Greater Transparency by Environmental Groups is Needed

By Michael Shellenberger

Over the last year, Environmental Progress discovered that major environmental organizations including the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) have accepted contributions from, or made investments in, fossil fuel and renewable energy companies.

Those contributions and investments are clear conflicts of interest. In every case, those groups were publicly advocating legislation that would benefit their contributors and/or investments. And none of the groups name those corporate donors or investments on their web sites.

Now, Energy and Environment News has published an article by reporter Maxine Joselow that is harshly critical of Generation Atomic, a new pro-nuclear group, for not disclosing on its app that it received $15,000 from three nuclear companies.

The article quotes Elliott Negin of the Union of Concerned Scientists who says, “They're presenting themselves as a neutral, fact-based public interest group when they're not.”

The article is mean-spirited and grossly one-sided. Not once does the article mention the fossil and renewable energy funding for the Sierra Club, NRDC and ELPC, which is three orders of magnitude larger than the paltry donations received by Generation Atomic. It is typical of the double standard that E&E News takes toward pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear groups.

Even so, UCS’s Negin is right that Generation Atomic should clearly list its corporate donors on its app and on its web site. Transparency and openness are essential to trust, and no industry needs to win back the public’s trust more than the nuclear industry.

The same goes for the Sierra Club, NRDC and ELPC. In Negin’s words, “They're presenting themselves as a neutral, fact-based public interest group when they're not.”

Generation Atomic was co-founded by Eric Meyer, who worked as EP’s engagement director last year before leaving to start Generation Atomic. He is one of the most dedicated pro-nuclear activists I’ve ever met,.

Generation Atomic’s failure to clearly disclose such meager sums is clearly a result of inexperience — something that can’t be said of the Sierra Club, NRDC or ELPC.

Knowing Eric and many of Generation Atomic’s board members, I am confident they will disclose corporate donations going forward.

I’ll have more to say about E&E News’ double standard in the future, as well as that of UCS.

For now, consider that UCS does not disclose on its web site any of the individuals or institutions contributing to the organization’s $33 million in annual revenues.