Updated April 4, 2018
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is one of most influential anti-nuclear organizations with revenues of $184 million in 2016.
NRDC as an organization has over $70 million invested in fossil fuel and renewable energy companies that could benefit financially from closing nuclear plants
NRDC has for over 40 years sought to close nuclear plants directly and indirectly by lobbying for laws including federal subsidies and renewable energy mandates that discriminate against nuclear.
NRDC is seeking to close California's last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, and New York's Indian Point, which independent analysts agree would overwhelmingly be replaced by fossil fuels, mostly natural gas.
War on Nuclear
NRDC led the effort to close California's last nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon. It lied when it claimed it would be replaced by renewables. NRDC board members and donors could directly benefit from replacing Diablo Canyon with natural gas and renewables. NRDC was forced to admit that the plant will likely be replaced by natural gas.
For years, NRDC led the effort to close New York's profitable nuclear plant, Indian Point. It lied when it claimed it would be replaced by renewables. In fact, it will be replaced with significant quantities of natural gas according to experts, business groups, and New York's grid operator. NRDC board members and donors could directly benefit from replacing Diablo Canyon with natural gas and renewables.
NRDC is actively opposing support to keep New Jersey's nuclear plants on-line calling it a "bail-out."
NRDC is actively opposing support to keep Ohio's nuclear plants operating.
NRDC opposes support to keep open Pennsylvania's nuclear plants claiming, "subsidies for nuclear, a la Ohio, don’t make sense."
NRDC is actively seeking far larger subsidies for renewables.
Under the sway of NRDC, New Jersey’s newly elected governor is asking for $150 million more in subsidies per year by 2022 by increasing solar’s required contribution to New Jersey electricity from 4.1% to 5.1%.
In 2017, New Jersey ratepayers spent almost $600 million to generate just 2.8 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity from solar. By contrast, the proposed nuclear subsidy would cost $300 million per year to generate 28 TWh of electricity. And while the nuclear plants are paid only if market conditions require it, solar investors get paid no matter what.
Thanks to Illinois legislation advocated by NRDC, ratepayers have been spending fifteen times more per unit of energy for Solar Renewable Energy Certificates than for nuclear’s new Zero Emission Certificates.
Under Illinois’s new program, a nuclear subsidy was combined with a much more costly renewables program. Compare nuclear’s $235 million per year for 24 TWh of electricity from nuclear to at least $200 million per year for just four TWh of electricity by 2020 from wind and solar under the new Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Thanks to New York legislation lobbied for by NRDC, ratepayers will spend $482 million per year for 27 TWh of electricity from nuclear, at a rate of $17.48 per MWh. By contrast, New York and federal subsidies for rooftop solar are more than 10 times higher: $190 per MWh.
NRDC lobbied to close Indian Point, New York’s largest nuclear plant, which needs no subsidy. It produces power for under $40 per MWh. And yet Gov. Cuomo has sought to shut it down at the urging of — you guessed it — the Sierra Club, NRDC, EDF, and a natural gas company implicated in the federal criminal prosecution of a Cuomo aide.
Indian Point’s replacement power is expected to come from new gas plants and renewables that typically cost $100 per MWh — and increase carbon emissions from electricity production by nearly 30 percent.
Conflicts of Interest
NRDC helped create and put $66 million in Black Rock "Ex-Fossil Fuels Index Fund" stock fund that — in fact — invests heavily in natural gas and renewables companies. And NRDC disclosed in a 2014 financial report that it had $7,710,276 million invested in four separate renewable energy private equity funds.
NRDC could benefit financially from the "Joint Proposal" with Pacific Gas & Electric to close California's last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon. NRDC has significant, direct investments in natural gas and renewable energy companies. The Proposal was negotiated by NRDC, PG&E and others is being proposed to the California Public Utilities Commission, which could allow it to become state policy.
Diablo Canyon contributes such a significant amount of power to the grid — over 9 percent of California's electricity — that removing it could create profitable business opportunities for solar, wind, battery, bioenergy and natural gas companies.
NRDC justifies closing Diablo Canyon so it can make room for renewables. NRDC's lead negotiator for the agreement, Ralph Cavanagh, told the New York Times that Diablo Canyon should be closed to accommodate renewables:
Giant baseload nuclear power plants like Diablo Canyon cannot easily be taken offline, or ramped up and down, as system needs change... This worsening problem is forcing the California grid operator to shut down low-cost renewable generation that could otherwise be used productively.
NRDC helped create and put $66 million in Black Rock "Ex-Fossil Fuels Index Fund" stock fund that invests heavily in natural gas and renewables companies, including pipeline companies. NRDC wrote
IN FISCAL 2014, NRDC, BLACKROCK AND FTSE GROUP PARTNERED TO LAUNCH A EQUITY GLOBAL INDEX SERIES - FTSE DEVELOPED EX-FOSSIL FUELS INDEX SERIES - THAT EXCLUDES COMPANIES LINKED TO EXPLORATION, OWNERSHIP OR EXTRACTION OF CARBON-BASED FOSSIL FUEL RESERVES.
Black Rock’s investments in natural gas pipelines may not be a coincidence. NRDC worked closely with Black Rock to create the fund, and more natural gas pipelines will likely needed in California if Diablo Closes.
The lack of of natural gas pipeline capacity is one of the key factors state officials say is behind power outages in Southern California.
Last December, NRDC announced its participation in another investment fund it helped to create. In a blog post called "Invest in the Future, Not in Fossil Fuels," NRDC’s Executive Director Rhea Suh described NRDC's investment:
While NRDC derives no benefit from others’ participation, we made a significant investment in State Street’s new vehicle, because it supports our core mission.
….We can’t afford the damage, destruction, and hazard that come with producing, shipping, and burning the world’s coal, gas, and oil.
However, the fund invests significantly in natural gas companies, just like the BlackRock fund. The fund lists Eversource, Next Energy, Talen and Pacific Gas & Electric. While most of the fund is not directly invested in energy, the energy companies in the portfolio are almost entirely oil and gas companies
NRDC has three Vice Chairs, one of whom is Max Stone, a managing partner at D.E. Shaw, an investment firm that on June 16, 2016, bought a solar farm in California that has a power purchase agreement with PG&E. If Diablo Canyon closes, PG&E may make many more such deals with solar farm builders.
DE Shaw has large investments in natural gas, solar, wind and efficiency companies. DE Shaw reported having $37 billion in investments as of March 1, 2016, and a portfolio of 23 wind and solar projects whose capacity totals 1,100 MW. In 2013 D.E. Shaw settled a lawsuit for $75,000 for allegedly exceeding "position limits" in natural gas.
DE Shaw also invests in energy efficiency, more of which might be required under the NRDC proposal to close down Diablo Canyon.
According to the National Council of Nonprofits, an organization’s “conflict of interest policy should (a) require those with a conflict (or who think they may have a conflict) to disclose the conflict/potential conflict, and (b) prohibit interested board members from voting on any matter in which there is a conflict.”
NRDC reported on its most recent IRS tax forms (990) that it has a conflict of interest policy that “may be provided at management’s discretion, if requested.” NRDC wrote:
EACH OFFICER, DIRECTOR, AND EMPLOYEE IS REQUIRED TO ANNUALLY DISCLOSE ANY CONFLICTS OF INTEREST THAT ARISE BY VIRTUE OF RELATIONSHIP TO THE ORGANIZATION, BOARD SERVICE, OR POSITION WITH EITHER NRDC ACTION FUND OR NRDC. NRDC ACTION FUND MONITORS COMPLIANCE WITH ITS CONFLICT OF INTEREST POLICY THROUGH AN ANNUAL QUESTIONNAIRE/DISCLOSURE STATEMENT THAT IS DISTRIBUTED TO THESE INDIVIDUALS. POTENTIAL CONFLICTS ARE INVESTIGATED IMMEDIATELY