Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton confirmed to an audience behind closed doors what national security experts have warned about for years — Russians are pumping money into anti-fracking environmental groups.
Clinton told an audience in Edmonton, Canada, hosted by the PR firm tinePublic, that Russian oligarchs were propping up “against phony environmental groups” opposed to pipelines and hydraulic fracturing, according to emails published by WikiLeaks.
“We were up against Russia pushing oligarchs and others to buy media,” Clinton said in a June 2014 speech.
“We were even up against phony environmental groups, and I’m a big environmentalist, but these were funded by the Russians to stand against any effort, oh that pipeline, that fracking, that whatever will be a problem for you, and a lot of the money supporting that message was coming from Russia,” she said.
It’s unclear exactly to whom Clinton was speaking when she made these remarks or if she was referring to U.S.-based environmental groups or just European ones since the full transcript of her speech is unavailable.Clinton’s Edmonton speech was one of five she gave across Canada in 2014 that were sponsored by tinePublic. Edmonton is the capital of Alberta, which is Canada’s largest petroleum-producing province.
Conservatives and energy proponents have been concerned for years the anti-fracking movement was being fueled by Russian money. Environmentalists largely oppose fracking on the grounds it makes global warming worse and contaminates groundwater, but defense officials and U.S. conservatives have found Russian fingerprints on anti-fracking campaigns.
Eastern European officials have said Russia is backing environmental protesters at potential fracking sites in Romania and Bulgaria. Russia is currently Europe’s main gas supplier.
Iulian Iancu, chairman of the Romanian Parliament’s industry committee, thinks Gazprom has funneled about $100 million to anti-fracking activists across Europe.
“I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations – environmental organisations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas,” then NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters in 2014.
“That is my interpretation,” Rasmussen said.
Russia has seen its oil revenues collapse and gas monopoly over Europe threatened by fracked oil and gas from the U.S. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his oligarchs have publicly voiced concerns about the impacts of fracking.
Putin has said “black stuff comes out of the tap” when there’s fracking, and Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom said fracking poses “significant environmental risks” to water supplies.
While Russia has been blamed for anti-fracking efforts in Eastern Europe, there’s very limited evidence oligarchs have funneled money to U.S. environmental groups.
Though some fracking proponents say Clinton’s speech lends evidence to this claim.
— FrackNation (@FrackNation) October 9, 2016
The Environmental Policy Alliance (EPA) found a Bermuda-based shell corporation with ties to Russian oligarchs has given $23 million to the Sea Change Foundation, an environmental nonprofit, in 2010 and 2011.
Sea Change, in turn, gave millions to U.S.-based environmentalists, including the s the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters.
“These organizations are involved in advocacy and lobbying against the development of natural gas through the process of fracking,” EPA reported in 2015.
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