National Journal’s Amy Harder reported last week that the Sierra Club is re-branding its anti-natural gas efforts as “Beyond Natural Gas.” Beyond Natural Gas joins the Sierra Club’s other two anti-energy campaigns, Beyond Coal and Beyond Oil (Beyond Nuclear is a separate organization founded in 2007 and headquartered in Takoma Park, Maryland, which has been an official nuclear-free zone since 1983).
Here’s how the Sierra Club introduces its Beyond Natural Gas web page: “The natural gas industry is dirty, dangerous, and running amok. Government loopholes exempt natural gas drillers from the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act — and at the same time, don’t require them to disclose the frequently toxic chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the violent process they employ to dislodge gas deposits from shalerock formations. The closer we look at natural gas, the dirtier it appears; and the less of it we burn, the better off we will be.”
The Sierra Club’s timing, whether intentionally or not, kicks Aubrey McClendon, their former patron, when he is down. Time Magazine reported earlier this year that McClendon gave the Sierra Club $26 million between 2007 and 2010 for their Beyond Coal campaign. This week McClendon was relieved of his duties as chairman of one of the U. S.’s largest natural gas producers, Chesapeake Energy, although he remains CEO. It also became public knowledge last week that the Securities and Exchange Commission has launched an investigation into McClendon and Chesapeake.
The SEC investigation and the decision by Chesapeake’s board to replace McClendon as chairman are the result of revelations by Reuters on 18th April that McClendon, the founder of Chesapeake, had a sweetheart deal with the company to borrow over $1 billion and use it to buy personal shares in Chesapeake gas wells.