Close this search box.

Lawmakers Suggest Lawsuit-Happy Environmentalists Help China, Hurt National Security

By Kevin Mooney

Environmental advocacy groups that take the Defense Department to court appear to operate as foreign agents working to help China and undermine the U.S. Navy and America’s military readiness in the Asia-Pacific region, congressional leaders suggest.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., chairman of the oversight and investigations subcommittee,  called on two environmental groups to submit documents that “identify any policies or procedures” the groups took to ensure compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Bishop and Westerman last month wrote the two groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity.

In a letter to Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the two Republican lawmakers expressed concern about China’s “extensive perception-management campaign” and the “NRDC’s role” in assisting these efforts.

The environmental group’s press releases and other written correspondence “consistently praise the Chinese government’s environmental initiatives and promote the image of China as a global environmental leader,” their letter says.

An aide to the House committee told The Daily Signal in a phone interview that there is “a significant level of engagement between the NRDC and Chinese government officials.”

And, the aide said, “the American people should know about the group’s relationship with foreign governments whether or not the connection is direct or indirect.”

The New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit advocacy group founded in 1970, has $306.2 million in net assets, according to tax records. The group’s website says it “works to safeguard the earth” and has more than 3 million members and “online activists.”

The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, based in Tucson, Arizona, was founded in 1989 and has $18.3 million in net assets, tax records show.  The group’s mission is “to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction,” and it has about 1.6 million members, according to its website.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires anyone who acts as an agent of foreign principals “in a political or quasi-political capacity” to disclose that relationship periodically, as well as all “activities, receipts, and disbursements in support of those activities,” according to the Justice Department.