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View from the Chair — Sierra Club-Chesapeake Energy Controversy
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by Jim Sconyers, Chapter Chair | 2012

Many of you will have heard about this, but in case you haven’t, here is the short version. For the long version go to Club Executive Director Mike Brune’s discussion at: http://sierraclub.typepad.com/michaelbrune/ 
 
In the early 2000s Sierra Club was making great progress with its Beyond Coal campaign, including shutting down many coal-fired power plants. At that time the Club viewed natural gas as a “bridge fuel” between dirty coal-fired plants and the clean energy future we all aspire to.
 
In line with the shibboleth that “any enemy of my enemy is my friend,” which we now know is false, the Club accepted $26 million from Chesapeake Energy for our Beyond Coal campaign. The money was well spent, and we achieved the closure or prevention of over 100 coal-fired power plants.
 
But as the Marcellus gas tidal wave began to break over Pennsylvania and West Virginia, many members became alarmed about the threats and risks posed by this new development. West Virginia Chapter leaders were among the first to raise our concerns. We pushed national over calling gas a bridge fuel. Result: After listening to members and further study, documenting groundwater pollution and the emerging science highlighting gas’s huge air pollution threat, Sierra Club revised its position and dropped any talk of natural gas as a “bridge fuel.”
 
About this time the Club changed Executive Directors. Carl Pope resigned, and we were indeed fortunate to sign Mike Brune on as the new Executive Director. Mike discovered the secret arrangements that had been made with Chesapeake and immediately moved to terminate them. In fact, Mike was instrumental in rejecting an additional $30 million that Chesapeake had offered the Club.
 
That is the background of the story that broke in the media in February. Sierra Club was out front to come clean, confirm that we had indeed taken money from Chesapeake, and that we would not in the future take money from Chesapeake or other dirty energy corporations.
 
The past is history — now it’s time to look to the future.

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