Is Russia Financing the Anti-Fracking Campaign?

The production of natural gas by fracking has been an enormous boon to America’s economy and to its hard-pressed consumers. Yet there are some who oppose fracking, and these opponents are lavishly funded. By whom? Investigations by the Washington Free Beacon and the Environmental Policy Alliance indicate that the answer may well be: the Russian government and Rosneft, the world’s largest oil company.

The Russians’ motive to suppress American natural gas production is obvious, but what is the evidence? It starts with the California-based Sea Change Foundation, one of the principal sources of money for American environmental groups. In 2010 and 2011, Sea Change gave the Sierra Club $15 million, the Natural Resources Defense Council $13.5 million, and the League of Conservation Voters $18.1 million. The Sierra Club launched its “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign in 2012. The Free Beacon notes that “[t]he effort has become one of the largest and best-funded environmentalist campaigns combating fracking and the extraction of natural gas in general.”

But where does Sea Change get its money? Its disclosures list only two sources of funds. One is the Nathaniel Simons family. Simons runs a fund that invests in crony projects–government-sponsored “green” energy. The “green” Mr. Simons commutes to work across San Francisco Bay in a 54-foot motor yacht. Naturally, the Simons family are major donors to Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.

Beyond Simons, Sea Change has only one source of funds: Klein Ltd. You’ve never heard of Klein Ltd? No wonder: the company exists only as a paper entity in the office of a Bermuda law firm called Wakefield Quin. Klein Ltd. doesn’t conduct business; it launders money. Whose money? You can follow the links to the Free Beacon article and the Environmental Policy Alliance report for the details. The connections between Klein/Wakefield Quin and the Russian oil industry are way too deep to be coincidental:

Wakefield Quin’s Hoskins and Smith, as well as a number of other employees of Wakefield Quin, have worked in some capacity for companies or investment funds owned by or tied to Russian state-owned corporations and high-level officials in the country.

Hoskins, Forrest, and another Wakefield employee named Penny Cornell were all listed as executives of Spectrum Partners Ltd., a fund with offices in Moscow, Cypress, and Bermuda, Cornell at the address of Wakefield Quin’s offices.

According to a performance report for one of Spectrum Partners’ funds, its portfolio consisted of “Russian and CIS [former Soviet state] securities and securities outside of Russia or CIS but having significant economic or business involvement with Russia and/or CIS.”

As of 2008, more than half of the fund’s holdings were in the oil and gas sectors.

Numerous executives at Wakefield Quin have ties to Russian oil and gas companies, including Rosneft, which is majority-owned by the Russian government and in 2013 became the largest oil company in the world.

Hoskins is the vice president of a London-based company called Marcuard Services Limited, and a member of the firm’s board, according to its website.

The company’s president, and the chairman of its parent company, Bermuda-based Marcuard Holding Limited, is Hans-Joerg Rudloff. Rudloff is also a former vice-chairman of the Rosneft’s board.

Hoskins is also a director at a Bermuda-based subsidiary of Russian investment bank Troika Dialog. That firm organized an initial public offering for Timan Oil & Gas, which is run by Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev.

A representative of the Environmental Policy Alliance writes:

The American public deserves to know whether environmentalists are attacking US energy companies at the behest of a Russian government that would like nothing more than to see their international competition weakened.

In the face of mounting evidence, environmental groups are going to have to start answering hard questions about their international funding sources.

Well, maybe. But it’s going to take a lot more pressure than we have seen so far. Democrats have obsessively tried to change the law relating to 501(c)(4) non-profits so they can identify and attempt to intimidate American donors to conservative causes. Will they bring the same enthusiasm to bear on suspected foreign entities who are out to undermine America’s energy economy, in concert with major Democratic Party donors? Don’t hold your breath.

This whole concept is not entirely new, of course. The anti-fracking movie “Promised Land” was funded by the United Arab Emirates, and Steve Hayward noted here that Russia has financed anti-fracking protests in Eastern Europe. Steve wrote, presciently:

The really interesting story to chase down is to see whether Russia (or any other foreign interest) is somehow supplying funds for American environmental opposition to fracking and the Keystone pipeline.

It appears that the answer to that question is beginning to emerge.

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