Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Monday he would ask the Justice Department to look into whether environmental advocacy groups receiving overseas funding should register as foreign agents.
His letter on enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) came in response to a request from Rep. Lance Gooden, Texas Republican, who raised concerns this month about overseas entities seeking to increase U.S. reliance on renewable energy by funding the environmental movement.
“Given heightened concern that foreign countries, primarily China and Russia, are potentially funding U.S.-based ‘green’ groups to undermine American energy independence and to help maintain the integrity of EPA’s decision-making, EPA will refer this matter to the DOJ FARA Unit,” Mr. Wheeler said in his letter.
“The DOJ can then determine what appropriate steps to take, if any, including whether those entities should register as a foreign agent,” Mr. Wheeler said.
It is legal for U.S. nonprofit groups to accept foreign contributions, but “foreign influence should not be covert,” Mr. Wheeler said.
Mr. Gooden, who had raised the issue of “covert foreign influence on our political process” in an Oct. 8 letter to Mr. Wheeler, praised the administrator’s decision.
“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) stands to profit heavily from a Biden administration which would make us reliant on Made-in-China renewable energy,” Mr. Gooden said in a Monday statement. “We have reason to believe they are funneling money to certain ‘green groups’ to influence American foreign policy and our elections.”
His previous letter said there was “considerable evidence” that environmental groups actively lobbying for clean-energy policies are being funded by foreign entities that would benefit from a U.S. shift away from oil, natural gas and coal.
Mr. Gooden said that environmental nonprofit groups, which are not required to disclose their donors, are receiving “large sums of money” from the Sea Change Foundation, “a proven front group for foreign financing, funded by off-shore hedge funds in Bermuda.”
“While it is not illegal for tax-exempt 501(c)(4)s to receive funding from foreign countries, the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) stipulates that any foreign-funded organization engaged in political activity must register as a foreign agent,” Mr. Gooden said. “Environmental groups that receive money from Sea Change or other foreign-funded organizations, who then use those funds to target American energy interests, should disclose the source of their funding and potentially register as foreign agents.”
He added that such green groups “are clearly engaging in politics at best, and operating at the behest of foreign actors at worst.”
The Sea Change Foundation, formerly Klein Ltd., released a statement in July 2018 saying that it had contributed $500 million since 2011 to climate and clean-energy initiatives, but received no outside funding.
“I wish to clarify that press reports speculating that Klein has received funding from outside sources are factually incorrect and have no basis,” foundation director Nat Simons told Inside Philanthropy. “Neither Klein nor Sea Change Foundation has ever solicited or accepted contributions from non-family related sources.”
China has positioned itself as a renewable-energy juggernaut, with control of about 60% of global solar-panel production and 90% of rare-earth metals used in electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels, as reported by ChinaPower.
During the Trump administration, the U.S. became a net exporter of crude oil and natural gas, thanks in large part to the energy boom driven by hydraulic fracturing.