On Television: When Environmental Groups Have An Authenticity Problem


Last night on my regular television segment with Chris Berg on Valley News Live we discussed some of the concerns over funding of environmental and Native American groups – specifically Honor the Earth – who are active in opposing the Sandpiper Pipeline which would take a lot of North Dakota oil east from Tioga through Minnesota down to Wisconsin.

It’s an important piece of energy infrastructure for our states, but unfortunately it’s been waylaid in Minnesota by left wing politics. And now it appears as though international energy interests may be fueling those politics.

In January the Washington Free Beacon had a bombshell report linking groups like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resource Defense Council to a Bermuda law firm which represents Russian interests. The NRDC, I’d note, was a partner with the Dakota Resource Council here in North Dakota in a lawsuit fighting the Keystone XL pipeline among other projects.

These connections are rarely publicized when these groups are making headlines attacking pipelines and/or the fossil fuel industry. Most media reporters seem to take it on faith alone that these groups are representative of actual American citizens, and are motivated by nothing more than environmental stewardship.

That’s a major advantage for those activists. They get to be portrayed as motivated by principle, whereas the fossil fuel companies have nothing but the evil profit motive behind their actions (not that there’s anything wrong with profits, mind you).

Groups like the Dakota Resource Council and Honor the Earth have every right to express whatever zany point of view they wish about energy issues, but the public is owed a clearer view of where their financial support comes from.

The DRC’s finances, for instance, are about as clear as mud. As you can see below from the group’s 2014 Form 990 filing with the IRS they got less than 10 percent of their funding from membership dues and fundraising events. The rest of the revenue is categorized as grants and other contributions.



Could that other $290,000 be contributions from actual North Dakotans? Sure, though that seems doubtful given that while the DRC makes regular appearances in the state’s media they don’t seem to have much in the way of grassroots support an actual constituency in the state. That $290,000 could also be grants from groups like the Tides Foundations and others who are, as we saw with the DRC’s partners in the lawsuit against the Keystone pipeline, funneling money from foreign interests.

In politics arguments should generally be considered on their own merits. Facts and logic generally don’t hinge on the motivations of whoever is doing the talking. But, again, the problem here is perception. The DRC and Honor the Earth and other groups posture as though they represent vast swaths of the American people, but based on the evidence they really don’t.

They really get more attention than they deserve.