DOJ Urged to Investigate US Environmental NGOs for Foreign Influence

Updated: 2020-09-20 23:45:20

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) has urged the Department of Justice to investigate potential Chinese and Russian efforts to influence the environmental and energy policies of the United States.

Cheney said that such efforts include attempts to gain influence with American environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

In a letter to the DOJ, Cheney expressed her conviction that both the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Russian government are engaged in extensive influence operations to further their strategic goals, and are targeting NGOs and other influential organizations within the United States.

“Environmental groups are major contributors to U.S. political campaigns and have filed hundreds of lawsuits against the Trump administration in an effort to advance their agendas,” Cheney’s letter read. “This robust political and judicial activism—combined with the fact that these groups often espouse views that align with those of our adversaries—makes it all the more critical that the Department is aware of any potential foreign influence within or targeting these groups.”

The letter suggests that some environmental NGOs may be influenced by the CCP, and quotes a 2018 report from the Hoover Institution. “China seeks to promote views sympathetic to the Chinese government, policies, society, and culture; suppress alternative views; and co-opt key American players to support China’s foreign policy goals and economic interests,” the report says.

In an email to The Epoch Times, however, Josh Mogerman, national media director at the NRDC, said Cheney’s letter was “incorrect” and that it portrayed a “false narrative.” The Sierra Club did not respond to The Epoch Times’s request for comment.

NRDC Rejects Influence Claims

A 2018 letter to the NRDC from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources asked whether the organization had been manipulated by China’s communist regime. Signed by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ariz.), the letter stated that, “When engaging on environmental issues concerning China, the NRDC appears to practice self-censorship, issue selection bias, and generally refrains from criticizing Chinese officials.”

Bishop and Westerman wrote of their concern regarding “the NRDC’s role in aiding China’s perception management efforts with respect to pollution control and its international standing on environmental issues in ways that may be detrimental to the United States.”

The letter reported that the NRDC claimed to have “sued the [U.S. government] about once every 10 days” since President Donald Trump’s inauguration and had sought to shape the American public’s perception of China “as a global environmental leader” following the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

According to Bishop and Westerman, the NRDC “has never condemned, or even mentioned, China’s illegal and environmentally destructive island reclamation campaign that has covered over 3,200 acres of coral reefs with runways, ports, and other military facilities” in the South China Sea.

Epoch Times Photo
One of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea on May 21, 2015. (U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters)

Bob Deans, director of strategic engagement at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement: “NRDC seeks environmental solutions that are grounded in sound science, U.S. law and the public interest. We work on behalf of every American to protect our people against dangerous pollution and leave our children a livable world. Those are American values, American goals, and advancing them is manifestly in our national interest, as we have consistently demonstrated for nearly 50 years.”

“As the most populous country on earth, China has much to do with the kind of world the next generation will inherit, in our country and around the world,” Deans said. “We’re proud of our work, in China and elsewhere, helping to create a more sustainable future for everyone, and we look forward to discussing that work with Chairman Bishop and the committee.”

The NRDC operates six offices across the United States and one in Beijing.

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