Breaking Up with the Sierra Club

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

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

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


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

Dear Sierra Club,

I’m through with you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer to all of the above questions: No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sandra Steingraber

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    how about a SANE equation, such as…

    Solar = Good Jobs AND a Healthy World!

  10. Mike,

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

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

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

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

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

  13. Michael,

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

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

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

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

  14. Mr Knapp,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I take offence that you feel the sierra club has not done enough on this issue. I feel by saying such, you are discrediting my work on this issue as well as the other activists and volunteers in the club. I know some people will say that there is a difference, between the national leadership and the volunteers/staff. I disagree, The Sierra Club is one entity and by saying, you are done with the club you are also done with all the club’s volunteers and staff, Including Jeff Tittle the director of the NJ Sierra Club which you stood next to last November in Trenton at the rally. (He was wearing the t-shirt made by Sierra Club activists who you now say are not being vocal enough.

    I am sorry that you feel the Sierra Club has not done enough, or spoken louder, but maybe you have not been looking in the correct locations. Sometimes you have to look behind the curtain and see who is operating the sound and lights for the people on the stage, such as you. You may feel the club has not been vocal enough of the issue, but sometimes-real progress happens behind the scenes and the lights.

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

  17. David,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Hope lives eternal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  29. David Meiser,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    My volunteer time is with the Sierra Club.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    David Slottje

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

  45. About Michael Brune’s reply to Dr. Steingraber:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

    I am terminally wary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Doctor J

  48. $25 million? That’s nothing compared to the $100 million sellout.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Anthony Samsel

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

  51. Dr. Steingraber,

    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.

  52. 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.

  53. 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?”

  54. 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-boasting”. 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.

  55. 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.

  56. “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.

  57. 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…

  58. “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.)

  59. Rosa,

    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 for more info.

  60. 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.

  61. 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????

  62. 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 · Like” (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…..

  63. 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.

  64. 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.

  65. Michael M
    “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.

  66. 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.

  67. 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.

  68. Mary Sweeney

    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,

    as well as this site has this site

    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

  69. 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.

  70. 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 “safe fracking” even without Chesapeake’s millions
    Posted on February 6, 2012

    By now, no one should believe the Sierra Club —or its allied partners — on the subject of fracking.

    Several days ago national Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune finally revealed in Time magazine that the organization — one of the biggest and most well known “environmental” groups — took $26 million from gas company Chesapeake Energy’s Aubrey McClendon. The windfall was to be used for Sierra Club’s anti-coal campaign — 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 “reform” bills. A study of fracking that’s proposed in one of the bills, would be funded by the gas industry.

    What’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 “safe.” 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 people’s health is an all-out ban on fracking. We vehemently oppose the bills and Sierra Club’s continued “safe fracking” 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 — framing fracking the gas industry way

    While still on the gas industry dole, Sierra Club’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 wasn’t just a meeting of the “Big Greens” — Chesapeake’s Aubrey McClendon and many others in the gas industry were in attendance, too.

    These strange bedfellows “recognized that there is tremendous value in working together to fast track increased demand for natural gas in the power and transportation sectors.” They further agreed that “the 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.”

    Maybe that’s because people are starting to see beyond the propaganda about gas as a “clean, green, domestic bridge fuel to a sustainable energy future” 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: “The 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.”

    The “current frame” they said, was that gas is a secretive industry, has enormous environmental impacts, puts poisons/chemicals in the ground and water, and “uses up all the water in the world.” The “new frame,” they explained, would turn the old frame “on its head” and establish a new level of trust through words and deed with “NGOs and industry standing shoulder-to-shoulder” and that “earning community trust HAS TO BE LED BY THE NGOs!” [emphasis theirs].

    And what is the “new frame?” For one thing, the Critical Path Energy Summit partners had to “proactively develop Best Management Practices” working with regulators to develop optimal regulations, and move toward transparency, for example “revealing the composition of frack water, incident reports, etc.” One way they would do this is to “hire a trusted local interlocutor.” Revealing the composition of frack fluid would be “a HUGE PR victory,” they emphasized.

    The con is still on

    Sierra Club’s Michael Brune tries to greenwash the organization’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 “safe” or “green” fracking that is just regulated by “best management practices.”

    Throughout 2011 and to the present, the Sierra Club in Michigan, together with Clean Water Action, continues to push for “safe fracking,” “best management practices” and gas industry-funded study of fracking.

    In a Power Point presentation dated January 2011, the club states its goals are to make Michigan “require public disclosure of chemicals,” “require companies to use BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES,” [emphasis is Sierra Club’s] increase performance bonds, (another Critical Path talking point), and “reassess rules and regulations after EPA releases results of the study due out in 2012.”

    By May 2011, Michigan Sierra Club and Clean Water Action teamed up to issue a press release that declared “Michigan Should Delay Before Drilling: Make Natural Gas Fracking Safe for Michigan’s Waters.” 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 “proper safeguards,” “proper water quality management practices onsite,” “best possible storm water control measures,” and “all solid waste from drilling . . . properly disposed of in appropriate regulated waste disposal facilities.”

    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 Action’s regulations attorney, Susan Harley, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s supervisor of wells, Hal Fitch, and a university geologist. (Recall the Critical Path’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 “frack reform” bills — 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 Cuomo’s frack panel: to come up with regulations and “conditions on permits.” 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 Club’s newsletter for fall 2011 tries to mobilize members to do something about the “dangerous practice of fracking” by telling lawmakers that “you’re concerned about these problems with current laws and regulations” 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: “Right now, we believe the research points toward that it can be done safely, it just needs to be heavily regulated.”

    With Sierra Club’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 “if it is well regulated.”

    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-“safe fracking” 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 — whether they’re crooked politicians or crooked NGOs.

  71. 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.

  72. LuAnne Kozma
    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.

  73. 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.

  74. 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.


    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.

  76. Sandra:

    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,

  77. Ms. Maxwell,

    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?

    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:

  79. 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.

  80. 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.

  81. I am sorry Alex I am not attacking you but your actions.

    You stated in your response:

    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

    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 Watch….

    You are upset about being related with illegal actions but unfortunately the historical evidence shows the reason for the concern.

  82. ” 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?

  83. 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.

  84. What a terrific conversation! Let’s keep it that way, keep focused on the very important issues, and not indulge in personal arguments.


  85. OOPS something went wrong with my post responding to Alex. don’t know why but I must have typed in the middle and got things rearranged. the fourth and filth lines/paragraphs should be at the end of my post not in the middle.

  86. To Donna Maxwell: Believe me, I do not enjoy criticizing the national Sierra Club. I am well aware of the great work the Club has done for many, many years and I supported that work for many, many years. That is why I am so disappointed and heartbroken over the national Club’s failure to handle the natural gas issue with honesty, integrity, and respect for the environment and for human life.

    I also recognize, as I stated in an earlier post, that many Sierra Club chapters have been fighting very hard to protect us all from the dangers of shale gas extraction. It is the national Club’s policy that I–and many others–find disappointing.

    It is my sincere hope that the national Club will redeem itself by fighting shale gas with the same vigor it has applied in its fight against coal and oil and by offering a sincere and meaningful apology to those whose lives have been ruined by shale gas extraction that was, in part, advanced by the national Club’s earlier endorsement of shale gas as a “bridge” fuel. For too many people, the only “bridge” that shale gas has provided is a bridge from a normal life to a nightmare.

  87. Mr. Meiser: Excuse my clumbsiness. I can only pleed that English is not my first language, my child was needing my attention soon, and so I was cutting and pasting my thoughts from previous notes.

    Certainly don’t associate you with measles and look forward to hearing your defense of or acknowledgment of the betrayals of the Sierra Club of its members and grassroots fighters against fracking.

  88. David, you still haven’t responded to my criticism that Sierra Club wasn’t organizing members to participate in the SRBC process, pressure the members, and offering assistance to the grassroots MONTHS before the vote. The water withdrawals will now enable thousands of more drilling operations over four years.

    You can criticize eight people chanting “I pledge to protect the Susquehanna”, a benign, organized, and minimal nonviolent response to a devastating SRBC action, but if we had hundreds of people there who had been mobilized by the big greens to rally, there wouldn’t have been a strategic need to disrupt the hearing because the press would have shown up and shined a spotlight on the vote anyway. Give our numbers and what could be accomplished in a week of organizing, a verbal disruption was 1) what Susquehanna river basin residents felt was most strategic and 2) what would have brought the most media attention to the vote.

    The Club’s lack of participation in the SRBC organizing is a tragedy and I hope that the June quarterly meeting will yield something different. Please start now.


  89. It seems that human institutions inevitably decay & corrupt away from any worldly service they may have once hoped to provide, transforming into voracious, entrenched monsters whose only goal is the accrual of power & the extension of the institution’s existence.

    “Constant growth is the ideology of a cancer cell,” as someone who disliked the label of environmentalist once said.

    I’m sorry to say I don’t think there is anything that can be done about it. I’d like to be wrong about that.

  90. Alex Letorto and Sandra Steingraber both criticize Sierra Club without bothering to do their homework. The PA Chapter Sierra Club has been fighting the drillers here in PA since 2009, long before anyone in PA knew about the Chesapeake donations to our national organization. Our efforts to get amendments to the PA Oil and Gas Act to address fracking’s threats have continued throughout this period, and we called for a moratorium well before Gov. Corbett was elected in 2010.

    The PA Chapter has been working to pressure the SRBC to halt fracking long before Mr. Letorto got involved. In early 2011, we joined with American Rivers to announce the Susquehanna as Most Endangered River (MER)in the U.S. due to the threat from fracking. At that time, we called on the SRBC to implement a moratorium on new water withdrawal permits, do a comprehensive environmental review, and tighten its permitting requirements to protect water quality. We were the ONLY members of the public to testify at the SRBC hearing in Harrisburg following the MER announcement.

    Since that time, we have been working with a coalition of organizations, including Earthjustice, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, Clean Water Action, American Rivers and others, attending every SRBC hearing. We were there in Wilkes Barre, when the protestors shut down the SRBC hearing. We wrote to the SRBC following the aborted hearing to notify them that any actions they attempted to take after adjourning were not legal.
    Sierra Club has sent e-mail blasts to our members in both the DRBC and SRBC regions, to generate thousands of public comments calling for the moratorium positions. We have filed technical comments, sometimes with other organizations, sometimes by ourselves, to raise issues with DRBC and SRBC.

    Alex, the one thing we have not done is to call for our members to engage in illegal civil disobedience activities, which would be a violation of our organization’s bylaws. Different organizations and individuals approach environmental advocacy from different directions. Please don’t assume that just because Sierra Club doesn’t engage in illegal activities that we aren’t doing anything to help defend the environment and communities from dangerous drilling.

    The drilling industry I am sure is delighted by the “circular firing squad” comprised of those who attack their fellow environmental advocates for not being “pure enough” or following the “only true way”. We must stop fighting each other, stop dwelling on past actions and focus our efforts against the drillers.

  91. Jeff,

    Do you really think that focusing your efforts “against” the drillers is the best option? Why doesn’t the Sierra Club dismiss the radical fringe element on this issue and engage in a dialogue that is actually going to get something accomplished? Everyone reading this blog knows damn well that natural gas drilling is overwhelmingly safe and oppose it almost solely on idealogical grounds (natural gas being the knife in the heart of the rapid adoption of environmentalists pet projects such as solar and wind). Society as we know it today cannot exist without drilling. 5,000 wells have been drilled here in PA, with only a handful of accusations of contamination, almost all of which have been proven to be inaccurate. There is no wasteland of polluted water. With the proper regulations and enforcement, it can be a massive, massive improvement in the way we consume energy. The “ban all drilling” argument will never, ever, EVER gain any traction in our lifetimes. Why don’t you admit that it’s magnitudes cleaner, though not perfect, and join those of us in the rational middle and work towards making it as safe and environmentally responsible as it can be?

  92. Sierra Club: Natural gas isn’t a ‘kinder, gentler’ energy

    The natural gas industry that we know today is dirty, dangerous and putting American families at risk. While so many are focused on the quick profits to be made off this resource, natural gas drillers remain exempt from aspects of landmark health and environmental protections such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

    Let’s start with hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” the violent process the natural gas industry uses to break up shale formations and release gas. Fracking involves drilling thousands of feet into the ground and injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and an unknown, toxic chemical cocktail into the shale and through drinking water aquifers.

    While the industry claims this process is safe, there are hundreds of water contamination cases across the country as a result of unchecked and unregulated fracking.

    The health problems associated with natural gas don’t stop at your kitchen sink. The exemption for the natural gas industry in the Clean Air Act allows drillers to dump an unknown amount of toxic pollution into our air, sometimes just a football field away from your house. Because of this, we’re seeing worse air quality and dirty air in the Wyoming plains than what we find in Los Angeles.

    Given the lack of effective oversight for this industry run amok, federal and state agencies need to take a hard look at the risks natural gas fracking poses to our health and communities. It’s time for everyone to stop thinking of natural gas as a “kinder, gentler” energy source and renew our focus on reaching a clean energy future as soon as possible.

    The only safe, smart and responsible way to address our nation’s energy needs is to look beyond coal, oil and gas, and focus on clean, efficient energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. As many nations around the world have demonstrated, the most successful 21st century economies will be based on energy that is safe, secure and sustainable. Let’s get to work building that economy right here at home.

    Michael Brune is executive director of the Sierra Club.

  93. It’s sickening to me that the Sierra Club is quick to lie and distort what natural gas drilling actually is. The above op/ed is riddled with lies. Shameless, pandering, LIES. If the Sierra Club’s executive director is willing to lie like this to the public in an op/ed I can’t imagine what’s going on behind closed doors in a room full of friendly, equally rabid supporters.

    I’ve never seen such a group of people so damned intent on cutting off their nose to spite their face. It’s surreal.

  94. Also, does Mr. Brune not realize that geothermal requires hydraulic fracturing as well? The ignorance is absolutely overwhelming.

  95. Go Sandra! It was great to hear you speak in Trenton, NJ, last Nov. 21.

    As a photographer who, mostly at my own expense (thank you, all you self-serving gas-industry liars and creeps out there.), has traveled in Marcellus country in Pennsylvania, I’ve met many people who are suffering and dying, just because of where they were born. These people are losing their health. They watch, helplessly, though they’re doing all they can, as their children have become the canaries in the coal mine, with welts, burning skin, burning throats, and developmental issues.

    If anyone doubts the type of people who make up the upper ranks of the fossil fuel and nuclear energy industries (and significant portions of elected office), go to Google and look up “Psychopath:” Then follow the entry labeled “The Mask of Sanity.”

    These are the people buying off Congress, the people who’ve installed a pathetic so-called “governor” (Tom Corbett)in Pennsylvania. Corbett’s eagerness to enable the gas-drillers is criminal. These are the people killing their own employees who’ve been given, not jobs, but death sentences.

    I’ve been to the coal-bearing regions of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, as well. Same psychopaths, in the industry and in elected positions, and the same people being poisoned and driven off their land, just to glut the coffers of billionaire CEOs

    So natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel? Wow! That’s like being the best-smelling poop in the sewage treatment plant.

    Don’t brag about it folks.

    I am also an active sierra Club member, on the local level, and this disclosure has made me sick as well. I will likely remain on our local board, and fight the fight against this industry and those who accommodate it. I will still conduct my independent photography and anti-gas, coal and nuclear activism. I have no issue with any Sierra Club member or official who quits because of this scandal, but I’m staying on to fight.

    See that ball of fire in the sky? It’s called the sun, and it’s kept this planet going for over four BILLION years. And, the fossil fools lie all they can to keep us from utilizing it to energize our homes, cars, industries. Same with the wind. It’s here; it’s free; and the technology for both of these beautiful sources is here too, and cheaper than fossil fuels, when all the REAL costs are included.

    To all you fossil fools out there: Have you ever heard of a solar power spill or a wind power spill? Uh, didn’t think so.

    It’s time to act as though we really are in the 21st Century; time to act as though we have the brains we were born with; and to demonstrate the caring for our fellow human beings that we brag about.

  96. Are you serious Mark? Wind and solar are free? Have you ever seen a neodymium mine? Have you ever seen the massive amount of toxic wastes that come from making solar panels? Residents in China next to the factories that build them are starting to revolt! Do you know about the greenhouse gases that are created in the manufacturing process? Have you seen just how large of a scar on the land a wind farm leaves? Where do you think the advanced polymers come from that windmills and solar panels are made of? What are we going to do with all of the toxic, non-reusable materials that solar panels are made up of once they reach the end of their lifespan?

    “Fossil fools” is cute. But it’s a lie. An absolute lie. Lie to yourself all you want. Bury your head deep down in the sand. Blindly accuse the millions of people that work in the fossil fuel industry of being psychopaths, while you guzzle down their product (a/k/a MODERN SOCIETY) with impunity.

  97. Clearly every energy choice has some downsides. More references for your assertions (and less insults) would be appreciated, Mike.

    As I read the information that other posters have provided, the evidence seems very strong that natural gas drilling is an environmental and health nightmare. I wonder if your continued assertions to the contrary, are simply based on the Bush-era assertion that if we repeat something often enough, it becomes true?

  98. While you may be POed at the Sierra Club for what has happened.

    I still invite you to check out the information at the Hydrofracking Team

    If you click on the orange resources button there are many articles and other types of info gathered from many sites.

    Also please feel free to suggest or add anything you may have.

    The team site is trying to be a library for information and articles regarding gas drilling and hydrofrackng.

  99. In a society, an empire, a civilization that is shot through in every institution with corruption and disregard for the most minimal ethical concerns, does anyone still believe that tinkering with the details of its terminal illness can do more than distract us from the fundamental reforms needed to have a decent life for all? Did you imagine that the environmental movement would somehow be above the selfishness, lies, and delusions that are now the warp and woof of the human world? Is it not obvious that the trivial agendas pursued by environmentalists are totally inadequate to deal with the ongoing collapse of the entire human enterprise on this planet? Those who are unwilling to look into depth and inevitability of the world tragedy being enacted around us are reduced to playing futile games of distraction from the awful reality. In our madness we are unable to grasp the real nature of our situation, and busy ourselves building sand castles to ward off awareness of the fatally approaching tide.

  100. Rosa,

    I’m not a kool-aid sipping conservative. I abhorred Bush/Cheney. I have a warped pseudo-seasonal depression on weeks that the Stewart/Colbert broadcasts reruns. I’m fiscally conservative, socially liberal. I’m pulling my hair out because of just how woefully off base these comments are. I own a land leasing firm in the heart of the Marcellus shale. I eat, sleep, and breathe this stuff. I’ve been on scores of well sites, the company we work with has drilled hundreds of wells without any sort of serious issue. The hyperbole coming out of the environmental groups is mind-blowing. We’re not criminals. We don’t operate with reckless abandon in an unregulated industry. We are tightly regulated, internally and externally. I’d say 30-40% of of our drilling cost is directly attributable to environmental safety. The picture being painted here is patently untrue. From where I’m sitting, it’s no less bull-headed than either the “Obama is a nazi” folks. It’s terrifying.

  101. I’m glad to see this conversation happening, and glad for Orion to have been able to give Sandra Steingraber a platform for her concerns. I’ve known Sandra for many years and am inspired and very humbled by her integrity and commitment.

    As to Michael Brune’s comment (#18), suggesting that Orion provide a forum for further discussion of the questions raised by Sandra, I’m happy to explore that. But to my mind, the right place for an “essay fully detailing the Sierra Club’s campaign to fight fracking” is Sierra magazine — not Orion. The constituency that needs to be addressed by the leadership of the Sierra Club, as is evident in this thread, is the membership of the Sierra Club, which is made up of hundreds of thousands of people who do such great work in so many places, through chapters and individuals.

    Carolyn Snyder (comment #63) is right when she says that fragmentation between environmental groups is not what we need. But nothing contributes to fragmentation between environmental groups more than when one of them – especially a gigantic one like the Sierra Club – makes a misstep, as was obviously the case when the Sierra Club decided to accept funding from Chesapeake Energy and other gas companies.

    The leadership of all environmental organizations – whether big ones like the Sierra Club or smaller ones like Orion – needs to understand that their actions reflect on all the people who work on behalf of the Earth. In organizational decision-making there is room for risk and experimentation, but there is no room for hypocrisy.

    H. Emerson Blake

  102. All the lovely green talk is just green washing our brains; consolation for some, profit for others. Totally useless to turn aside or even survive the juggernaut of destruction bearing down us. The real solutions will require us to deeply change ourselves and our ways of living. Our addictions, lies, and delusional fantasies will not avail us. Only facing squarely what we have become, and transforming it at its roots will be effective. Processes to help us recover our lost authenticity exist; we ignore them at our peril. As we presently are, there is no chance we can make a truly better world. We must become worthy of such a world first. We have to earn it with our sincere work on ourselves in company with those who have understood the fatal situation we are living in.

  103. Michael Knapp,

    I hear you that you’re feeling lost in a sea of uninformed and delusional comments. But what if for a minute you take yourself out of your role as the head of a natural gas company, out of your role as a citizen of the US, out of your role as a participant in the global industrial economy? If you do that, the rational middle, the hard but necessary trade-offs, the efforts to make fracking as environmentally safe as possible…all of it evaporates. There is just no way to justify the way this economy and way of life works, morally as much as practically.

    The natural world has different priorities than human societies. It doesn’t care about our engineering difficulties. It doesn’t care if we believe that we need fossil fuels or electric energy to conduct our business. All it will do is measure our activities, and the natural laws that are its operating principles will act. That’s already happening with the climate as much as it is with agriculture, fishing, and nearly every industrialized human activity.

    There is no solution within the industrial way of life. If gas is cleaner than coal, that’s not a solution.

    I know it sounds crazy to you, but the arguments you use sound equally crazy to many people, including me. I’m not writing this as an ad hominem attack, but an attempt to communicate across some vast distances between the way we think.

    And yes, my apartment is heated with natural gas. I may be moving to an off-the-grid trailer heated with propane. I grew up with it, I was taught to use it, I benefit from it, and it’s hard for me to see a clear way to separate myself from it. I’m looking at personal ways to not use fossil fuels or electricity, but equally important I’m looking at ways to change the overall industrial system that uses fossil fuels and electricity.

  104. respect top Orion!

    None to Sierra “leaders”

  105. mike k,

    I’m afraid you are right. There is no combination of energy sources that will allow us to continue to grow our population and consume at the levels we do today.

    All our energy sources, oil, gas, solar, nuclear, wind, hydro, geothermal, etc. have their environmental costs.

    Too many people live in a fantasy world where they think technology will solve all our problems and allow us to continue on the same track.

    Sorry, but the world can’t support 7 billion people (soon to be 9 billion) and the United States can’t support 310 million (soon to be 500 million).

    But, of course, we can’t talk about population.

  106. “There is no solution within the industrial way of life. If gas is cleaner than coal, that’s not a solution.” Right on Andrew. The industrial monstrosity we have created was never sustainable, and never will be. Unfortunately those who are invested in it, owners and consumers alike, are now deeply addicted to it, and are refusing to let it go. The path of recovery from this deadly addiction seems too hard for them to embrace; so they will take us all down with them if needs be. Our job is to recognize this, and begin to forge a new way of living to replace the one which is now heading into total collapse. A network of small groups sharing the learning necessary for the transition seems a logical way to go. A kind of AA for a new way of living. The time to start these groups is now. The kind of books and readings that are discussed in the pages of Orion could become an important help in informing such groups. A second education for a new world.

  107. Glen — We absolutely must talk about population. And you and I know it. The problem is how to get more people thinking and talking about it. I am sure it will be an important area of sharing in the small groups I am proposing. Get together with a few people open to looking at our problems on a regular basis. With proper formatting such groups can be fun and very productive. I know, I am part of three such groups already. We would be glad to share our methods of fruitfully conducting such affairs with anyone interested. Until more people become willing to share about our situation, it will be difficult to effect deep changes and develop new approaches for going forward.

  108. Andrew

    I’m not oblivious to the macro-level impacts we are having on this planet. I’m not a climate change denier. I’m not a big evil corporate prick. My old man is a fishing guide. I grew up in the woods and on the water. When we hunt/fish we don’t keep or kill what we don’t intend to eat. I have a deep appreciation for the environment, and this wonderful, unique planet which propagates such an abundant, diverse and truly fascinating array of species… and I think that humans are only a small part in that harmony. It’s our duty to tread as lightly as possible. It’s a difficult line to walk, between modern convenience and conservation. But I am also a realist. We’re not going to be able to turn back the clock on humanity’s gains. My hope is that we don’t squander the finite resources we have, but instead we leverage them to move to a sustainable, carbon-free energy economy. Up until natural gas drilling came into the public spotlight and became associated with big oil (before, most natural gas was produced by small, independent “mom and pop” type family owned companies), it was clean enough that even the folks at the Sierra Club endorsed it. We can drain 1,200 acres of natural gas while disturbing only about 10 acres of surface. That’s a lot of mountaintops that don’t have to be removed to get at coal…and when we burn it, it’s so clean that no pollution controls are even needed. Natural gas fired plants can be switched on with 5 minutes notice, coal plants take 24 hours… so if you’ve got a solar or wind farm, you can back it up with a natgas plant that is sitting completely idle, whereas with a coal plant it would have to run constantly to be available to come on line if the clouds come out or the winds die down. It makes renewables that much more viable, and that much cleaner.

    I don’t blame those in this thread for not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, but the attacks and paranoia I see in here are totally unwarranted. It’s not perfect, but with the right regs and oversight, it can be damn close. All I ask is that people look at the facts, the statistics, in the proper context and without an emotional predisposition. Natural gas is a ready-built bridge, let’s work together to make sure its a sturdy one, and then focus on what lies at the other end of it.


  109. Mr. Knapp — “I own a land leasing firm in the heart of the Marcellus shale. I eat, sleep, and breathe this…”

    All your soothing words about how you love the environment are really about how much you love your lucrative deals with the gas fracking corporations.

  110. Mike K,

    Your assumption is false. But thanks for the prejudice. Do you apply that to everyone you meet in life?

  111. Comments 38 and 70 point to the road to redemption and the fact that the Sierra Club continues to move in the opposite direction.

  112. It is truly amazing how the folks who want to con you out of your clean water, fresh air, and unspoiled environment, also seek to convince you that their depredations are for your own benefit, and that you should welcome them to pollute and destroy the world. Given the enormous effectiveness of propaganda, advertising, and PR, I guess you can understand their eagerness to hornswoggle you in addition to robbing you of your peace of mind and the quiet enjoyment of your property. Thanks a lot corporate pillagers. Imagine the arrogance of these folks pretending to be just like most of us Orion readers. They don’t realize that many of us have looked into these criminal activities, and are not that easily deluded. We know a fox, however it much it might try to sound like a chicken.


    The Sierra Club’s past acceptance of $26 million from the gas fracking industry was wrong. Concealing the donations was wrong. Allowing the donations to push the Club into pro-gas drilling policies was wrong.

    But it is a mistake to fault the Club’s new executive director, Michael Brune, for a decision made by its previous executive director, Carl Pope.

    Under Brune’s leadership, presumably with the support of the board of directors which hired him, the Sierra Club is changing rapidly.

    From his first day on the job, Brune has pulled the Sierra Club back from gas industry donations and pro-gas policies. He is also re-invigorating the Club’s traditional grassroots base which was bypassed to a large degree over the past decade in favor of a big-money, insider political strategy.

    I know this is happening because I have a bit of an inside view of things.

    The group I direct, the Center for Biological Diversity, clashed with the Club over energy and global warming policy in Carl Pope’s final years. It was a behind the scenes battle, but grew into a public controversy when one of its senior leaders—a natural gas booster who left the Club not long after Brune’s hiring to work for the gas industry’s largest lobby group—repeatedly attacked the Center in the media for taking an aggressive, science-based approach to climate policy.

    The controversy exploded in March, 2010 when Johann Hari wrote a highly critical expose in The Nation called “The Wrong Kind of Green”. Follow up articles were printed in other magazines and newspapers. Brune had been on the job for just two months when confronted with this first wave of energy policy scandals.

    I received a call from Brune not long after and was impressed with his understanding of the political hot potato he had inherited and his intent to change the Club’s policy. Just as importantly, I had conversations with very senior staff and board members who confirmed that one of Brune’s announced top five priorities was to reverse the Club’s pro-gas drilling position. He hammered on the need to change course in his first board meeting which not coincidently also dealt with fallout from The Nation article.

    All of this was a year before the massive gas industry donations under Pope’s tenure hit the headlines. He moved so quickly to break the Sierra Club’s connection with the gas industry that I have to think that the Club’s board knew his plan when they hired him. Bringing Brune on was not business as usual, it was decision to move the Club in new, better direction.

    All this is to say that while Brune is necessarily doing damage control over revelations of past gas industry donations, it is a mistake to view him as simply responding to the scandal. He was on the case from the moment he was hired, probably even before then.

    The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign has been an extraordinarily effective combination of grassroots organizing, legal firepower and political strategy. It has stopped dozens of new coal-fired power plants and shuttered many existing plants. In the past year, it has begun to take on hydrofracking. In D.C. there are signs it is pulling back from some of the insider strategies that pulled it too closely into the sphere of Democratic Party politics and corporate power.

    It is all still a work in progress, but I’m more hopeful about the Sierra Club than I have been at any time in the past 25 years.

    That’s why I’m renewing my membership.

    Kieran Suckling
    Executive Director
    Center for Biological Diversity

  114. Michael Knapp:
    This isn’t an “either/or” proposition; there is a third way: CONSERVATION! We can certainly get by on much less energy than we currently use, so don’t give me that old wheeze! You are trying to market natural gas as an alternative to coal and your argument is failing miserably. Fossil fuels are fossil fuels and ALL are dirty. ALL are running out and ALL of us must do what is right, and not necessarily what is easy: we must use less energy, 90% less than we do today. When will YOU start to conserve?

  115. Kieran,

    You suggest that the Club has changed. All they’ve done is ‘reframed’ the issue to facilitate ‘safe’ fracking.
    If they’ve changed, Palast and Kozma’s posts are inaccurate. But they’re obviously not.

    What steps would you like to see the SC take to make amends? Does the Center for Biological Diversity support ‘safe’ fracking?

    Do you know whether you and the Sierra Club get donations from the same pro-‘safe’ fracking foundations?

    Just asking in the interest of full information.

  116. Linda,

    The Center for Biological Diversity is opposed to hydrofracking.

    We don’t accept donations from the gas industry or any other corporations which harm the environment or human health and well-being. The only “corporate” donations we get are from backpacking stores, solar installers, food-coops, etc. These comprise less than one half of one percent of our annual income.

    We don’t get money from pro-safe fracking foundations.

    As I explain in my original post, the Center has had big public clashes with the Sierra Club over energy policy and we often disagree on other issues as well. These include some recent Sierra Club positions. So I’m not speaking here as a knee-jerk “friend of the Sierra Club”.

    I’m simply pointing out that gas industry donations were engineered by Pope, not Brune. Brune has unquestionably begun to pull the Club back from the cozy relationship established by Pope.

    Feel free to criticize the Club’s current activities if you wish. I have no problem with that: the world is always improved by good criticism. But good criticism in this case should begin understanding with who did what and when, and recognizing what policy changes have been made.

    Those changes may not be sufficient fast and far reaching for some, but they are clearly substantial changes. They are not simply “reframing.”


  117. New “positions” are easy. But there are all sorts of ways to serve your masters. And it’s what you do that counts. A case study of an insider ‘green’ NGO strategy: in New York, Food and Water Watch wouldn’t challenge slimy Democratic City Councilors to introduce a statewide fracking BAN resolution (which would – of course – have been extremely popular). When asked ‘why not?’, guess what committed ‘enviro’ insider, FWW told an activist: “because they won’t do it”. Isn’t that nice of these environmental NGOs to protect the reputations of ‘friends’ in city and state govt?

    In Michigan, Kozma described how the SC talks a good talk while working for and promoting ‘safe’ fracking and an industry funded ‘study’; they ‘advise’ the MIT Energy Lab which pushes ‘safe’ fracking in their reports; they’re like lots of ‘professional’ NGO-types we know, angling for a seat at the table by getting on their knees and misdirecting the environmental movement over the cliff. . .

    So Brune wasn’t the one who took the $. What’s he doing to ban fracking? Nothing. He’s proposing regulations which signal to Democratic ‘friendly’ pols that he’s ready to cut a deal and cut the proverbial baby. Meanwhile he gags Sierra Club chapters that want to work for and demand a ban. And he tries to misdirect the grassroots towards regulatory give and take. This WEAKENS our movement. It UNDERMINES us.
    And he knows it.
    Until he works for a ban (and makes amends in ways many here have already outlined), he’s reframing.

  118. Dear Michael Brune,

    Linda Turillo raises an important question her post above (120). I invite your response.

    Is Sierra Club now working for ban on fracking? It’s not clear.

    In your USA Today op-ed this week (, you eloquently describe the unfolding public health disaster that is fracking.

    The phrase “lack of effective oversight” appears in your essay. The words “ban” or “moratorium” do not.

    Meanwhile, here in New York, a new statewide coalition of anti-fracking organizations has launched. It has one mission: to ban fracking in New York state.

    The Associated Press covered the story. Here is an excerpt:

    “Sandra Steingraber, a biologist and environmental writer who recently won the Heinz Award for her work on how chemical contaminants in air, water and food endanger human health, said she’ll donate much of her $100,000 prize money to start the anti-fracking coalition, New Yorkers Against Fracking.

    Among other things, the coalition plans to fund advertising to get its message out. A clip from the first such video will be aired Wednesday night on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report, coalition member Claire Sandberg said. Actor Mark Ruffalo, an outspoken anti-fracking advocate and member of the coalition, is scheduled as a guest on the show.

    Leaders of the coalition speaking at a news conference in Albany are long-time regulars at anti-fracking rallies around the state. . . .

    Notably absent were representatives of mainstream environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Environmental Advocates of New York. While those groups are outspoken about the need for strict regulation of fracking, they stop short of calling for a ban.”

    Is that a correct representation?

    Let’s be clear. Removing water from the hydrological cycle, blowing up bedrock and filling the rubble with poison, drilling thousands of holes through our drinking water aquifers to get at the gas underneath: these actions create unregulate-able dangers.

    Sooner or later, gas wells leak. Sooner or later cement and steel disintegrate. Working for strict regulations means building time bombs with longer fuses, means leaving unexploded ordnance for future generations to trip over.

    Working to regulate fracking is to sanction fracking.

    That is not my goal. That is not what I am working for.

    What are Sierra Club’s goals? What are you working for?

    Sincerely, Sandra

  119. Dear Sandra,

    As we have talked via email recently I wanted to give you the updated club policy on Hydroponic fracturing.

    I must point out that none of the club’s policies call for bans on anything, it is not the editorial style they are written.

    The style is we oppose the following until X, Y and Z are completed.

    As pointed out several times on this forum and in emails directly to you the current policy is a ban on this process. as there is no drilling/fracking operation which meet the criteria in the club’s policy, and therefore it is a call for a ban.

    It does not directly state the word ban but that is an EDITORIAL STYLE ISSUE and not a policy issue.

    The policy is at

  120. David Meiser — “It does not directly state the word ban but that is an EDITORIAL STYLE ISSUE and not a policy issue.”

    Do you really think capitalizing the lawyerish weasel words about “style” is fooling anyone? The Club still wants to have it both ways, and keep its options (links with the fracking industry) open, doesn’t it? The SC is in the big leagues now; but Lord Acton is still right: power corrupts…

  121. Michael,

    I’m not saying you’re a climate change denier or a corporate prick. Unlike mike k, I believe your environmental sentiments are genuine. What I am pointing out is that your “realism” is not giving you the chance of seeing a larger picture.

    You say “we’re not going to be able to turn back the clock on humanity’s gains.” I don’t think it’s going to be a choice we can or can’t make. Climate change is going to make industrial civilization either impossible or close to it, if the predictions of 6 or 8 C by the end of the century come to pass. I would also point out that we have lost as much as we have gained, and that the gains are very unevenly distributed. All major ecological indicators are screaming dire warnings: ocean acidification, deforestation, species loss, topsoil loss, toxins everywhere in the food chain. Whatever world we end up with in a couple generations will be greatly reduced, and our human societies will be similarly reduced. Societies break down, not up.

    I’m also extremely skeptical of the idea that industrial society will be able to transition to a sustainable energy system. All current industrial energy sources require mining and refining of raw materials to produce their energy generation, conversion and transmission systems, regardless of the amount of technical improvement and recycling involved.

    Even more damning, look what we’re doing with the energy we currently have. We’re ruining the planet, with no large-scale signs of change. Why would I want that to continue? A coal-fired steam engine and a solar power-charged electric car are no different if they’re both being driven into a brick wall.

    Individual people and communities are taking steps to live in sustainable ways, joining indigenous communities who never stopped doing so. As for the larger components of society, I predict they will collapse messily, hanging onto old paradigms until the end.

  122. It is hard enough to be an activist for the higher good – having to greatly discern our participation in environmental groups to see if they are only covers for politicians and corporations to look green makes the journey even more difficult. I applaud Sandra for taking a stand and I hope that the Sierra Club leadership will do the right thing and evolve into something greater due to this revelation.

  123. I am from the Finger Lakes and no all too well the dangers of Fracking. I grew up vacationing on Canadaigua Lake and am deeply concerned about the enviroment. I will no longer support the Sierra Club if
    Michael Brune is in charge. Knowing he did this is a lie to everyone.

  124. Thank you, Sandra, for your integrity.

    While it is true that one should be understanding about mistakes because “to err is human”, it is also true that one dirty drop of water in a bucket of clean water contaminates the whole bucket. Groups such as Sierra Club must guard themselves against this kind of contamination by dirty industries providing dirty money because we need to believe in their relative purity and what they stand for.

  125. You will find that the Sierra Club was rabidly pro-nuclear power for many years and has consistently rated at the bottom of independent polls on organizations that affected change.
    They,like many charities, continually wring peoples’ emotions to open their wallets, with nothing to show for it except a bloated budget used for it’s own ends.
    The Sierra Club has been a self-congratulatory social club for decades, rather than a tool for change.

    Stewart Brand, of the Whole Earth Catalog, just came out in favor of GMO crops and nuclear power.
    Ah, irony…
    It’s seems a ruling principle in this world…

  126. It is sad, Cynthia, because they leave us bereft of anything to believe in. The cost to the human spirit of the loss of belief is incalculable. The lies, corruption and manipulation at every level of government, churches, corporations, and NGOs is sickening. The one comforting truth that I have complete faith in is that Nature bats last. We will lose and she will win in the end even if it takes her millions of years to undo what we have done to the Earth.

  127. Cynthia Piper
    Provide your sources of proof!

    I guess in your opinion an individual or organization can not change their opinion based upon further scientific studies and additional data.

    The Sierra Club has been ani-nuclear since the 1960’s

  128. Sandra’s letter raises the question of what happens when an organization fails to live up to its own mission and standards. Taking ownership of the ‘mistake’ is certainly the first step. I mean corporate ownership – Brune is only the messenger – there are many other people from staff to governing board involved in deciding and responding honestly and transparently, Whoever “decided” was not operating in a vacuum.

    I am a Sierra Club member and was shocked to hear about the Chesapeake donation – especially the “clandestine” aspect of it. I certainly hadn’t heard of it before. But I also know of thousands of dedicated members and staff who work at the national and local level on issues that affect the life of our planet. So I considered cancelling my membership, but decided that I also have some responsibility to see that Sierra Club makes strong efforts to right this wrong, and no, I do not know how that should be done right now. But whatever it is, it should be done publicly, with deep apologies, actual concrete changes in how local efforts are supported financially, and policies that insure this cannot happen again.

  129. Could it be that Sandra and others in this discussion who are criticizing Michael Brune and the Sierra Club, are venting their general frustration that the environmental movement is currently going nowhere? The Club has admitted its serious mistake, has put in place internal reforms on donor transparency, and is continuing its important work on major environmental issues. For heavens sake, Michael Brune and the Sierra Club are not our enemies! Enough already. Let’s identify the real villains and work together to slow down environmental degradation.

  130. Fascinating debate including the comment that went off on a tangent that took us from the relationship between the Sierra Club and the oil/gas industry to immigration…

    I am not a scientists, a member of an environmental organization nor an employee of an oil/gas company and I don’t live in the areas where fracking is taking place. I am just another immigrant and oil junkie.

    I feel that the leadership of the Sierra Club should be more transparent about its dealings with the oil/gas companies and spit out the truth once for all in order to move on forward constructively and save the organization’s credibility.

    I fear that if Michael Brune keeps sweeping this issue under the carpet without taking any responsibilities for what has happened it may give rise of suspicions that there is more to it than meets the eye…

  131. If the Sierra Club is going to endorse big oil and gas companies, that throws a new light on elections in Utah since the Sierra Club is endorsing candidates for Salt Lake County mayor. If we can’t trust the Sierra Club, then we can’t trust their encdorsements either. I’m going to contact these two candiates and complain.

  132. And now the Sierra Club?? Fracking has moved into the Youngstown, Ohio region and to my home of Western Pennsylvania. The Youngstown media have hailed this as a God send to save the bruised economies of the former Steel belt.
    There have been 11 earthquakes since fracking started here. I live on a quiet street with homes on one-acre lots. We are surrounded by Amish farmlands who have already leased out land to the older forms of gas wells. Gas companies will gladly give money to anyone with any land just to accumulate acreage required for a well. Most of my neighbors sold out.
    We all have well water….I guess not for long.
    That is…if we survive the earthquakes to come.
    Steel to Gas: trading one devil for another and now our beloved Sierra Club. I am ashamed for us all.

  133. I broke up with the Sierra Club about more than a decade ago when I realized how often they were selling my name and address with companies that one would not associate with the Sierra Club. Once on a list, it’s very hard to get off the list. I use a slight misspelling of my name or address to see which organization creates my junk mail. The Sierra Club has seriously lost its way!

  134. Read Paul Kingsnorth’s Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist in Orion, to realize that you are not alone in experiencing disillusionment with the larger groups in the environmental movement. This issue with Sierra Club is just the tip of the iceberg of much wider and deeper problems. When will any of these groups realize and expose the destructive mythology of capitalism as the source of almost all our problems on this fragile planet. The religion of greed is devouring everything!

  135. Thanks for your article and about the Sierra Club. We, here in southwest Idaho, just went through 8 years of talks and compromises about our Owyhee Canyonlands, which included reluctant support from the Sierra Club. I believe that they wanted to make the Owyhee Canyonlands into a National Monument type thing instead of what we wanted — which was wilderness. Seems like they wanted to make the area into an area for the “elite” and the ones in the “know” with grand lodges and road accesses to these pristine lands. The folks of Idaho have now protection for these unique lands.

    Now we are faced with the first gas explorations in this part of the state, and the idea of “fracking” makes no sense to me. Our water is our number one resource in Idaho. and we sure don’t want someone messing with its quality.

    I believe the Sierra Club is losing its way with so much money flowing its way.

  136. Thanks for sharing, Dale. You are right, money and power have had their insidious effect on these pillars of the environmental cause. They have lost the true vision of what love of Nature is, and how it should be defended. Too many deals and compromises can lead to loss of authenticity, and the courage to stand up to the wealthy and powerful.

  137. Stop spreading lies Cynthia Piper. Both of you statement are blatant lies!

    Yes, I was a member of the club, but since retirement I have not really sent in dues.
    “Sierra Club Named Most Influential Environmental Organization”

    An independent survey has named the Sierra Club the most influential environmental organization in Washington. The study, released by the Aspen Institute Nonprofit Sector Research Fund, asked every member of Congress and key federal officials to “name the (two) national nonprofit organizations that you believe have the most influence on federal policy” in each of six issue areas. On environmental issues, the survey named the Sierra Club and the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) as the two most influential organizations, with the Sierra Club receiving more than double the number of responses than NFIB – and nearly three times as many as the next environmental group, the Environmental Defense Fund.
    The club has been against nukes for decades I looked up their nuclear policy on the Club’s Web and it even gives the date of the start of their official opposition on nukes, December 13, 1974! And before that, I was involved with another group a the time of building Oyster Creek Nuclear plant in NJ in the 60’s and the Sierra club was right there with us!

    Here is my poof, where is yours?

  138. I just got this from the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club:

    New York continues to face a powerful threat. Can we stop the oil and gas industry from fracking with our state?

    Thanks to supporters like you, NY is the first state in the nation to hold off the most severe forms of fracking – for now. But after nearly four years of struggle, 2012 is shaping up to be the decisive year. New Yorkers sent Gov Cuomo and the DEC a clear message in January with over 66,000 comments on its draft review of proposed drilling regulations: No fracking in the Empire State!

    Nonetheless, Cuomo recently said he expected the DEC to consider and respond to these comments in “a few months.” We must be prepared for the worst. Defeat would industrialize some of the most pristine areas of our state, pipe radon-contaminated natural gas into downstate kitchens, and set up New York for a ruinous boom-and-bust cycle. Will you help us protect New York by sending a contribution to couNew York continues to face a powerful threat. Can we stop the oil and gas industry from fracking with our state?

    Thanks to supporters like you, NY is the first state in the nation to hold off the most severe forms of fracking – for now. But after nearly four years of struggle, 2012 is shaping up to be the decisive year. New Yorkers sent Gov Cuomo and the DEC a clear message in January with over 66,000 comments on its draft review of proposed drilling regulations: No fracking in the Empire State!

    Nonetheless, Cuomo recently said he expected the DEC to consider and respond to these comments in “a few months.” We must be prepared for the worst. Defeat would industrialize some of the most pristine areas of our state, pipe radon-contaminated natural gas into downstate kitchens, and set up New York for a ruinous boom-and-bust cycle. Will you help us protect New York by sending a contribution to counter this rush to drill?

    We would use your financial support to fund the Chapter’s 2012 highest priorities:
    Taking legal action: The courts tend to level the playing field. Recently the industry lost in two key court decisions when state Supreme Court judges ruled that Dryden (Tompkins County) and Middlefield (Otsego County) may use zoning ordinances to exclude gas drilling from the towns. The DEC is set to release is finalized SGEIS later this year. We plan to file suit against what we anticipate will be a significantly flawed program.
    Ramping up our advocacy for solar wind: It’s easier to make the case against gas as a “bridge fuel” if we can show that renewables are feasible now. That’s why the Chapter has funded an impressive white paper on how to finance solar power in NY. Now we need to distribute and promote the plan as part of our campaign to build a renewable future for NY.
    Mobilizing more volunteers: We want to build on the remarkable work of our volunteers and actively involve more of our 36,000 members. Coordinating these efforts and amplifying our voice in Albany, as well as at hearings and rallies around the state, requires funding as well.
    As always, we are thankful for your past support. The Atlantic Chapter has not taken the slippery corporate route to fundraising. We depend on you, as a New Yorker, to defend New York. Your support will, among other things, finance the best anti-fracking work where it matters most.

    All the best,

    Jeff Bohner
    Chair, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter

    P.S.: Because the Club’s national agenda leaves only a tiny portion of your membership dues for the Chapter, we depend heavily on your direct donations. This once-a-year appeal is the principal way we build a strong grassroots force for the environment in NY. Help prevent the frackers from degrading our air, water, wildlife, food shed, tourism, real estate values, and roads and bridges. Please give to the Atlantic Chapter today!

  139. Sandra,
    The boys seem to be eager to clear their name of any wrongdoing. Just because you take money from someone does not appear to mean that you are in any way indebted to them. My banker does that all the time. She gives me money and expects nothing in return. So I certainly understand Mr. Brunes’s argument, although I don’t buy it. And Mr. Knapp. What a fine fellow he seems to be. He and his company are practically saving human kind. In truth, fracking is probably making him very rich. What a shame the Sierra Club has succumbed to the temptation of taking money from those it should be opposing. Nothing ever stays the same.

  140. The mixed record of the Sierra Club on nuclear power goes way back to the Diablo Canyon affair. Not a pretty story.

    However, to be fair, Brune’s recent comments seem more reasonable in this recent pronouncement:

    However, in light of the recent CB scandal around fracking donations, one can wonder if his stated desire to go after coal burning power plants first was influenced by contributions from nuclear supporters? Once you violate trust, you open the door to ongoing suspicions. I agree with Sandra that the only solution is for SC to make a full disclosure of all details of this debacle, turn over the millions that they received deceptively from fracking interests to the anti-fracking activist groups, and state without equivocation publicly that SC’s position is that fracking should be immediately banned.

    OK maybe Sandra didn’t call exactly for all I did, but that’s what I would like to see.

  141. Thank you, Sandra Steingraber, and Orion too. This is a great rallying cry against a dreadful process.

  142. Michael Knapp sure seems to be worried for some reason??

  143. Haven’t read all the comments but I do have one thing to say. Like Derrick Jensen says in his books, mankind has a death wish. I think this is true given all the grievous harm being done by resource industries all over the world. He also warns against horizontal hostilities between environmental groups as it diverts attention away from the real criminals–the frackers, drillers, oilmen, climate deniers, exploiters in general. In the US these are the Republicans, in Canada the conservatives. Love Sandra’s work, but please attack those who really deserve it, not others fighting the good fight. The world can’t afford the diversion of your energies.

  144. Margo — Unless we exercise oversight of the people we give our time and money to, they may end up selling us out to the folks we need to deter.

  145. Thanks to Greg Palast for his information about this whole issue of “green” organizations taking money from polluters- it’s beyond creepy. And how come it’s so hard to get information about this- aren’d they 401(c)3 tax-exempt organizations, and so shouldn’t they have to disclose this stuff? –In Maine I have been astonished for some time about the complete lack of any attempt by Maine Audubon or the Natural Resources Council of Maine to address the attack on Maine’s mountains and wildlife from the industrialization of our mountains by the wind industry. Only recently did I realize that there was a golden handshake there to explain it, and only with Dr. Steingraber’s letter did I realize that it isn’t just here (I’d been wondering). I found recently that the American Bird Conservancy is sliding into bed with the wind industry too, pushing an arrangement to give them immunity from prosecution on bird kills in exchange for- guess what?- money. They seem to be nice people at the ABC but one wonders if they realize what they’re getting into. – A couple more points: I hope everybody saw the report a week or so ago about methane escaping at the wellheads (a very potent greenhouse gas of course). And please don’t overlook the fact that Mr. Knapp is perfectly correct that wind energy has serious horror stories (how could it not, with the incredible amount of money involved?) and that in fact all large sources of energy do. That’s a reality that needs to be accepted and addressed before we throw away any more of our children’s future.

  146. to 146 Great you mentioned Derrik Jensen, folks should read his work. He did not assert what you claim though at all.

    In fact, check out this clip about precisely this issue of the sell out of groups like Sierra Club national, NRDC, EDF, ETC ETC based on Star Wars with Jensen narrating. Sad but true and funny:

  147. Sierra Club keeps sticking it’s foot in it’s mouth. I recently came upon a picture….er..scratch that…two pictures photo-shopped together, that when looked at tell an outrageous lie, and on their own webpage! It has, within the last few weeks been removed, but no apology was posted. It’s as if they they are trying to sweep another screw up under the rug instead of fixing their problems. The pictures were of a young woman hiking, with a map in her hand, and looking down from Bryce Canyon into the Alton Coal mine. Fused into one, she seems to be at Bryce and looking down into the pit….Oh yes, it is not even a real picture of Alton!
    Actually, it is impossible to see the mine from Bryce because of a mountain range in between the two. That did not stop Sierra Club from forging and then posting the picture. They have replaced that picture with another that tries to do the same thing… Alton Coal at the edge of Bryce Canyon. Switch one lie for another????? Of course this seem to be your modus operandi. When will you learn that ONLY the TRUTH is the TRUTH. As Ben Franklin is credited with saying, ” half the truth is often a great lie”. That is true, and your ability to be honest and tell the truth has been severely compromised. If you have a real issue with Alton Coal, tell us, let us inspect it in the light of day. Have Sierra Club officials and directors become so dishonest that they cannot even put forth an real argument and have to resort to these tactics?
    These two things kind of tell the story. Sierra Club has lost its ability to be honest and has gone from the preeminent group that John Muir founded to a floundering pile of …well, they might as well be in the pocket of big gas..wait..they are!
    Sierra Club, you should be ashamed of what you have become. You’ve lost your integrity and are doing nothing to get it back.
    It befuddles me why the board of directors allows those who have destroyed this once wonderful organization to remain in place and continue to do damage.
    Thanks for nothing, Sierra Club.
    For those who want to visit the site, it is:

    Charlie Saba
    Kanab, Utah, near Bryce Canyon

  148. The response of Michael Brune does not adequately address the Steingraber analysis and appears to have been spun by PR person expert in deflecting assertions that come from the heart as Dr Steingraber’s have that quality. In doing some research on this matter I had been aware that while Brune claims to have immediately done away with Chesapeake monies as soon as he come on board with Sierra, this stance is disingenuous when examining some dates. He was hired in March of 2010 and yet attended the Aspen CO Critical Path Conference with previous Sierra Club head, Carl Pope. At that session, according to the original posts to that website {have since been altered}a set of agreements were posted including that the big green NGOs would be out front in convincing the public that unconventional gas drilling was the way to proceed in energy development. If Mr. Brune had been so clean in his refusals to be aligned with the gas industry where was he when this widely criticized conference was exposed as a sell out to industry? Did he rush to disavow his endorsement of the strategy or did he wait until an investigating reporter was about to break the donation months later? To me, as a previous Club member, who has recently resigned in protest, this latter day conversion to denying corporate donations and influence does not ring true. If the head of the organization can not be trusted to operate in a transparent and democratic manner he or she should step down immediately. This is true for the members of the board who sit on committees that have a fiduciary responsibility to know from whence the dondations originate and under what conditions they are rendered. To those in previous posts who are in defense of the good things the Club does, yes the Club ‘s grassroots do wonderful things, but that not what is at issue here. Process is at issue and Brune and the Board Committees have failed and continue to fail miserably in coming clean on this scandal. Where is the public exposure on the terms of the recent Bloomberg donation of $50 million that comes from NY City’s Mayor who desperately wants natural gas pipelines built to his city? “Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you.” And the shame is especially egregious when it is appropriate for Brune and some of his Board ones the grassroots expect to be fully committed to their hard work and unpaid commitments. Let’s see a clean renewable club as well as clean renewable energy.

  149. Now we can look forward to the usual trial period of stone-walling by the top brass at SC, in hopes that the scandal will die away, so they can return to business as usual. It is interesting that the SC and fracking spokes-persons have gone silent on this comments blog. No doubt their PR advisors have told them that they are losing the battle for public opinion here. And their lawyers have probably advised them not to get themselves in any deeper. So much for open disclosure and discussion on their part. Except now one and all should realize that they fell silent because their arguments didn’t hold water. They lost. Their position was refuted decisively.

  150. Really! people are really raking the muck now!

    Immigration, nuclear and even someone who complains tht the club is bad because they didn’t like their artwork! Yes you people are correct, the club is a evil organization out to take over the world!

    Hell why don’t people go back and blame the club for the loss of Hetch Hetchy.

    I wonder how many of you ani-Sierra people even lifted a finger for a cause, You are all just a bunch of curmudgeons!

  151. Donna — I don’t think anyone who has posted here wants to destroy the Sierra Club. We all acknowledge that the Club has done a lot of good work over the years. But the problem is that many of us feel they have gone off track and violated some of their own principles, and we would like to see them correct that and go forward with a new transparency that precludes back room deals with polluters. And this is the basic issue: to accept large sums of money from the very people we should be preventing from damaging the environment is not right. Fracking is a process that damages the environment. It should be stopped, not supported.

  152. The best I could do was take the unopened envelope I recently received from Sierra Club, containing a “Free U.S. Wall Map” and write on it… ‘PLEASE DO NOT EVER LET ME HEAR FROM YOU AGAIN…YOU HIPPOCRATES.”

  153. Julia — Your reaction is understandable. Betrayal is a hard thing to take.

  154. Jack Ossont and others – Please look at comment 70 for how the Sierra Club’s participation in the Aspen Summit alongside the gas industry and pro-‘safe’ fracking NGOs and Democratic Party insiders is in keeping with the on-going betrayal of its base on fracking (and integrity).

  155. All,

    The issues raised by Sandra S can only be resolved by Club members. I am not one, so I can say little besides the analogy I made on 3/25/12 in comment # 69 to company unions, and how the NLRB would treat this had it arisen in the context of labor relations. Jack O’s 3/30/12 observation in # 152 about board members’ fiduciary obligations prompts my final thought: It has been suggested elsewhere that not all Club board members contemporaneously knew of the secret gas industry donations. If Club members choose not to leave the organization en masse and find a green home elsewhere, as I recommend, then each sitting board member needs to be interrogated. Each should declare individually what he/she knew and when he/she knew it. If any board member demonstrates he/she had no knowledge until the public disclosure of February 2012, he/she should step down or be recalled for being a cipher. Board members of every nonprofit everywhere are expected to monitor the organization’s important financial transactions, particularly including the identity of anonymous donors. The reason, as industry knows better than anyone else: He who pays the piper calls the tune.

    Ellis Boal

  156. Of course Club members should leave. Otherwise we have the sorry spectacle of incompetent and dishonest managers given a light slap on the wrist for their misdeeds and allowed to continue as if nothing significant had happened. We see this all the time in government and “high” finance. These people seem above the law, immune to real correction. Just being BIG seems to absolve individuals and organizations from all responsibility. Unless members choose to vote with their feet, it is unlikely that anything will really change. Its not like Sierra Club is the only environmental group one could choose to support…

  157. Chesapeake has a lot of power here in Okla.Unfortunately when I was seeking info re Natural Gas as Bridge,Sierra was no help…so I think Mt Brunne should step down..I did get to meet him when he came to Okla,but the planet is in huge trouble.I found the proper info about the Bridge idea from Mike Ewell and his Environmental Justice site..Mike knows a lot and speaks clearly,uncompromisingly..I think he would be the best choice for Pres of Sierra

  158. Unfortunately, it’s not just the Sierra Club. As others have written about, there’s Conservation International, the NRDC and many other “high-power” supposedly “environmental” groups who pay their upper “management” big bucks to play the political reality, whether it’s good for the environment or not!

  159. What I was sorry was missing in Sandra’s article was a big picture perspective on fossil fuels. There is a bit of NIMBYism in proclaiming the evils of natural gas and fracking based on local impacts without looking at the evils of coal and even nuclear, and total impacts.

    There also has to be responsibility taken by us as consumers. The coal and NG industries can’t sell power we don’t demand and use. We got ourselves into this mess, and we’re not getting ourselves out of it overnight. The best solution is not happening – most people are not willing to use significantly less energy if it’s inconvenient. And especially since we’re doing a terrible job of conserving energy and investing in efficiency and renewable energy solutions, the transition will take time. Judgements are continually made as to the least damaging options we have, and those judgements evolve as we learn more.

    A number of people have castigated Michael Brune for not falling further on what is really Carl Pope’s sword. The key thing is that when he learned what was occurring, he went to the board and had it stopped. Sierra Club policy has and is being revised, and Michael is doing a great job of listening to chapters and volunteers throughout the country. As a Sierra Club volunteer, I can attest that the Club is indeed changing.

    We all know that the fossil fuel industry has far more money than environmental and other groups have. There’s also the issue of whether to work with the fossil fuel industry to change them, as well as from the outside to oppose their destructive ways, and how best to accomplish this. Certainly it takes money to hire staff and run campaigns. Money taken should not be tainted, and I think Mr Pope made the wrong decisions, but it is very understandable about the desire to raise funds that allow good work to be done.

    This doesn’t seem to be recognized when the Sierra Club is called on the carpet for not doing enough. We’re all frustrated with not being able to do more, but there aren’t enough staff or volunteers to take on the myriad of battles to be fought, and funding constraints are a major issue. The choice then is to either work with or through the Club, or work through other channels. Meantime, the fossil fuel industry continues to spend millions on ads proclaiming the cleanness of fossil fuels and lobbying congress that we can’t match.

    Ideals guide us, but decisions must be based on reality, and being indignant isn’t a strategy. We’re facing environmental decisions we don’t like and where the best short term options may not be good ones. I hope we’ll hold organizations and people accountable, but also take a hard look at the big picture (not only on the environment, but also money, politics and culture), and decide what battles we really need to fight and will be the most productive.

  160. Don Ferber — Your comments amount to little more than a whitewash of SC, and a criticism of Sandra’s letter. To hear you tell it, everything is really OK and nothing needs to change. Your alibis are the usual stuff from people who don’t want to fess up and make proper restitution. Apparently you think the specific demands Sandra and others have made here should just be brushed aside as irrelevant and misguided. This kind of denial just won’t get the job done. We want environmental groups that are responsive to the people who support them, and refrain from taking dirty money from the industries that we are trying to prevent from destroying our world.

  161. Mike K:
    Many of the charges your are leveling against Michael Brune and the Sierra Club are way off the mark. In addition, you have purposely misconstrued the very thoughtful comments posted by Don Ferber. I think it’s time you tell us who you are and not hide under the protective mantel of anonymity.

  162. Donna — In response to your comment #132 I would say the same thing that I posted to Don. You are scrambling for alibis and diversions instead of meeting the charges against SC head on. These obfuscating tactics will fool very few in these pages. We are familiar with such rhetoric from the corporate PR campaigns. It is a shame when an environmental group indulges in these same evasive tactics.
    Your attempt to make my innocent desire to have some privacy look suspicious is part of the same bag of tricks. I live on a small farm in Appalachia. I speak only for myself out of a desire to honor and serve the beauty and dignity of Nature. I am not employed or beholden to anyone.

  163. Mike k:

    Virtually all the individuals posting on this blog, no matter what their view, identify themselves; except you. When corporate leaders make exagerated or unsubstantiated claims, we demand to see their evidence and that they identify themselves. ” Living on a small farm in Appalachia” just doesn’t cut it; many of us live in rural areas; and I assume all Orion readers “desire to honor and serve the beauty and dignity of Nature”. I also suspect that most of us are NOT employed, funded by, or beholden to anyone. So why don’t you have the courage to tell us who you are? You want to protect your” innocent privacy?” Those of us who for decades have worked around the clock to protect human health and the environment, with the help and resources of the Sierra Club and other organizations, sacrificed our “innocent privacy” long ago.

    Oh, by the way, my name is not donna.

  164. Sorry for the name mix-up. Caroline, perhaps you are unaware that one of the first moves of totalitarian states is to do away with the individual’s right to privacy. To imply that a person wishing to preserve that right is somehow doing so for sinister reasons would be par for the course for fascists. “The better to control you, my dear” the Wolf mumbled to his prey.” So I choose to hang onto one of my few remaining rights in this country sinking into totalitarianism.

    It is interesting to me that instead of dealing with what I have to say here, you raise this fallacious issue regarding identity. My words speak for themselves, regardless of who may have uttered them. Besides, many others on this thread have uttered much of what I have said in their own ways. Why pick on me? If you want to continue this ridiculous charade, go right on with it. But be advised that I will continue to deny your bullying gambit. You might look up the meaning of the ad hominem attack, but you probably know already what that means. It is rather a low level approach to the serious issues we are discussing here.

  165. Donna Maxwell,
    I don’t know you, but I did know Judy Bonds, worked closely with her every day for nearly 10 years. We brainstormed together, we organized together, our lives were threaded and threatened together, and I can tell you without doubt she would be all over SC right now. Yes, SC has done some great work in the past, but now something is greatly wrong. They seem to have forgotten about the suffering of people in MTR communities. They ARE filing lawsuits based on self reporting water violations of mining companies. Millions of dollars are being settled, but none of that money is going directly to MTR effected communities and zero dollars are going to help the efforts of those that put their life on the line everyday fighting the injustice of MTR.
    When SC launched their beyond coal campaign the first thing a viewer saw when going to the web site was MTR. They used MTR to raise $$ for the Beyond Coal campaign. Bloomberg then gave them 50 million dollars. When SC was asked to help fund a health awareness campaign directed by those that live and struggle with MTR every day, they refused, saying that none of the Beyond Coal Campaign money could be used for MTR. When it was pointed out that they had used MTR to raise money for Beyond Coal, they took the MTR bait off the BC web site. Yet; just last night I received a telemarketing call from SC seeking money for wetlands. I told the telemarketer that I only donated money to end MTR. She asked me to hold for a moment, I did that, and she came back and said Yes, SC works to end MTR and cited the Beyond Coal Campaign. That is a problem folks, a big problem, hinting of purposeful misleading. To add to the misleading information coming from SC these days, just three weeks ago, Mary Ann Hitt the Beyond Coal Campaign Director stated in her blog that MTR permits has slowed to a trickle. Far from the truth. A simple review at the WV DEP web site on new and expanding mtr permits clearly prove that is not the case. Again, misleading information from SC. Why so much misleading information? Is this a case of incompetence or a case of corporate influence to purposely mislead the public for self serving purposes, or is it more of a case of getting to big for their britches arrogantly thinking they are untouchable Lord and Masters of the suffering Hillbilly?

  166. As a result of our discussion here on Orion, and all that has come forth about the problems at Sierra Club, I now feel that the only way the Club can save its good name is for it to request a full investigation of its operations by an independent panel. Professional investigators like Greg Palast and many others would certainly be available to lead such a process. In so many cases involving alleged serious misconduct and betrayal of public trust, this submitting to open impartial airing of all the facts is the only way to regain public trust, and move ahead on a fresh basis. I am not an enemy of the Sierra Club. I offer my advice in the hope of restoring them to greater effectiveness in preventing the destruction of our precious natural world. Sometimes healing requires opening to constructive criticism, and restructuring if necessary. To limp on with all these serious charges unresolved will not earn the Club the support it needs to make a real contribution to our future together.

  167. Mike K:

    Please stop with the distortions. I in no way believe the Sierra Club was or is perfect, nor will it ever be. I and others have voiced opinions within the Club about things we need to change, and some of these issues are ongoing. So is the learning, both of the science and by people involved with these issues and leading the Club.

    I’m sure I won’t convince you since you clearly have an axe to grind here, which is why people were asking for your identity. I’m not sure what more you would hope to gain through an investigation. You stated “to accept large sums of money from the very people we should be preventing from damaging the environment is not right.” Yes, Michael Brune, I, and the Sierra Club agree with that, which is why this was stopped and money turned back. Mr Pope is gone and policies have changed. A drawn out investigation won’t resolve this for those who feel not enough has been done when people bend facts to fit perceptions rather than the other way around. Just look at climate change denial.

    Remember too that this was done under Mr Pope at at different time with a different lens. As with Clorox, the Sierra Club tried to promote cleaner alternatives while obtaining added funds to help the Club do more. That’s a valid approach and what they were trying to do was good – but I agree, a line was crossed.

    I’m sorry you feel so betrayed. And I agree with your early comments about needing more fundamental change. (That was part of what I was getting at.) Many in the Club (as elsewhere) are understanding the interconnection of so many things, and that we need much more than just buying or being green.

    What concerns me is current problems (with the Club, and elsewhere) that need resolving, and it would be more productive to deal with those issues.

    If things have not changed and problems reoccur, I hope you will haul the Sierra Club out on the carpet. I’ll be there with you. In the meantime, what I’d rather hear about from you and spend my energies on is productive solutions to the major problems we face.


  168. Don Ferber: Let’s not suggest that the Sierra Club is leveling with their members on the tough decisions they have to make! Taking secret donations from gas industry is just one indication the only leveling that’s happening is of any grassroots that gets in the way of spin.

    There are tough decisions, true, but the Sierra Club is promoting ‘green’ consumerism with ads for mutualfunds and cruise ship travel in their magazine. Is a ‘green’ mutual fund and ‘green’ old growth forest timber (they’re members of the market-based ‘solution’ to deforestation called Forest Stewardship COuncil; see for impacts), are these tough decisions the SC makes?
    Their position (if you can call it that) on Waxman-Markey was tepid opposition (‘concern’) with no informing let alone rallying of their membership for what’s needed: degrowth, carbon tax, rapid shift to decentralized renewables, ending industrial old growth logging, rapid reduction of air travel, incentives against reproduction in the highly-consuming north.

    I wish individual commitments would avert the catastrophe our world (especially our children and theirs) faces (commitments like reusing and recycling or, for example, a decision to end one’s use of airplanes, to ride bikes and walk when we can, to buy less and reuse, to take shorter showers, to air dry clothing etc. I have made such a commitment but I know these alone won’t work. Even if we all do them, we won’t avoid a world terrible for the next generation:

    We need policies that are based in science (physics, engineering, logistics etc). For that we need an environmental movement unfettered by secrecy, ‘possiblism’, and corporate-polluter $. Not the Sierra Club.

  169. Posted just after Don Ferber posted his most recent comment. Him and a few others here seem intent on protecting the Club from scrutiny it requires to rebuild trust with environmentalists. It is Brune’s Club which continues to gag state chapters who want to ban fracking. Plus what’s happening in states like Michigan and nationally where ‘safe’ fracking gets promoted as well as industry-funded studies. More lines crossed. Much too many!
    Brune should come clean in ways Palast outlined. And an independent investigation is a great idea. Maybe the Club could become truly democratic. I think Club elections deserve scrutiny too. After $26 million from Gas and gags for the State Chpts, I don’t trust anything they say.
    I’m tired of the divisiveness of apologists who try to wear down proponents of effective house cleaning and faithfulness to the grassroots by opposing investigations that would ‘drag on’ etc. And who suggest folks who want an independent, polluter-free, principled environmental movement have ‘an ax to grind’.
    I’m signing off. But I know we – the grassroots nationwide see this all too clearly – and we’re going to (we’ve got to) win.

  170. Linda,

    I agree with you on a number of things including that secret donations or those that produce real perceptions of bias or selling out have no place in any honest organization. (I opposed the Club’s taking money from Clorox to support the Green Works products.) But that policy and practice, and the person/people who supported it have changed. I guess that satisfies some of us, but not others. My concern over an axe to grind was not about an investigation (couldn’t find the Palast article), but distortions of views that were presented.

    The Sierra Club is sometimes too conservative and clunky for my tastes as well. That’s why I’m also involved with some other groups who are less so. But part of their role has been to try to work on the inside with those we often oppose, which is worthwhile but not for everyone. That’s also why it’s good there are other organizations who don’t and take more agressive stances.

    But it’s also not really accurate to say that the Sierra Club gags chapters. Most organization try to speak with one voice. When there are many voices speaking in very disparate terms, it can weaken the organization’s effectiveness (who do you believe?), and the Club asks chapters to speak consistent with Club policy. Doesn’t mean they can’t (and don’t) disagree, and that’s to the good, and I think there could be more openness.

    The Club is currently reviewing their stance on fracking with feedback from the chapters, and seem to be moving to stronger opposition. They’ve already said any fracking has to be done in an environmentally responsible manner, which most, if not all fracking isn’t currently. But I also don’t want to see us return to using more coal which isn’t banned, but is highly destructive from cradle to grave (no pun intended).

    So far, we’re having trouble using less energy and building enough renewable energy, and too many people won’t put up with having less energy or paying more. That’s very frustrating, and something I put a lot of personal energy in to (and sounds like you have too), but we haven’t found any easy solutions.

    It’s no fun having to constantly choose between bad choices, and having very limited powers to effect positive change. I agree with those who talk about fundamental change and that it needs to be grass roots, and am puzzled why more people don’t see that and constantly vote (with their dollars as well as at the election box) against what I see is their own self interest.

  171. Linda,

    I agree with you on a number of things including that secret donations or those that produce real perceptions of bias or selling out have no place in any honest organization. (I opposed the Club’s taking money from Clorox to support the Green Works products.) But that policy and practice, and the person/people who supported it have changed. I guess that satisfies some of us, but not others. My concern over an axe to grind was not about an investigation (didn’t see Palast’s article or posting), but distortions of views that were presented.

    The Sierra Club is sometimes too conservative and clunky for my tastes as well. That’s why I’m also involved with some other groups who are less so. But part of their role has been to try to work on the inside with those we often oppose, which is worthwhile but not for everyone. That’s also why it’s good there are other organizations who don’t and take more agressive stances.

    But it’s also not really accurate to say that the Sierra Club gags chapters. Most organization try to speak with one voice. When there are many voices speaking in very disparate terms, it can weaken the organization’s effectiveness (who do you believe?), and the Club asks chapters to speak consistent with Club policy. Doesn’t mean they can’t (and don’t) disagree, and that’s to the good, and I think there could be more openness.

    The Club is currently reviewing their stance on fracking with feedback from the chapters, and seem to be moving to stronger opposition. They’ve already said any fracking has to be done in an environmentally responsible manner, which most, if not all fracking isn’t currently. But I also don’t want to see us return to using more coal which isn’t banned, but is highly destructive from cradle to grave (no pun intended).

    So far, we’re having trouble using less energy and building enough renewable energy, and too many people won’t put up with having less energy or paying more. That’s very frustrating, and something I put a lot of personal energy in to (and sounds like you have too), but we haven’t found any easy solutions.

    Don’t enjoy having to constantly choose between bad choices, and having very limited powers to effect positive change. I agree with those who talk about fundamental change and that it needs to be grass roots, and am puzzled why more people don’t see that and constantly vote (with their dollars as well as at the election box) against what I see is their own self interest.

    Still looking for solutions.

  172. Don Ferber — Other than vague accusations of unspecified “distortions” and “having an axe to grind” your response to me (if you could call it that) was pretty weak even for corporate spin. You and your corporate companions have not answered a single question directly that Sandra, Linda, myself, and others have put to you. Do you really think that sorry performance engenders trust in us about what goes on behind closed doors at Sierra Club? Is all you have got to say is, “Trust us, everything is fine at SC, there is no need for any oversight or investigation?” I would like to tell you that the time for blind trust in your operations is OVER.

  173. My dear friends of Nature and to those seeking happiness. M.T. write to you today as “Matteo Tavera” (tranlation by George Verdon (Copyrights). I wish to be brief and non-invasive as I offer you my work, the fruit of numerous years of reflections and observations: Google: esd Journal Sacred Mission, George Verdon, Author (Copywrights) but you can read it or (copy for self)

  174. Don Ferber — “…any fracking has to be done in an environmentally responsible manner…”

    Something your Club seems to have overlooked in their eagerness to do business with the frackers, is that there is no responsible way to do fracking. This destructive process is inherently damaging to our natural environment causing toxic pollution, and destabilizing the geological structures beneath the surface. If you would focus more on protecting our fragile ecosystem, and less on making money from polluters, then the Club could return to fulfilling its original mandate set by John Muir. How you could have strayed so far from that original benign intention definitely needs thorough investigation to insure that there are not similar deviations that may have been covered up, and are yet to be revealed. Genuine contrition includes a willingness to make complete disclosure and to make full amends for what has been done wrongly.

  175. Mike k:
    Neither Don Ferber, nor I, nor others who are trying to tone down the rhetoric of these increasingly vituperative attacks on the Sierra Club are using “corporate spin;” nor are we “corporate companions;” nor are we “blindly defending” the Club. We admit–as does the Club– that a serious mistake was made to use corporate money to fund the Beyond Coal Campaign. The Sierra Club does not gag its chapters. In fact, no other major environmental organization has so many mechanisms in place to listen to and act on grass roots input. The Club’s changed position on promoting natural gas as a bridge fuel is just one example of grass roots pressure. And the Club had already changed leadership and put in safeguards and oversight mechanisms to more carefully scrutinize future donations, before the story broke and before you and Sandra came on board to express your outrage.
    While you and your friends continue to vent your anger and outrage, the rest of us are using our energies to fight the real culprits that use their vast resources to promote products and practices that harm human health and the environment.

  176. Caroline — Are you really trying to equate this serious substantive matter to merely an emotional tantrum of Sandra and myself? Your transparent rhetorical spin will not erase the enormity of what the Club stands convicted of. Let me ask you what transgression and betrayal of its ideals and the wishes of its members would be sufficiently grave to call for an investigation the organization? Is it your contention that a slap on the wrist and a promise to be good is all that is necessary to deal with what many would consider an outrage of major proportions. How would you react to a headline that said MAJOR ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANIZATION FOUND TO BE IN BED WITH POLLUTERS!

  177. Mike k:
    your claim that the Club is in bed with polluters is exaggerated and false. Much more serious than temporarily having used corporate funds to help finance the Beyond Coal Campaign, are the many instances where major federal and state agencies–EPA, USDA,Department of Interior’s MMS and others– that are supposed to protect human health and the environment are in bed with the very industries they are supposed to regulate. The Club uses its limited resources to force the regulating agencies to do their job. For a recent example of the Club’s legislative means to this end, see, for example, the letter Michael Brune recently wrote to President Obama re: the needed actions and reforms that would restore the Gulf’s ecosystem and prevent another Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill:

  178. I realize now more than before what Paul Kingsforth was saying in his beautiful essay published in Orion — Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist. When your most authentic voices for the natural world abandon ship, what do you have left? Disregard their warnings and continue playing patty-cake with the very despoilers of the world you were charged with opposing. After all, green-washing pays really well these days. And so many have become unable to distinguish the true coin from the false. I leave you all now, to mull these matters as you may. I’ve said all I need to say. Sweet dreams as you nod off lulled by the droning of the damage control experts, the spin doctors, and the PR disciples.

    Your friendly gadfly, Mr. Toad, will buzz off now to sip the divine nectar present in places deep in Nature, far from the mischief of man. I leave you with a few words from my friend Bill Yeats:

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

  179. Gagging:

    “But it’s also not really accurate to say that the Sierra Club gags chapters.”

    The Chapters are not allowed to call for banning fracking. Th Club could be democratic by saying that local chapters can call for more stringent environmental protection but not less than the Naitonal calls for. It doesn’t and prefers gagging instead.

    “Most organization try to speak with one voice. When there are many voices speaking in very disparate terms, it can weaken the organization’s effectiveness”

    This would only strengthen the Club and its (ostensibly) environmental mission. Who could be against that? The Club.

    ‘Safe’ Fracking:

    “They’ve already said any fracking has to be done in an environmentally responsible manner”

    Exactly what the industry calls for. Put the ‘trusted NGOs in front’ as the Aspen Energy Summit outlined their new reframing should do.

  180. Posted by Orion on behalf of Michael Brune


    I’m glad you saw my recent op-ed in USA TODAY about natural gas. I hope you also had a chance to read this one in the Baltimore Sun about the risks posed by liquid natural gas (LNG) export terminals. We could use your support on that campaign. Our latest protest in Cove Point, Marylandnicely lays out our concern with exporting LNG. We’ve filed opposition to three proposed LNG export facilities — and we’re prepared to keep filing as new facilities are proposed.

    You noted the absence of the words “ban” or “moratorium” in the USA TODAY op-ed and asked for our position more generally. Since we started our campaign almost two years ago, we’ve supported the work of our local grassroots activists across the country. In New York, we’ve supported and supplied resources to our Atlantic chapter’s fight for a continued fracking moratorium by endorsing SB 4220 and extensively weighing in on the SGEIS. We continue to organize and advocate to keep the sensitive Delaware River watershed free from fracking, and have filed extensive comments with the DRBC. We are also exploring litigation to strengthen and extend the moratorium in NY.

    We’ve also endorsed and supported other Sierra Club chapters across the country in calling for moratoriums, including in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia.

    In Pennsylvania — ground zero for the shale gas rush — we also vigorously opposed the terrible HB 1950 (now Act 13) bill. I visited Dimock during my first year with the Club, and we’ve worked with the families there to help pay for and make sure they have clean drinking water and to hold Cabot Corp responsible for the reckless drilling that contaminated their wells.

    In Ohio, we’ve worked with the state chapter to provide landowners with baseline water testing before fracking becomes widespread through our volunteer-driven Water Sentinels program and we’re pushing back against the hazardous storage of toxic fracking wastewater, which has been shown to cause earthquakes. We’ve weighed in and demanded for tough well casing regulations so that Ohio communities don’t have to be the next Dimock. We’re also fighting to keep fracking out of public lands and state parks in Ohio.

    We are also fighting to close the outrageous federal loopholes that exempt the gas industry from so many important environmental safeguards. For instance, we are urging the EPA to ban the use of diesel in fracking fluid. We’ve also petitioned the EPA to start regulating dangerous and deadly hydrogen sulfide emitted from oil and gas processing facilities. We supported and signed on to a petition by Earthjustice asking EPA to use its authority under TSCA to require drilling companies to submit health and safety information on chemicals used in fracking. We insist that the volume and content of all fracking fluids and flowback should be disclosed, and that all toxics should be eliminated.

    We believe the natural gas industry must be held accountable for the significant environmental damage it creates – in every community across the country. We are also standing up for communities choking on pollution from filthy coal-fired power plants. We’re working hard for families fighting the arsenic, dioxins, and mercury spewing out of coal plant smokestacks. And we believe mountaintop removal coal mining is abomination that should be permanently and immediately outlawed.

    I mention coal because our challenge is to do all of this work in an integrated way. Although we’re calling for a suspension of fracking (moratoria), we are not currently calling for a permanent ban. Just as we need to avoid an increase of gas caused by the retirement of dirty coal plants so too must we avoid inadvertently increasing coal demand due to a ban on fracking. Dirty fossil fuels — and nuclear power — hurt people, communities, and the environment all across the U.S. and, indeed, the planet. Our goal is to replace all of them with the efficient use of clean power like solar and wind, as quickly as possible. We don’t have a magic wand, so we’re focusing on the ones causing the most harm first. The riskiest oil pipelines. The dirtiest coal plants. The most dangerous drilling practices, including fracking.

    We’re working to support and strengthen the movement for clean energy. We know that whether we’re fighting to stop fracking in New York, mountaintop-removal mining in Appalachia, or tar-sands pipelines in the Midwest, we’re facing a common foe. Working together, I believe we can prevail.

    I hope you and I can work together, too, on natural gas and other issues, and I’d welcome the chance to have that conversation with you anytime.

    With best regards,

    Michael Brune

  181. I wish Sierra Club the best of luck in negotiating with the oil/gas industry to make fracking more ‘environmentally friendly’. To me it sounds horrible no matter what.

    In a larger scheme of things, perhaps the real issue here is our inability to break from an economic and lifestyle model that make us more thirsty for quick conventional energy every minute that goes by and sadly the so called ‘green’ energy is still a privilege for the few that can afford it.

  182. Fracking? What we do know is that injecting more poisons into our already dangerously polluted ecosystem cannot possibly do other than cause more harm. Why would we do that? Only two reasons: greed for money, and greed for ever greater energy to help destroy our planet. As far as the geological damage of this dangerous fracturing, we should remember the increasing scientific evidence about our subterranean realm as regards to its dynamic nature and vast interconnectedness. Long term, we don’t have a clue how much damage we may cause by ignorant tampering with this vital area. Will we choose to destabilize this dimension as we have the air and water? Anyone who calls for this “fracking experiment” to be conducted in a safe manner is either a fool or a knave, probably both. For the SC to call for a “safe” way to continue this patently damaging procedure only reveals their continuing abetting of these criminals, and their unwillingness to stand up for the simple truth: there is now and never will be a way to poison and damage the Earth that is “safe”.

  183. Michael Brune’s attempts to appear contrite in the face of legitimate questions as to the fate of industry and politicians contributions to the organization he now hierarchically heads, seems too much of the traditional smoke and mirrors employed by the contributors.

    I live in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of NY and after years of volunteer research on fracking I’ve come to the same conclusion that thousands of unpaid community activists have reached, this fracking technology pushed upon us by the largest corporations in the world is a technology that should be a crime. If the laws from which the oil and gas industry was removed by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 were still in effect, these folks may well have gone to prison today. There are jail sentences ranging from 1-15 years for toxic pollution in the Clean Air, Clean Water and RCRA laws that the Gas and Oil boys and girls were exempted from in that act. Now we have a National NGO Green head , part of the Gang Greens, equivocating on whether to ban a equally egregious industrial practice as MTR. Come on Mr. Brune, get the cojones to call a frack a frack and fit into the Muirian mantel you proclaim to wear. I urge every grassroots folk to no longer listen to your spin until you demonstrate a total commitment to sustainable energy sources and call for a nation wide ban or as I prefer, a recriminalization of fracking activities. To do less is to parse one community monster with another.

  184. Michael Brune’s letter reminds me of the lines by Scott: “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”. It is strange to me how these folks seem to feel that shotgun enumeration of their supposed good deeds and intentions somehow absolves them from directly confronting the plain and simple facts of their transgressions and the proposed simple remedies to resolve those issues. Ignore, change the subject, attack the messenger, lay down a smoke screen, deny any wrong doing, promise to be good in future…on and on, standard ploys in the PR spin doctor’s handbook. The one thing to be avoided is to meet the issue head on with honesty and good faith.

  185. It appears that Sandra’s letter has sadly resulted in releasing a number of attack dogs that are trying to destroy the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. Not that they will succeed, since many of the attacks are unfounded and some verge on libel and defamation.
    Meanwhile the Club needs our support, not just on reducing the risks of fracking, but also on the risks of oil drilling, nuclear power, air pollution from cars, destructive farming practices, exposure to persistent and toxic chemicals, etc.

    Sarah, reign in your attack dogs! In the current anti-environmental climate, the work that needs to be done to protect human health and the environment is more important than unfairly maligning the Sierra Club for past mistakes.

  186. I just reread Sandra’s letter that began this discussion. It is an outrage that anyone would call this dedicated woman who has been such a devoted defender of Nature an “attack dog.” Only one convinced that any call for openness, honesty, and accountability is really an evilly intentioned attack could say that after reading Sandra’s letter. If I have to choose between Sandra and the cover-up artists and truth deniers opposed to her, my choice is clear. My respect for her courage and devotion took a huge leap upward when I read her letter, where she bravely set aside whatever she has gained from her association with SC in favor of holding to the higher principles that have guided her life. My hat is off to you Sandra, you deeply inspire me.

    What is it that these SC apologist’s are so afraid of ? An open investigation to clarify SC’s relationships with the polluting industries that it supposed to monitor, expose, and oppose. Is a request for the whole truth too much to ask at this point, given the things that have come out about SC so far?

  187. Caroline Snyder

    The people who are attacking the club obviously have never dealt with the volunteers and dedicated staff of the club. Most of these people are NIMBY’s and I bet never cared about any environmental issue until gas drilling came to their back yards.

    Its obvious that mike k has a pathological issue with Sierra Club, he needs to have his meds adjusted!

  188. Jane Miester and Caroline Snyder,

    Your comments do nothing to address the issues that have been legitimately raised by caring folks who feel that they have been mislead by a Sierra Club’s leadership that has a questionable history with its now admitted relationship with a least two industrial contaminators of the planet.

    The people you are attacking are raising substantial issues you are deflecting by blaming the messengers. Talk of irony, Carolyn calls for Sarah, {whoever that is} to call off her attack dogs. If you are referring to Sandra Steingraber, shame on you, for to know her is to quickly realize her integrity and to know she would be the last person on earth to encourage what you infer.

    I have been engaged in environmental issues for nearly 40 years and I have rarely seen such venomous attacks from so called environmentalists as have come out on this string. When people resort to such attacks on others it raises a question of why doth they protest so much? Is there much more here to examine than has already been made public?

    Oh and as to the assertion that we, who are commenting on the issues, have no familiarity with “volunteers and dedicated staff of the club.”; I deal on a daily basis with such grassroots folk and they are the true heart of the club. The non-surprising part is they are also distressed and concerned by the issues being discussed. Perhaps you are too?

  189. Thanks for your clear and reasonable comments, Jack. When an organization is found to have been engaged in some form of wrongdoing, there are two predictable reactions from those both within and outside the organization. Some will call for an open and thorough investigation, and others will suggest that nothing positive can come from that, and that it is basically better to forget the whole thing and move ahead, trusting that those in charge will act to insure such mistakes will never happen again.

    History tells us that the second option of blind trust and cover-up does nothing to heal deep seated tendencies in the organization that need to be brought to the light of day, debated openly in an atmosphere of full disclosure and accountability, and fundamentally corrected through this process. Only then can future missteps be prevented, and the organization be fully healed and able to properly fulfill its mission in the future. A key to understanding why these corrective procedures fully engaged are so effective in putting a group back on course, is that the particular incident(s) that have called things into question are often only symptomatic of deeper problems in the corporate culture itself. Band-aid fixes are unable to deal with such underlying dysfunctions.

    Meanwhile, those who desperately hold on to the cover-up option, having no real answers are reduced to blowing as much hot emotional air and smoke as they can to support the unsupportable non-solution that they propose.

  190. I have been thinking deeply about the issues raised in this discussion. Here is what I suggest doing now. Those of you who are members of local Club Chapters should make copies of Sandra’s letter, and share it with your group. Then you should ask them whether they feel an investigation of the central leadership and its performance should be asked for or not. Whether a group’s members reach a consensus on this issue or not, they should be encouraged to write or otherwise communicate their view to Michael Brune and the board of SC. I would also suggest that you share your process with other groups in your area. At this point a national referendum on this question seems the best way to put pressure on a leadership that as evidenced by their input here on Orion seems unwilling to take these issues seriously. To ignore this situation will put your Club which has such wonderful potential on an uncertain course of unanswered questions, diminished trust, and lessened effectiveness. Let’s vote to endorse a process to put these issues to rest definitively. You might make your group’s members aware of this discussion on Orion to better help them decide what measures to endorse in this situation.

  191. Of course in the unlikely event that the club chose to invite a referendum on whether it should be investigated, an independent polling organization would be required. That would insure a fair and open voting procedure. The thing needed now while these allegations are fresh is to hold the club’s feet to the fire to insure that the leadership does not simply ignore its responsibilities, and hope the issue will simply fade away. For the membership to allow this to happen would be to neglect their responsibility to keep the Club honest and true to its mission.

  192. Nice try Mike (Knapp),

    Any idea why we’re still driving fossil-fuel powered vehicles, and using lots more fossil and nuclear-powered systems?

    Maybe because thirty-one years ago, Ronald Reagan removed the solar panel that Jimmy Carter had installed on the White House.

    Maybe because Reagan, a shill for some of the worst industries ever, set back any effort to put the U.S on track to rapidly develop renewable energy.

    If not for off-the chart political corruption, the U.S. would NOW be off of or nearly off of fossil and nuclear-based energy.

    And also Mikey, I didn’t accuse millions of people of being psychopaths, but I’ll remain resolute in saying that the upper crust (good term for a bunch of crumbs) of those industries, and much of Congress and at least two U.S. Supreme Court members (hint, hint) qualify for that term.

    And further, I dare you to confront any of the hundreds, if not thousands of gas-drilling victims and lay your lies on them.

    Yes, no perfect system exists, and the manufacture of wind and solar energy products DOES produce some pollution. Well, duh! Does that mean we should enslave ourselves to the insanity of fossil and nuclear fuels? We must strive for the BEST system or systems possible, recognizing that nothing is perfect. We also must remember that if we move in the right direction, renewable energy systems will continue to be more efficient. If we continue to use fossil and nuclear fuels we can be sure that our quality of life will continue in its current downward spiral, and that we’ll be cheating our children and grandchildren out of any kind of healthy life.

    By the way, Mike, what do you tell YOUR children, or your nieces and nephews? Or, do you simply lie to them, like you do so well to all of us?

  193. We consider the following changes essential to establishing Sierra Club’s (SC) reputation and trust among its supporters. We would like Sandra Steingraber to know she is rightly chagrined with national SC. SC should immediately change its national policy and call for a ban on fracking in NYS and use their considerable resources to achieve this objective. Instead SC national leadership delays on deciding whether individual states (chapters) can advocate for a ban or not. They were asked for this decision in a Resolution by membership with the request, given the emergency situation of NYS, that it be made at the national board of directors meeting in New Orleans in late February. SC now says the decision will be reached at their May meeting “or some time after.” NYS legislative session ends in June. Unless we can stop fracking now with a ban, the governor can issue an FEIS and proceed after Findings to issue drilling permits thus extending many gas leases for another five years.

    SC needs to work toward removing the Halliburton Loophole from the federal environmental protection bills to restore the bills’ integrity. SC should lead and promote their mandate of conservation, efficiency, all reasonable, non-destructive renewable energy sources and build transportation grids. This could help to bring sustainable jobs to NYS and boost our economy. It is important for SC to release the letter of intention and/or contract that accompanies the Bloomberg $50 million donation for their Beyond Coal campaign so we can ascertain exactly how the money is to be spent in addition to closing coal plants. Complete transparency by an exact accounting of how every Beyond Coal Campaign penny is spent is essential. Only immediate and dramatic reforms in new policies and actions for a ‘beyond all fossil fuels’ campaign will restore public trust.

    Fay Muir, President
    Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition

  194. Posted by Orion on behalf of Henry S. Cole, Ph.D.


    Dr. Sandra Steingraber, whose letter describes her legitimate outrage and the many serious risks associated with fracking, has made stellar contributions to the cause of environmental health. And Sierra Club has a strong record of accomplishment in the areas of environmental protection and sustainability over many decades. So I find it discouraging and sad to see the rift. Yet, I am hopeful that we may all use the opportunity to learn and to forge a stronger environmental movement for the future.

    I share Dr. Steingraber’s concerns about fracking, but also fear the broader impacts and risks associated with the current natural gas frenzy. In the online journal Ekos-Squared, I have published articles on the dangers associated with natural gas. One on fracking ( and several on the antiquated, obsolete and deteriorating transmission lines ( that carry natural gas from the fields to distribution centers. Many of these high pressure lines pass through residential neighborhoods and over the past 18 months there have been a rash of deadly accidents.

    Methane is also a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon monoxide, and there are many points in production and transmission where releases to the atmosphere occur. In addition some financial experts have warned that the gas frenzy may be yet another bubble. For some revealing journalism on the subject see recent article in Rolling Stone (

    The blistering pace of natural gas development is fueled not only by the financial and energy industries but also by political leaders whom receive huge campaign donations from the same powerful interests. Not surprisingly, neither EPA nor state agencies are engaged in effective regulation to protect public health.

    Sierra Club’s decision to accept funding from Chesapeake Energy was a mistake. However, I would urge caution. Every organization and every person sometimes errs, even when the overall motives are honorable. In this case, Sierra Club, was focused on it what it viewed as a bigger problem, the multiple and horrendous impacts of coal.

    The real choice is not between gas and oil or coal. Fossil fuel whatever the flavor is environmentally and politically corrupting. The benefits are distributed unevenly to say the least, while the risks and costs are borne by the public. We need to focus on a future based on renewables and energy efficiency.

    What can we learn? The whole affair should serve as a lesson to all of us. Beware of Faustian Bargains, no matter how tempting. Furthermore, let’s endeavor to consult with the grassroots activists and families – those most affected in their own homes. We can no longer afford to shut out the front line troops no matter the issue.

    Nor can we afford actions which encourage powerful interests to embark on divide and conquer campaigns. We are presently being beaten and badly. Our losses outnumber our wins by wide margins. Division can only make matters worse.

    My hope and plea is that the parties and people on both sides of the divide will use the moment as an opportunity to engage in a forward-looking dialogue, one that can lead to cooperative actions that are desperately needed to achieve our universal goals.

    True apologies like forgiveness take courage and wisdom. However, in my experience, the rewards for doing so are extraordinary.


    Henry S. Cole, Ph.D., Publisher, Ekos-Squared

  195. Henry S. Cole — Kiss and make up sounds superficially nice, but the unwillingness of the leadership of Sierra Club to come clean, open their books, and invite an independent investigation does not inspire confidence in their future operations. Instead, they choose to indulge in a cover-up and stonewall those who understandably call for full transparency in order to restore confidence among those who would like to support them. Your own research seems to point to the conclusion that there is no safe way to do fracking, yet the Club still vaguely talks about making sure fracking is done in a safe manner. It seems their hobnobbing with the frackers has still left these leaders with a warm spot in their hearts for those engaged with this dangerous and polluting activity.

  196. Henry — When you are facing a powerful and unscrupulous opponent it becomes essential that you be clear about your fundamental principles and do whatever is called for to ensure that they are not compromised by under the table deals with those who you are committed to prevent from doing great harm to our world. That means rigorous, open, and ongoing criticism of your organization, and calling in outside auditors when there is a breakdown in maintaining high standards of fidelity to the organization’s mission. A refusal to be accountable to one’s supporters betrays a dangerous hubris that does not bode well for the future behavior of those in charge of SC.

    Maybe you should go back and read the serious charges and calls for correction in the previous comments on this thread, beginning with Sandra’s impassioned plea to SC to fess up and make full admissions, basic changes, and reparations to those who were harmed by SC’s illicit activities. Those who are calling for SC to meet their reasonable demands for transparency and full disclosure deserve more than protestations of innocence and promises of future virtue. What they have had from SC so far has been the customary smokescreen of corporate PR, stone-walling, and refusal to make needed changes. Is this the expected behavior from those pretending to have the true interests of our world at heart?

  197. Mike, As you might gather, I am very torn on this. You are right in what you say. If I was advising Sierra Club’s leadership, I would suggest they some major steps — along the lines you suggest.

    However, my greatest concern is the need for unity in the face of the assault that is taking place on the environment — from the fragile Alaskan coastal waters to the coal fields of Kentucky.

    There is also a major assault on the rule of law.

    I want to focus my fire on the enemies of our democracy, of decency and of our vital life support systems.

    Thanks, again, I appreciate your comments and views.

    Hank Cole

  198. Henry — In case I do not make myself clear: kiss and make up is NOT the only or best way to resolve this issue. Plenty of effective options for the SC leadership have been suggested in these pages. So far they have rejected every one of these well intentioned suggestions. No one here has suggested doing away with SC. We would merely like for it to go forward with a clear slate and organizational changes to guarantee that this scandal is not repeated in the future. That would be a stronger and more effective SC. To continue otherwise would mean a compromised leadership and an uncertain future. Why does the present leadership think that going ahead with a cloud over their heads is preferable to clearing up this affair thoroughly for once and all? Are they unconsciously aping the tactics of those they were impaneled to regulate?

  199. Mike, I don’t think we are that far apart. Your points are all well taken.

    However, its like the old story of the sun and the wind having a debate as to who is stronger. They see a codger walking down country road on a chilly day. They formulate a wager — who can get the old man’s coat off first. The wind blows and blows, but the more he does the tighter the man buttons and holds his coat. The sun, in turn shines brightly, warms up the day and the man, button by button, removes his coat.

    How can we shine some warmth on a cold day? Hank

  200. Henry — I posted the above before reading your latest response. I appreciate the sincerity of your concerns. Nothing I have written is meant as a criticism of your intelligent viewpoint. We just have different ideas of how to best straighten out this mess and go forward from the strongest posture. I appreciate the concerns of those who wish to avoid a thorough investigation of SC. I understand their fears that this would only cripple the efforts of what is on the whole a decent organization pursuing crucially important objectives. We face the difficult dilemma of whether to trust increased openness, or rely on covering up what has happened and going on as if nothing more has to be done. There is room for legitimate differences of opinion here. Nevertheless I still feel that full disclosure would open the way for a better understanding of what went wrong with the corporate culture at SC, and what should be done to correct it. This is not something that could have been done by a sole rogue perpetrator, but had to have happened with the full knowledge of the board of directors, treasurer, and full executive structure at SC. All of that needs to be looked into and corrected where necessary.

  201. Henry — Henry, my respect for your being free to hold the view you choose in the matter of what SC needs to do to answer this scandal with constructive actions, does not mean that I feel that we are that close on this issue. Basically my stance is against corporations doing things in secrecy that need to be made open to the public. What is the main tool of wanton polluters of our world? Secrecy. Living in Appalachia as I do, we are familiar with tanker trucks that come in the night to disgorge tons of toxic materials on our roadsides and in our creeks. Most of the criminal deeds done in our world are shrouded in secrecy. I see no good reason why an organization that supposedly aims to draw back this curtain of secrecy deployed by corporations to conceal their criminal behavior should need to conduct their own affairs in secrecy and deny the right of their supporters to full access to all their affairs. If we are ever to avert the dark age we are heading for, we will need to insist that more light, not less, be shined on the proceedings and agreements arrived at behind closed doors. Any group denying such access should be rightfully viewed with suspicion until they grant such open disclosure. It saddens me that people representing the truth should operate with so little respect for the essential conditions needed for it to be effective, namely open disclosure. What do they have to hide?

  202. Excellent piece! I am fully dismayed with all the big enviro organizations as I haven’t seen any one of them do anything substantial for the Gulf since the BP disaster. Oh yeah, they’ll show up for public comment meetings to get their names in the federal record but other than that, pffft.

    Just like we need to support mom and pop stores in our towns and cities, we likewise need to support community-based environmental groups!

  203. I have found when you get to the top,money talks.I had the same experience with Trout unlimited, the top member owned a chemical factory that was spewing chemicals into a prime waterway that trout unlimited was trying to clean up. Money talks. Don.t get me started.

  204. join effort that's holding them to account on May 10, 2012

    Check out

  205. #211 — Thanks for the informative link. If more people would access this kind of in depth analysis, we would be on our way to reject these criminal activities.

  206. ” with the exception of the Sierra Club, these groups have no accountability to their donors and members”

    quoted from

  207. The Sierra Club was not being accountable to its members when it made an under the table deal with the fracking industry to take 25 million dollars in return for laying off them. Nor were they open and accountable to their members when they took 50 million dollars from New York’s Mayor Bloomberg for going easy on the nuclear industry. Whoever praised the Club for being accountable, must have been ignorant of this scandal: SIERRA CLUB IN BED WITH THOSE IT IS SUPPOSED TO OPPOSE!

  208. This is a summary highlighting some key points in this discussion. My own comments follow

    Mike Knapp wrote in #93:
    Society as we know it today cannot exist without drilling. 5,000 wells have been drilled here in PA, with only a handful of accusations of contamination, almost all of which have been proven to be inaccurate. There is no wasteland of polluted water. ….. The “ban all drilling” argument will never, ever, EVER gain any traction in our lifetimes.

    David Meiser posted this Michael Brune op-ed in #94:
    Let’s start with hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” the violent process the natural gas industry uses to break up shale formations and release gas. Fracking involves drilling thousands of feet into the ground and injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and an unknown, toxic chemical cocktail into the shale and through drinking water aquifers. … While the industry claims this process is safe, there are hundreds of water contamination cases across the country as a result of unchecked and unregulated fracking.

    Mike Knapp responded in #95:
    The above op/ed is riddled with lies. Shameless, pandering, LIES. … Also, does Mr. Brune not realize that geothermal requires hydraulic fracturing as well?

    Mark Schmerling wrote in #97:
    See that ball of fire in the sky? It’s called the sun, and it’s kept this planet going for over four BILLION years. And, the fossil fools lie all they can to keep us from utilizing it to energize our homes, cars, industries. Same with the wind. It’s here; it’s free; and the technology for both of these beautiful sources is here too, and cheaper than fossil fuels, when all the REAL costs are included.

    Mike Knapp then wrote in #98 and #103:
    Have you ever seen a neodymium mine? Have you ever seen the massive amount of toxic wastes that come from making solar panels? … Where do you think the advanced polymers come from that windmills and solar panels are made of? What are we going to do with all of the toxic, non-reusable materials that solar panels are made up of once they reach the end of their lifespan?
    I’ve been on scores of well sites, the company we work with has drilled hundreds of wells without any sort of serious issue. …. From where I’m sitting, it’s no less bull-headed than either the “Obama is a nazi” folks.

    mike k (presumably not Knapp) wrote in #105:
    The real solutions will require us to deeply change ourselves and our ways of living. …. Processes to help us recover our lost authenticity exist; we ignore them at our peril.

    Then Andrew Sawtelle wrote in #106:
    There is no solution within the industrial way of life

    mike k responded in #109 and #110
    A network of small groups sharing the learning necessary for the transition seems a logical way to go.
    Glen — We absolutely must talk about population.

    Mike Knapp piped up again in #111:
    But I am also a realist. We’re not going to be able to turn back the clock on humanity’s gains.

    Andrew Sawtelle contributed in #124:
    All major ecological indicators are screaming dire warnings: ocean acidification, deforestation, species loss, topsoil loss, toxins everywhere in the food chain. … I’m also extremely skeptical of the idea that industrial society will be able to transition to a sustainable energy system.

    Orion Mag posted this on behalf of Michael Brune in #184:
    In Ohio, we’ve worked … to provide landowners with baseline water testing … through our volunteer-driven Water Sentinels program and we’re pushing back against the hazardous storage of toxic fracking wastewater, which has been shown to cause earthquakes. We’ve … demanded for tough well casing regulations so that Ohio communities don’t have to be the next Dimock. …. we are urging the EPA to ban the use of diesel in fracking fluid. We’ve also petitioned the EPA to start regulating dangerous and deadly hydrogen sulfide emitted from oil and gas processing facilities. … we’re focusing on the ones causing the most harm first. The riskiest oil pipelines. The dirtiest coal plants. The most dangerous drilling practices, including fracking.

    mike k offered a few more words in #186:
    Long term, we don’t have a clue how much damage we may cause by ignorant tampering with this vital area [the subterranean realm]

    Mark Schmerling contributed this in #198:
    If not for off-the chart political corruption, the U.S. would NOW be off of or nearly off of fossil and nuclear-based energy.

    Orion posted these comments on behalf of Henry S. Cole in #200:
    The blistering pace of natural gas development is fueled not only by the financial and energy industries but also by political leaders whom receive huge campaign donations from the same powerful interests. Not surprisingly, neither EPA nor state agencies are engaged in effective regulation to protect public health.

    My comments (hopefully not too late for people following this thread):

    –> Mike Knapp makes sober, level-headed arguments in defense of his (gas fracking) industry. He’s the only poster to do so.
    –> Others, including David Meiser, Michael Brune and the author of the article, Sandra Steingraber offer cogent, counter-arguments detailing specifc risks, including the unknown effects on subterranean environments.

    My comment: risks can be measured. You can quatify them (mostly). The extreme polarity between Knapp’s position and, for example, Steingraber’s does not have to exist. This is an issue that educated people can decide through careful, objective, scientific evaluation. We make a statistical determination of risk, agree on it, and move on from there. Now, how *much* risk is worth taking is another issue. It involves different criteria, many of which are subjective; and which depend on the degree of *enlightenment* of the evaluator, the level of consciousness; a quality that shapes his or her social vision. So this is basically a political issue, but one that ideally should be decided by the wisest, most far-sighted among us. But who are they? Ah! Very good question.

    –> Knapp says society as we know it requires drilling.
    –> mike k says solutions require that we change our way of living.
    –> Andrew Sawtelle says no solution can work in the industrial way of life.

    My comment: Hurrah! These guys all agree on something! And I fully concur. The industrialized, urbanized, globalized, ever mobile, purely material, consumption-driven, distant-transport-dependent, ceaseless-development way of life has to be fueled, and Mike Knapp is correct in asserting that natural gas is the perfect fit for this model. The deeper question, of course, is whether this is the model we want to sustain. And again, the answer lies in the consciousness (or lack thereof) of the populace.

    –> Knapp says geothermal also requires fracking, points out that polymers come from fossil fuels and asks if we’ve seen a neodymium mine.
    –> Sawtelle itemizes the many dire environmental perils we are facing right now.
    –> mike k says we must discuss population growth
    –> mike k says ways to recover our lost authenticity exist
    –> Mark Schmerling points out the political corruption.
    –> Henry Cole says campaign donations from special interests promote the fossil fuel industry

    My comment: We need a 300 year plan. Actually, we need a whole lot of 300 year plans. One for each and every village and *community* in the nation, and indeed, the world. Find a spot that suits you, adopt a group of people that you can live with *as family* (this last point is critical). Come together, take responsibility for your little piece of the planet, plan on living there for the next 10 generations, sustaining yourself and your community and caring for the environment that supports you. Try to simply life as much as possible. No need to give up everything, every convenience, but simplify, simplify. (with due respect to Mr. Thoreau)

    Regarding population, it’s a cultural issue. And here in America we’ve never had a true culture. We wiped out the only culture these continents had: the indigenous population. If I were czar of the world, I’d open all borders to everyone, and let the chips fall where they may. The self-perpetuating top-down monolithic bureaucracy, back by armed enforcers, cannot be sustained. It must not be sustained. Politics must become local again. We must stop looking to Washington for solutions, and create our own. Local and regional centers of industry. Food and water in particular *must* be sourced locally. Can mankind recover its lost indigenousness (or lost authenticity, to use mike k’s term)? That’s the challenge. It’s actually a spiritual question. Authentic spirituality is the missing piece in the puzzle. I suspect people like Mr. Knapp envision that we will someday be mining the moon; or indeed, be living there. I think that’s wrong-headed. I suggest human life is connected on a very deep level to life on planet earth.

    Writing from Fairfield Iowa. No fracking here. Just stripped prairies and industrial agriculture.

  209. Accepting the NG industry money was incredibly stupid, but I have yet to see any information on just what, if anything, the Sierra Club did to “provide cover” for the industry. There are better reasons to be “done” with them. This debacle is merely symptomatic of them.

    After walking away from the club in the 1980s, I recently got involved in their Beyond Coal campaign because of the coal export proposals in the Pacific Northwest. Sadly, while they are doing some things well, and even very well, my overall assessment is that they are not helping us towards the dramatic changes we need to see. They are playing the game they know how to play, throw up as many legal obstacles as possible and then compromise. We have no room to compromise on the climate. My expectation is that unless a serious grassroots movement develops, we will see thousands of millions of tons of coal strip mined in the Powder River Basin, shipped to Asia and burned. Game over for climate change.

    I’ve attended very excellent training through the club. There are tons of very good and even great activists working there. But ultimately, they all have to drink the Kool Aid- certainly paid staff, volunteer leaders can buck the club and survive, but they better have strong support in their local group, otherwise the Club will find a way to push them out. The Kool Aid includes: distancing themselves from any group promoting direct action of even the mildest sort; not being a real partner to allies, preferring to build their own brand rather than lend support; endorsing candidates and even calling “champions” politicians that have repeatedly sold out the environment; absolutely refusing to use their greatest asset, their huge membership, to actually try to build an environmental movement. They fiercely protect their brand, they are knowledgable in the back rooms of DC and state capitols, and they are slowly but surely bargaining away our future. They have no room for class analysis because far too many of their membership and certainly most of their funding, comes from, if not the 1%, the top 10% of the population.

    On this day when I learned of Barry Commoner’s death, I have decided to walk away from the club once again.

    “Commoner linked environmental issues to a broader vision of social and economic justice. He called attention to the parallels among the environmental, civil rights, labor, and peace movements. He connected the environmental crisis to the problems of poverty, injustice, racism, public health, national security, and war.”

  210. Thank you for this brillant letter. I am shocked and sad too as I have been supporting Sierra Club efforts, so I thought. I am off with a door slam.
    Thank you for opening my eyes.
    Marie-Claire Dole

  211. Oh- We all feel betrayed by the reality check on what had been a respected group.

    Calling it – “funding from adversaries” seems inadequate?

    Can we call it blood money to cover up deaths? If that’s a phrasing seeming to shock as it’s read, GOOD as it’s intended to do so. Shock’s an often needful thing to break complacency. Or Complicity to appear as just another conspirator. If you take money, does that make you a conspirator? OR just no longer credible.

    We used to have an accountability for one’s actions and/or inactions. It’s really left as a simplistic evaluation.

    Credibility is a form of Literal Virginity. Lost the same way

  212. I’m hardly an expert on clean energy and fracking. I’m just a 29 year old woman who loves nature. But I come at the issue with a unique mix of views. I’m a bit of an environmentalist while my father works for the power company and has a degree in electrical engineering.

    Putting aside future impact for the moment, the biggest problem I see with fracking is that it allegedly causes earthquakes. I haven’t done much reading up on it, so I say allegedly. This poses not only immediate danger, but long term risks as well. I’m inclined to believe the earthquake claims, given the increase in earthquakes where I live. That would be just east of the OH/PA state line. I’m pretty sure there’s no fault line around.

    However, if we want to look at long range outcomes, then we need to consider them for all options. I hate to agree with Mr. Knapp, since he obviously is speaking more from greed than actual concern for the environment, but solar and wind power can have drastic repercussions as well. Do you know how many solar panels and wind turbines it would take to power a city? You’d have to wipe out a lot of habitat to allow for their construction.

    Then there’s the birds that get killed by the wind turbines. Just some food for thought.

    If we’re going to change to solar power, I think the most reasonable way to implement it would be via building codes. When someone files fore a construction permit to put up a new building, make it a requirement to have a solar panel or two on the roof.

    My dad would flip hearing me say that, he’s ultra conservative. But it’s really the only way to get it to work in my opinion. Otherwise you’ll be clearing land to make room for fields of the panels, which pushes animals out of what wilderness we have left.

    So, basically I don’t like fracking, but I understand that all energy resources have harmful aspects.

    And just a reminder for the record…I’m not a baby boomer. I’m 29. I don’t consider myself right or left wing politically. I have examples of views that put me on both sides. So don’t try using hippie arguments or party platforms with me.

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