Energy & Environment

Cheney asks DOJ to probe environmental groups 

Greg Nash

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) has asked the Justice Department to investigate some of the country’s leading environmental groups, arguing that Russia and China are attempting to influence U.S. policies through the groups. 

The third-ranking House Republican, in a letter to Attorney General William Barr this month, asserted that the interests of environmentalists align with those of foreign governments when it comes to energy policy. 

The Daily Caller first reported on Cheney’s letter this week. 

Her letter rehashed some old claims from Republicans that foreign countries have influenced these organizations, a charge the groups have firmly denied. 

“Environmental groups are major contributors to U.S. political campaigns and have filed hundreds of lawsuits against the Trump Administration in an effort to advance their agendas,” Cheney wrote. 

“This robust political and judicial activism—combined with the fact that these groups often espouse views that align with those of our adversaries—makes it all the more critical that the Department is aware of any potential foreign influence within or targeting these groups,” Cheney added.

“I urge the Department to investigate Chinese and Russian attempts to influence environmental and energy policy in the United States, including within or through such groups as the NRDC, Sea Change, the Sierra Club, and others,” she concluded. 

In the fossil fuel debate, conservatives argue that continuing to use carbon-emitting fuel sources helps the U.S. maintain energy independence, while the left argues that these resources exacerbate climate change. 

Environmental groups, including those named in Cheney’s letter, typically cite negative environmental, health and other impacts in their suits against the administration.

The Justice Department also did not respond to a request for comment. 

A spokesperson for the Sierra Club declined to comment, while the NRDC and Sea Change did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment. However, the groups have previously denied similar accusations. 

In 2017, Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) and then-Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) claimed that “entities connected to the Russian government” were giving money to  Sea Change, a philanthropic organization that donates to environmental causes, through a shell company called Klein Ltd. 

They argued that donations from Sea Change to other environmental organizations would be “used to execute a political agenda driven by Russian entities.” 

However, philanthropist Nat Simons, who has helped run the Sea Change foundation, told Inside Philanthropy in 2017 he is the sole director of Klein Ltd. and that it is funded only by his family’s money. 

Environmental groups also denied ties to Russia, with Sierra Club legislative director Melinda Pierce telling Politico in 2017 that “if congressional Republicans are so concerned about Russian influence, they should start seriously investigating that country’s interference in our election, not attacking long-standing environmental organizations.”

In 2018, House Republicans demanded documents and answers from the NRDC and the Center for Biological Diversity about whether they were foreign agents, leading to both groups similarly denying the accusations.


Tags Justice Department Lamar Smith Liz Cheney Natural Resources Defense Council Randy Weber Sierra Club William Barr
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