IER: 6 Foundations Funneling Big Money to the Anti-Fracking Movement

Yes, the Blue Wave Hit a Red Brick Wall, but Now What?

There has been a massive increase in the size and scope of opposition to oil and gas in recent years.

The calls for a fracking ban have come from every part of the left — from Bernie Sanders’ bill in January to ban all onshore and offshore fracking by 2025, to calls from Elizabeth Warren, Tom Steyer and Jay Inslee, Cory Booker and Tulsi Gabbard, to a climax of Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden’s obfuscation of his position by making constantly self-contradictory comments. Several times and in several ways, Biden has stated he supports ending the use of fossil fuels and “transitioning” from oil and gas. He’s even called oil executives criminals and advocated they be put behind bars. And of course, his running mate, Kamala Harris, who during her own short-lived presidential campaign run, said during a CNN town hall that, “there’s no question I’m in favor of banning fracking.”

While the rise in rhetoric has been clear, the purpose has not been – until now. The reason is simple. There’s big money in working to kill reliable energy.

For example, in the 2020 election cycle, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and its green, left affiliates shifted $5,356,912 to support the Biden campaign. But where did LCV’s deep pockets come from? The Institute for Energy Research’s Big Green, Inc. database, a project that tracks the grants made by leftwing foundations on energy and environment issues, reveals 107 different energy and environment grants funneled from large foundations to the LCV and its state-based affiliate organizations.

So, who are the foundations bankrolling the LCV?

There’s a clear connection between the large foundations that we track and policy and politicians that create real problems for our energy industries. Because of this, it’s essential that we pay close attention to the movements of money across this web, from large foundations to large environmental organizations to projects, outreach and politicians that undermine our energy future.

Of the 17 foundations that Big Green, Inc. tracks, the Park Foundation, Heinz Endowments, Schmidt Family Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, William Penn Foundation and the Tides Foundation have done the most damage. These six foundations alone have poured more than $100 million into shutting down fossil fuels where they can and regulating them into submission where they cannot shut them down. Their plans work best where they are least seen. The more attention they receive, the less effective they become. Big Green, Inc. uncovered these foundations’ activities from 2007 until 2017, the most recent 990 tax data available when the last update occurred. Now that 2018 data is available, an update is forthcoming. Here’s just a glimpse of what they’ve been up to:

  • Park Foundation: $7,827,729 in grants opposing oil and gas activity. These grants included $65,000 to the Public Policy and Education Fund of New York for a “[s]tatewide anti-fossil fuel and renewable energy initiative” and grants to various organizations “For New Yorkers Against Fracking.”
  • Heinz Endowments: $18,698,800 in grants against oil and gas activity to extreme environmental organizations like Fractracker Alliance, Earthjustice and the Environmental Defense Fund.
  • Schmidt Family Foundation: $11,347,000 in grants on oil and gas issues. These include $50,000 to Columbia Riverkeeper, “[t]o support the fighting gas export project” and $75,000 to Food and Water Watch, “[t]o support the work on a fracking ban.”
  • William and Flora Hewlett Foundation: $69,287,466 in grants to support anti-oil and gas projects. This includes two grants, “For the moving beyond oil project” to the New Venture Fund, one for $1,100,000, and one for $500,000. It also includes $280,000 to Western Resource Advocates, “[f]or a project to prevent shale development in the Rocky Mountain West.”
  • William Penn Foundation: an additional $6,809,911 on similar projects as the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
  • Tides Foundation: an additional $6,182,183. This includes grants to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline, including one for $150,000 to “To support the Sioux Tribe’s Standing Rock opposition against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).”

And that’s just what’s publicly listed and what we found for oil and gas specific grants. Rest assured, there is more happening in the shadows.

By tracking the grantmaking of these foundations, we are able to draw important connections, like seeing which foundations feed into LCV’s support of the Biden campaign. These connections allow us to understand these organizations’ goals, and they may help us unravel the web they create to confuse our energy policies at the federal, state, and local levels.

About the author: Thomas J. Pyle is president at the Institute for Energy Research, a non-profit energy policy think tank.