Chesapeake Energy Corp. is done with the Sierra Club.
CEO Aubrey McClendon was questioned by the president of the National Center for Public Policy Research about the company’s past donations totaling $26 million to the environmental group at Friday’s annual meeting.
Center President David Ridenour said he was concerned the Sierra Club would use those funds in its new “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign.
McClendon said he has no regrets about working with the Sierra Club to go after the coal industry.
“We’re in a market share struggle with coal,” McClendon said. “As a result of that campaign, 150 new coal plants were not built. That demand will go to natural gas.”
The Sierra Club distanced itself from Chesapeake earlier this year after new executive director Michael Brune rewrote the group’s gift acceptance policy and began to campaign for tougher regulation of the natural gas industry.
On Friday, McClendon said Chesapeake is no longer associated with the Sierra Club.
“Our relationship with them is a little different today than it was a few years ago,” he said.
Ridenour said he was not satisfied to McClendon’s response to his question at Friday’s meeting.
“Mr. McClendon largely ignored my question, ‘By funding Beyond Coal, did you not unnecessarily pick a fight with another fossil fuel industry that now will have every incentive to fund Beyond Natural Gas? It would be darkly amusing if the coal industry did turn out to be funding Beyond Natural Gas, and did have a stipulation in its grant contract limiting the use of the gift to fighting Mr. McClendon’s industry.”
“Since the Sierra Club has been used as a corporate tool in the past, there is no reason to believe that it isn’t being used as one now, so we call upon it to fully disclose who is underwriting Beyond Natural Gas. If the Sierra Club won’t say who is funding its anti-natural gas campaign, we probably can assume there is a conflict of interest in there somewhere.”
“As a representative of a Chesapeake shareholder and an employee of another shareholder, I’m not thrilled that Mr. McClendon gave money to an activist group dedicated to the company’s destruction, but I’m even less happy as an American. Energy independence is important to national security, and low-cost energy is important to American jobs and prosperity. We shouldn’t be fighting things that are good for us.”
Ridenour said he still hopes to find out where Chesapeake’s donations to the Sierra Club went, while letting such groups know that people are watching those types of charitable contributions.