followed in its entirety at any shale gas extraction site in this country, nor is this list likely to be followed at all shale gas extraction sites for a long, long time, if ever. On top of this, the general public is almost certainly not aware of this list of best practices or of how unlikely it is that the gas industry will ever actually implement all of these best practices. I have to conclude that the national Sierra Club is trying to have its cake and eat it too. The Club won’t take a firm, public stand against fracking for shale gas, yet if anyone complains about this, the Club can point to its list of best practices and say that it doesn’t support any of the horrible things that are happening in shale gas extraction areas at present. Meanwhile, I guess the poor souls who have the misfortune to live in shale-gas extraction areas (aka “sacrifice zones”) are out of luck.
The lack of best practices out in the real world isn’t the only problem with shale gas. The sad fact is that even if best practices were employed at all well pads, the sheer number of gas wells required to extract significant amounts of shale gas would lead to the industrialization of vast amounts of land. Each individual shale gas well depletes rapidly, so in order to keep production from falling, more and more and more gas wells must be drilled and fracked. This not only results in human suffering and environmental destruction, it also eats up a lot of money that would be better spent on sustainable energy development. And then there is the question of shale gas contributions to global warming, which, according to some researchers, may rival those of coal. Other researchers dispute this, but a recent study of an actual gas field found twice the methane leakage expected. So at the very least, I think a reasonable person would say that further research should be done on the greenhouse gas contributions of shale gas extraction before anyone concludes that shale gas will help with the global warming problem and before we frack up vast amounts of land. Given all of this, why is the Sierra Club NOT coming out forcefully for a ban or at least for a nationwide moratorium on shale gas extraction pending the results of further research?
One more point: I am sick to death of the Sierra Club and other large, national environmental organizations focusing so much attention on “special” places and on specific animals, like wolves or polar bears. Yes, the remaining wilderness areas should be protected, and yes, I want wolves and polar bears and the whole, wonderful, diverse web of wildlife to survive. But real environmental awareness begins at home. Unless/until the focus shifts to the environment that each of us sees around us each and every day, unless/until we all understand that our own health and happiness and continued existence are tied to the natural environment, the entire environment–including the few remaining wilderness areas–will be at great risk.
Please, Sierra Club: issue a real apology, take a real stand against shale gas, and start considering human beings to be a part of the environment too. And good grief (!), Sierra Club, I just took a quick look at your website and there is a message there that says: “Tell the EPA we deserve to know what fracking fluids are polluting our water.” How about NOT putting ANY fracking fluids in the water????
I am not a Sierra Club member, but read and valued Living Downstream. I was interested in Mike Knapp’s comments about the number of deaths caused by coal emissions. I would be very interested in any sources he is relying on for those statements. As a lawyer with experience working on toxic tort cases, causation is typically a highly contested issue, so I’m always looking for good strong research confirming the existence of causal links between toxins and health effects (including death).
Also, are you the same Mike Knapp who posted the following statement on Facebook on December 28, 2011–a statement calling coal a “godsend?”
“Mike Knapp Coal itself is not the culprit. Coal has been a godsend. Modern power plants with pollution controls emit a much much smaller amount of pollutants, it’s these 1950’s era plants with no controls that are the culprit. Modern regulations and mining techniques (sans the mountaintop removal stuff they do down in WV) leave a miniscule environmental footprint compared to years past.
December 28, 2011 at 3:51pm Â· Like”
http://www.facebook.com/pipelinePG/posts/101162596671207 (post viewed March 25 2012)
When I clicked the name “Mike Knapp” on this publicly-available post, it did direct me to an “Info” page for Mike Knapp of Knapp Acquisitions. But maybe it’s not you…..
To protect the environment and human health we must work together. Everyone is needed and plays an important role: Victim-activist-researchers like Dr. Steingraber, thousands of grass-roots-volunteers working full-time in the trenches, publications such as Orion, and the big organizations: Union of Concerned Scientists, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Environmental Working Group,Earth Justice, Sierra Club, NRDC,etc. The larger groups have the legal and scientific expertise to read hundreds of pages of bills and testimony and can mount a credible defense in Congress against increasing corporate control of science and environmental policy. Fragmentation of the environmental movement is just what industry delights in.
Re the argument noted by Caroline Snyder that “fragmentation of the environmental movement is just what the industry delights in,” I would agree. But let’s be clear about when that fragmentation began in this case. It did not begin when some environmentalists objected to the Sierra Club’s policy on shale gas; it did not begin when some environmentalists objected to the Sierra Club’s having accepted huge donations from the gas industry; it did not begin when some environmentalists objected to the Sierra Club’s lukewarm apology for having accepted the gas industry’s money. The fragmentation began when the Sierra Club accepted the money and promoted shale gas as a bridge fuel. And it grew to create a rift that will remain unhealed unless/until the Sierra Club follows a “path to salvation” like the one recommended above by Sandra Steingraber.
“THE APPEARANCE OF WRONGDOING must be held as wrongdoing” I hope you never serve on a Jury!
NO IN THIS COUNTRY YOU ARE INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. The court of public opinion may feel otherwise. If you judge others the way you are judging the club you are no better than the tea partiers and the religious right.
To all the other non Sierra Club members you are all just looking for something to bitch at about the club. I bet you never have been to a club meeting or participated in any club action.
You all act like a bunch of spoiled children who take their toys and run away because you didn’t get everything you wanted!
I also notice every one of you don’t bother to respond to all the good the club has done, guess that doesn’t count in your eyes. I so hope you never live near a coal processing plant or near a mountaintop which has been stripped barren and the streams and valleys destroyed. Oh the club’s effort at mountain top removal doesn’t matter because in isn’t in your back yard.
But in your eyes the club’s free distribution of the 4000 copies of Coal Country didn’t count, I wonder if anyone here even knew that the club also purchased and distributed 5000 copies of Gasland for fee as well. but again that doesn’t count because you didn’t get one!
If the late Judy Bonds were still around she would tell you all to take your criticisms of the club and put them in another dark hole.
You people are pathetic why don’t you try and write a letter to your congressman instead of basing the club.
In reply to Donna Maxwell: I grew up in the 1960s in Scranton, PA amid the destruction caused by anthracite coal mining. It is that experience, in part, that has led to my concern about shale gas extraction’s potential for creating environmental disaster zones across this country and in other countries.
Some of the countless, unpaid hours that I have spent on the shale gas issue over the last four years were spent phoning and writing my representatives at the local, state, and federal levels to make them aware of my concerns about shale gas in general and about specific legislative matters relating to shale gas extraction. I’m sure that many of the other people commenting here can say the same.
Greg Pallast makes sound suggestions on what the Club would need to do to come clean and become transparent. The members deserve that.
We know enough now to demand a BAN and that’s what the Sierra Club should do. Moratoria and delays just benefit the industry by allowing them to claim ‘force majeure’ which prevents the time passing during low demand (now) to count towards the lease expiration and the land-owner being able to get out of it (as more and more would like).
Finally, if the Club is able to corrupt our mission to the degree that taking $ from one (and perhaps more) industrial polluters, serious doubt should be cast on the legitimacy of elections for our ExCom etc.
It is obvious you still have time on your hand to bash others perhaps, you need to actually write a few more letters.
So it’s the Club’s fault because you couldn’t find everything you wanted to know about gas drilling? give me a break
didn’t know the sierra club was supposed to be a personal library.
By the way this site has been up since before 2008 http://pennsylvania.sierraclub.org/PA_Chapter_2008/Conservation/Energy/MarcellusDrillingResourcePage.htm,
as well as this site has this site http://connect.sierraclub.org/Team/Hydrofracking_Team
when I searched natural gas on the national sierra club’s site I got 6605 total results
Again just lame excuses to bash the Sierra Club
My expertise is in the law of labor relations. If the Sierra Club were a union, and it were revealed that for a three-year period it had secretly taken $25 million from a company it was trying to organize, the Club would be deemed a company union or scab unon. The National Labor Relations Board would order it to cease organizing, and to never again represent any workers at any company ever. At the same time, any concessions it had managed to achieve, such as a small raise here or there or a slight improvement in working conditions, would be ordered maintained.
Brune’s response to Steingraber states that the Sierra Club is doing great things in places like Michigan as a part of some big turnaround.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Ban Michigan Fracking, a group we formed in fall 2011, posted the following in February about how the Sierra Club is still advocating–throughout 2011 and to the present– the concepts Brune and Pope agreed to at the 2010 Critical Path Energy Summit: “safe fracking” and best management practices.
We OPPOSE the Sierra Club’s actions here in Michigan.
[Below is our entire post]:
Sierra Club still pushing â€œsafe frackingâ€ even without Chesapeakeâ€™s millions
Posted on February 6, 2012
By now, no one should believe the Sierra Club â€”or its allied partners â€” on the subject of fracking.
Several days ago national Sierra Clubâ€™s executive director Michael Brune finally revealed in Time magazine that the organization â€” one of the biggest and most well known â€œenvironmentalâ€ groups â€” took $26 million from gas company Chesapeake Energyâ€™s Aubrey McClendon. The windfall was to be used for Sierra Clubâ€™s anti-coal campaign â€” which includes heavy promotion of the gas industry. [PDF: Exclusive-how SC took money]
Without any shame, nor a mention of this heinous transgression to its members, the Sierra Club Michigan chapter over the weekend sent out an e-mail alert. In it the group aggressively pushes a package of Michigan legislation that it helped write, called the frack â€œreformâ€ bills. A study of fracking thatâ€™s proposed in one of the bills, would be funded by the gas industry.
Whatâ€™s wrong with this picture?
Sierra Club has not reformed.
Ban Michigan Fracking formed in 2011 in direct response to a co-opting of the ban movement by Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and others who are pushing to make fracking â€œsafe.â€ Anybody who has studied fracking over the last couple years knows that it cannot be done safely. The only way to protect Michigan water, air, land and peopleâ€™s health is an all-out ban on fracking. We vehemently oppose the bills and Sierra Clubâ€™s continued â€œsafe frackingâ€ efforts and have an online petition to defeat them. We are also working directly for a ban, learning from the successes in other communities and states.
Making a deal with the devil â€” framing fracking the gas industry way
While still on the gas industry dole, Sierra Clubâ€™s Brune, chairman (and former executive director) Carl Pope, and attorney David Bookbinder participated in the Critical Path Energy Summit, [or see PDF’s for Critical Path Energy Summit | Aspen Science Center and Critical Path nat gas summit bios] held in Aspen, Colorado on May 6-7, 2010, along with staff and leaders of Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense Fund. But that wasnâ€™t just a meeting of the â€œBig Greensâ€ â€” Chesapeakeâ€™s Aubrey McClendon and many others in the gas industry were in attendance, too.
These strange bedfellows â€œrecognized that there is tremendous value in working together to fast track increased demand for natural gas in the power and transportation sectors.â€ They further agreed that â€œthe current social discord in the shale gas fields needs a new approach to change the frame. Even with significant expenditures for advertising and public relations, the industry has not been successful in changing public opinion.â€
Maybe thatâ€™s because people are starting to see beyond the propaganda about gas as a â€œclean, green, domestic bridge fuel to a sustainable energy futureâ€ and recognize that they themselves are being offered up as sacrificial lambs so that industry and a few top investors can get even richer.
Nauseatingly, the collaborators gushed further: â€œThe assembled NGO, government and Industry leaders agreed that the only way to unleash the economic, social and environmental benefits of natural gas was to work much more closely together.â€
The â€œcurrent frameâ€ they said, was that gas is a secretive industry, has enormous environmental impacts, puts poisons/chemicals in the ground and water, and â€œuses up all the water in the world.â€ The â€œnew frame,â€ they explained, would turn the old frame â€œon its headâ€ and establish a new level of trust through words and deed with â€œNGOs and industry standing shoulder-to-shoulderâ€ and that â€œearning community trust HAS TO BE LED BY THE NGOs!â€ [emphasis theirs].
And what is the â€œnew frame?â€ For one thing, the Critical Path Energy Summit partners had to â€œproactively develop Best Management Practicesâ€ working with regulators to develop optimal regulations, and move toward transparency, for example â€œrevealing the composition of frack water, incident reports, etc.â€ One way they would do this is to â€œhire a trusted local interlocutor.â€ Revealing the composition of frack fluid would be â€œa HUGE PR victory,â€ they emphasized.
The con is still on
Sierra Clubâ€™s Michael Brune tries to greenwash the organizationâ€™s current position as though the corporately-compromised nonprofit has actually reformed since refusing $30 million more dollars from McClendon in 2011. [PDF: Coming Clean – The Blog of Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune Blog – Sierra Club]
However, national Sierra Club is still promoting the bottom-line goal of the Critical Path Energy Summit: Get the public to accept a type of â€œsafeâ€ or â€œgreenâ€ fracking that is just regulated by â€œbest management practices.â€
Throughout 2011 and to the present, the Sierra Club in Michigan, together with Clean Water Action, continues to push for â€œsafe fracking,â€ â€œbest management practicesâ€ and gas industry-funded study of fracking.
In a Power Point presentation dated January 2011, the club states its goals are to make Michigan â€œrequire public disclosure of chemicals,â€ â€œrequire companies to use BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES,â€ [emphasis is Sierra Clubâ€™s] increase performance bonds, (another Critical Path talking point), and â€œreassess rules and regulations after EPA releases results of the study due out in 2012.â€
By May 2011, Michigan Sierra Club and Clean Water Action teamed up to issue a press release that declared â€œMichigan Should Delay Before Drilling: Make Natural Gas Fracking Safe for Michiganâ€™s Waters.â€ They reiterated key talking points from their industry collaboration at Critical Path, such as requiring public disclosure of chemicals, participation in the permitting process, putting into place â€œproper safeguards,â€ â€œproper water quality management practices onsite,â€ â€œbest possible storm water control measures,â€ and â€œall solid waste from drilling . . . properly disposed of in appropriate regulated waste disposal facilities.â€
Also in spring 2011, the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and West Michigan Environmental Action Council hosted showings of the film Gasland at which they reassured audiences that Michigan will be different and avoid the horrors that fracking has wrought in other states, while calling for slightly better regulations. The three-person panels included Clean Water Actionâ€™s regulations attorney, Susan Harley, the Michigan Department of Environmental Qualityâ€™s supervisor of wells, Hal Fitch, and a university geologist. (Recall the Critical Pathâ€™s call to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and use trusted local interlocutors.)
By November 2011, Michigan Sierra Club and Clean Water Action had helped write and introduce â€œfrack reformâ€ bills â€” one for a moratorium tied to another bill detailing a frack study to be funded by the gas industry, and a frack panel that would have a similar mandate as New York Governor Cuomoâ€™s frack panel: to come up with regulations and â€œconditions on permits.â€ At a press conference for the bills at a frack well site in Antrim County, someone holding a sign for a ban on fracking was told by a Clean Water Action staffer to take it down to not muddle the message.
The Sierra Clubâ€™s newsletter for fall 2011 tries to mobilize members to do something about the â€œdangerous practice of frackingâ€ by telling lawmakers that â€œyouâ€™re concerned about these problems with current laws and regulationsâ€ and then reiterates the key points of no public participation, disclosing chemicals, and using too much water. In December 2011, Michigan Sierra Club staffer Mike Berkowitz was quoted in a news article about the bills: â€œRight now, we believe the research points toward that it can be done safely, it just needs to be heavily regulated.â€
With Sierra Clubâ€™s revelation about their blood-money from McClendon, it is reasonable to speculate that the same temptations would have faced the others, including Clean Water Action, Natural Resources Defense Council, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Michigan Environmental Council, and West Michigan Environmental Action Council, all of whom defend fracking â€œif it is well regulated.â€
If you care about this issue, it should be clear by now that the leaders in the movement to ban fracking are the grassroots groups that have been thwarted, undermined and undercut by pro-â€œsafe frackingâ€ Big Greens.
Ban Michigan Fracking takes no corporate donations. We have no lobbyists in Lansing. We have no ties with the gas industry nor with the Critical Path participants or their allies, interlocutors, or the DEQ. We stand to gain nothing by telling truth and calling it as we see it. We stand to lose everything should fracking go forward. We the grassroots must stand together to fight the industry and those in bed with it â€” whether theyâ€™re crooked politicians or crooked NGOs.
Actually Greg is inaccurate about the issue regarding donations and review.
The problem was that there was a flaw in the club’s reporting and policies for taking anonymous donations, in that the Board of directors were not notified of the anonymous donations. unfortunately this flaw was not seen until the Chesapeake donations issue arose
When this issue came to light just recently it this flaw became glairing obvious and to correct this issue the Board of Directors did change the policy of anonymous donations so that all members of the board of directors are aware of the donation, instead of only one or two staff
The club also has taken a revised donation policy that states it will not accept donations from the fossil fuel industry or those associated with that industry The policy also includes nuclear.
For those still asking for an apology, one must look at the historical contest of gas as a bridge fuel. Until the middle of 2011 there really was not sufficient scientific study that showed natural gas was not a viable bride fuel. The first study which demonstrated overwhelming such was by the IEA in June of 2011. soon after National Center for Atmospheric Research released a similar conclusion. So in 2010 when these donations were made the scientific consensus was still that natural gas was a viable bridge fuel.
Please don’t let the present day knowledge distort your perception that this knowledge has always been known.
When the donations were made gas was considered by the majority of the scientific community as the way to proceed as a substitute to oil and coal.
One always has to see the historical perspective when judging actions regarding scientific knowledge. Remember that mercury was considered a useful pharmaceutical before we learned of its true toxicity.
I am sorry but your entire post is full of half truths and accusation by innuendo.
Mike Brune has freely stated that he had attended the Critical Path Energy Summit. he also attends quite a number of industry and scientific conferences.
her post is a classic example of what my previous post is discussing judging the past perceptions based upon the present on present knowledge!
Also LuAnne Kozma
I challenge you to find one drilling or fracking site which meets all criteria in the current Sierra club hydrofracing policy.
again you may not like the wording or the fact that the policy does not explicitly call for a ban, but the overall wording in still means as such.
Attendance does not mean suport. One has to attend these confrences in order to hear what both sides are saying. your article is nothign more than guilt by association.
Sandra Steingraber is right on to call out the Sierra Club for not taking a stronger stance against fracking but instead continuing to participate in greenwashing its deleterious impacts. For good reason, emotions are high on all sides of the issue. At the same time, the Sierra Club should be commended for not jumping on the racist bandwagon of blaming immigrants for environmental degradation. I must take issue with comments by Fred Elbel, Glen Colton, and Wanda Berger who make a point to blame U.S. environmental problems on immigrants. Wanda goes so far as to attribute the racist formulation “immigrants or redwoods?” to students at UC Santa Cruz. This statement is absurd as California–due to the wave of European immigration beginning around 1849–has seen its redwood tree population decline by 96%, most of this prior to the year 1910. Please read “The Greening of Hate” by Hampshire College professor Betsy Hartmann for more insight on this troubling branch of the environmental movement.
David, thank you for your attack. I was trying to provide constructive feedback.
The SRBC meeting protest last week was no different than the DRBC disruption that was planned in November. New Jersey Sierra Club endorsed everything surrounding the DRBC action except the disruption itself. They mobilized their members and did a really good job. I expect no different from Pennsylvania Sierra Club on the SRBC.
I’m sick and tired of being accused of only organizing illegal protests. You know that’s not true because you are seriously involved in this movement. There were levels of participation in fighting the SRBC vote that could have been promoted to Sierra Club members such as the call-in days we scrambled to put together, letter writing, and simply attending the public comment period in February. I am pointing out that the only mobilizing of people that occurred for the SRBC hearing had to happen last minute, coordinated without any paid staff from any Big Green.
If Sierra Club, NRDC, PennEnvironment, Clean Water Action and others had been on the ball earlier in the SRBC game, mobilizing their members to attend, I would not have called for my action. I don’t have time or money in my pocket to be picking up the slack organizing around public hearings because I’m picking up the slack driving out to impacted community members’ homes and kitchen tables. Public hearings are your turf and I’m a grounds technician.
Again, there were infinite opportunities to help the SRBC war effort by supporting our three call-in days and promoting them to your members, generating a flyer/media/a website, researching the dockets and publicizing more facts, participating in the rally outside the meeting, or the public comment period.
The way we won the DRBC fight was shear numbers of public comment and Big Greens mobilized their members to help and showed up with boots on the ground in Trenton. That is a missing link in the SRBC fight and I don’t know why.
As for a moratorium/regulations over a ban in your policy, the Sierra Club has campaigns called Beyond Coal and Beyond Oil. In the Beyond campaigns you’re fighting for an end to coal and oil. For natural gas, you treat it as “Natural Gas Reform”. A moratorium/regulation approach on drilling is not a permanent fix to the threat of drilling and it is that threat that is ruining the reputation of the Upper Delaware, for example. People’s home market values are down, even though the DRBC has a moratorium and there’s only been exploratory drilling here. Buyers have a lot of skepticism and Pike County is forced to run a marketing campaign to declare how we are still frack-free, although there are leases.
I don’t want to be fighting to renew natural gas moratoria for the rest of my life and if I have a big legislative victory, I don’t want to have it be a temporary moratorium that’s going to expire. I have other things to fight and struggles to win. I see you live in Southeast PA. That’s great that you’re trying to help us fight fracking and you live outside the shale. That’s great. We need more people like you to help, not hurt.
The next quarterly SRBC meeting is in June with public comment in May. I hope we can count on Sierra Club to be mobilizing their folks this time to stop the inevitable water withdrawal permits that will be on the docket.
ON IMMIGRATION AND THE RACISTS GLEN, WANDA, AND ERIC.
No is illegal and everyone has a right to seek economic and political asylum here in the US because it is the US that has led the charge on the free trade agreements driving poverty and violence in the Global South.
If I see you say that immigrants are the problem one more time I’m going to report your home to ICE as a potential immigrant safehouse and you yourself can witness a night raid by ICE stormtroopers that will wake you naked next to your lover and point their rifles at your children, demanding to see your papers. What if ICE snatched you at your job, while you were working to make a living for yourself and your family, during an ICE raid and you had to spend a night in a detention center?
That’s what you’re talking about when you talk about immigration enforcement and I see through your shrouded racism and fascist advocacy. Get out of my environmental movement, get out of the US, and go take one of the jobs NAFTA and other free trade agreements sent overseas and to Latin America. Work a day in a sweat shop, come home to hungry children, work with no safety protections on the job, or with your labor organizers being murdered. You would be hoping the fence back to the US in a second if you had to live with what the US has done to wreck and pillage the economies of the Global South.
I am a latino and a grandchild of an asylum-seeking immigrant to this country that was fleeing US imperialism in his country. Quit passing off your blame on poor immigrant workers as if they’re livestock. Blame your presidents, including Obama, who have sent free trade agreements and globalization sailing through approval since the Multi Fiber Agreement, NAFTA, the WTO, and IMF/World Bank structural adjustment.
The Sierra Club made a big mistake – suggesting that it is OK to choose the “lesser of two evils” – an evil that is destroying nature.
And how could the senior elected leadership that promulgated or just knew about this treachery -this breach of trust to the membership – have supported it.
The Sierra Club must give the $26 million back – and refute the suggestion that natural gas use is OK,
Judy Bonds was my friend and my colleague. If you think she would have blindly defended Sierra’s ethical breach, I can only say you must not have known her well. Judy spoke truth to power, and she would not have hesitated to call out actions that are diametrically opposed to the needs of people in the Sacrifice Zones; actions like those of the Sierra Club in recent years, in which human health has literally been traded for corporate millions.
Remember: Judy died of cancer that can doubtless be attributed largely to the life she lived in proximity to the industry against which she boldly stood. Hillbillies are dying every day and she wouldn’thesitate to tell Sierra to get off its butt and support grassroots efforts to stop the killing, which they presently are NOT doing.
Greg Pallast’s recommendations are excellent still. We need all polluting industry to be unable to launder their money through the Club and that means a) transparency beyond the few members of the national board for ALL donations and b) recognition that such laundering occurs through foundations – w/hydrocarbon etc industry reps on THEIR boards – promoting ‘safe’ fracking as well.
Luanna Kazmo’s informative post and recommendations are also sound. David Meiser’s ad feminam retort convince only that he has a tin ear. Or is he fixated on his “solution” to regulate gas out of existence (has that worked well with other polluting industry? or do we just get what Alex T refers to: a perpetual battle for moratoria extensions and ‘improved’ fracking (MTR, offshore drilling etc)?).
Mr. Measle: If you – as a member of the Sierra Club’s Hydrofracking Team – would like to respect the position of the grassroots, then advocate a ban. The Club should unmuzzle the grassroots and State Chapters from being able to demand one. Are you muzzled? The State Chapters are!
Also, if Sierra Club national could pimp for the gas industry, then can we really trust that the elections to its exec committee are not rigged to ensure the ‘safe’ fracking etc. agenda?
BRIDGE FUEL was SCIENTIFICALLY RECOGNIZED!?
David Measle’s suggestion that the scientific community was unaware of the fallacy of the claim that shale gas was a ‘bridge fuel and so Sierra Club should not be held responsible for the role out of shale in the intervening year is pure hogwash. Not only were the concepts of life cycle analysis and pathway dependence well-established when Sierra Club took their ‘bridge fuel’ position, but, for environmentalists, the burden of proof for pursuing significantly environmentally threatening industrial activity has always been recognized as the industrial profiteers to show it is safe and not on us to show that it is not safe. By serving as special advisors to the MIT Energy Lab (also funded by oil/gas money) and their publication of the greenwashing ‘academic’ report, the Future of Natural Gas, which promotes gas as a ‘bridge fuel’, the Club continued to promote this scientifically and economically unsound concept:
Moratoria versus bans:
There may be legal and strategic reasons why advocating moratoria and stricter regulations, rather than outright bans may be the better route, regulations that are science-based and so stringent, that it simply would not be feasible economically to continue fracking in that community. Such regulations could be incorporated in a town’s zoning or land use ordinance.
This certainly works in towns or counties that want to protect their health and agricultural land from toxic wastes and sewage sludge. When a community bans sludge dumping outright, it often gets sued. But if a community puts in a strict, science-based local ordinance, the sludge haulers leave them alone.
Jane and Latino,
How original of you to try to silence debate about US overpopulation by crying “racist” or “greening of hate”.
When it comes to overpopulation and its impact on the US environment, it doesn’t really matter what color people are or where they come from. But please be prepared to explain to your grandkids why you stood by while the population of the US soared to 500 million people by mid-century.
I supposed there is an upside to population growth. There will be a never ending number of ever larger, more intractable environmental problems to work on. Fracking is just the tip of the iceberg.
I am sorry Alex I am not attacking you but your actions.
You stated in your response:
Iâ€™m sick and tired of being accused of only organizing illegal protests. You know thatâ€™s not true because you are seriously involved in this movement
As for the name of the campaign regarding natural gas, there has been quite a bit of wrangling on what to call the campaign, “beyond gas” sounded too much like a advertisement for Di-Gel and the campaign is not just about hydraulic fracturing so beyond fracking didn’t fit either.
As for being outside of the shale area no I am not I may not be in Marcellus shale but in the Lockatong Shale region near Nockamixon Township. So we get no “benefit” from Corbett’s new PA law and all of the detriments.
Actually Alex, from your email sent on March 08, 2012 using the sierra club’s email server you specifically stated
5. Our plan for the 15th before/during/after the SRBC meeting (press conference? rally? DISRUPTION?)
6. Recipe for Success – what needs to happen before next Thursday? (Legal observers, BAIL MONEY, housing in Harrisburg, food, art/signs, call-in days, outreach, press/media, website/Facebook event, etc.)
In addition you were notified by the NJ chapter Sierra Club that they would be giving testimony at the DRBC vote and would participate at the rally only if there were no illegal actions such as disruption of the DRBC meeting.
Furthermore at the September 7 and 8 Philadelphia Shale Gas Outrage Rally Protecting our waters had specifically had to obtain reassurances in writing that no organization would perform any type of illegal actions because of several individuals and groups stating they wanted to break into and disrupt the industry meeting.
if there was any type of backlash or legal action taken because of illegal or trespassing/vandalism the actions would be against the parties with the “deep pockets” and that would not be you but the larger organizations such as the Sierra Club Clean water action Food and Water Watchâ€¦.
You are upset about being related with illegal actions but unfortunately the historical evidence shows the reason for the concern.
” I must take issue with comments [that]blame U.S. environmental problems on immigrants” – Jane Sooby
This is typical rhetoric which miscasts fact as accusation. The U.S. is adding over a million new consumers yearly through immigration. It is childlike thinking to urge Americans to carry their little reusable shopping bags around while applauding the arrival of a million new shoppers every year. It is magical thinking to extol ‘smart growth’ instead of looking at smart immigration.
Americans achieved replaceable fertility level (just look at the number of kids you and your friends have.) The Census Bureau projects a possible ONE BILLION people here by 2100. I am NOT blaming immigrants for anything. However, I DO expect other countries to act like grown up countries and provide a Mexican Dream, a Philippine Dream, etc. for their own people.
If readers here were truly committed to a sustainable future for this country they would be advocating zero population growth. Perhaps the Sierra Club should promote a “No Children” pledge so high levels of immigration can continue apace and still have zpg.
Immigrant bashing at the N.Y. Times – or just pesky facts?
Wow how mature Linda Turillo, distorting my name is extremely childish and immature. Even if you had any valid points they are lost due to your puerile remarks.
I suggest you look in the mirror with regard to Ad Hominem attacks.
Yet again my “spoiled child” analogy is substantiated by her post.
Emmet Fox’s quotation especially applies.