Green Watch

Behind Pennsylvania’s “Green” Activists: Pennsylvania’s Big Funders

The Big Foundations Behind Pennsylvania’s “Green” Activists (full series)
Pennsylvania’s Big Funders | PennFuture
PEC and PennEnvironment | Pennsylvanians Against Fracking

Summary: Pennsylvania is the main battlefield in the environmental Left’s effort to “green” the country with radical policies that promise to raise the cost of electricity, household appliances, and grocery bills—all in servitude of a far-left ideology. In this deep dive we expose the major funders behind Pennsylvania’s biggest environmental activists and their campaigns to push the Keystone State into a left-wing cap-and-trade scheme, ban fracking, and end its dominance as America’s energy powerhouse.


Pennsylvania is ground zero for the environmental Left’s increasingly radical climate agenda. As America’s easternmost powerhouse state, a victory for “green” special interests here would ripple throughout the country—spiking Americans’ electricity bills, threatening their way of life, and undermining hard-earned energy independence brought on by natural gas.

Liberal politicians are battling to force the Keystone State into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a pact of largely northeastern and largely Democratic-run states created to replace fossil fuels with expensive and unreliable renewable energy. In March, Republican lawmakers reintroduced legislation to block Wolf from imposing RGGI’s carbon taxes without the legislature’s approval. Wolf plans to have Pennsylvania join the compact next year. The resolution to this ongoing debate will ultimately hinge on whether RGGI’s impositions should be considered fees or taxes, because taxes require legislative approval.

Pressuring lawmakers to damn the torpedoes and rush into RGGI is a host of well-funded activist groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). They argue that Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has the unilateral authority to submit Pennsylvania to RGGI’s cap-and-trade system over and against the Republican-controlled legislature. NRDC-aligned lawyers, for instance, opined in September that Wolf’s Department of Environmental Protection has constitutional authority to regulate carbon dioxide limits, no legislature needed.

But if Pennsylvania doesn’t join RGGI, argues the Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania chapter, the state’s corn and dairy industries will “see major losses,” winter sports “will likely disappear entirely,” and “extreme rainstorms . . . and summer heat waves will threaten more lives”—all debunked pseudoscientific claims that nevertheless drive home how much the far-Left is willing to lie to get its way. CERES, a nonprofit that coerces manufacturers and retailers into towing the environmental line, even claims that global warming could “reduce the value of global financial assets by as much as $24 trillion”—one-third of the world’s GDP, eclipsing the 2008 economic collapse.

Then there’s the campaign to ban fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, a process in which a high-powered solution of water and chemicals is injected to break up the massive oil and natural gas formations, which are found beneath much of Pennsylvania. President Joe Biden resisted pressure from leftist groups to call for a nationwide fracking ban on the 2020 campaign trail. But his platform includes transitioning the economy to 100 percent “clean energy” (read: renewables) in a few decades, which leaves no room even for natural gas. Upon taking office in January 2021, he ordered a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters.

We’ve traced the leading groups pushing this extreme agenda, highlighting their goals and exposing their funders. Put together it reveals a vast web of activist groups and special interests waging war on abundant and affordable energy.

Pennsylvania’s Big Funders

Funding this web is a surprisingly small collection of foundations: the Heinz Endowments, William Penn Foundation, and the Woodtiger Fund.

The Heinz Endowments was originally endowed using the fortune of ketchup inventor Henry J. Heinz in Pittsburgh. Today it’s more famous as the philanthropy of environmentalist and former Vice President John Kerry, whose wife, Teresa Heinz, inherited the family fortune after her first husband, Sen. John Heinz (R-PA), died in a 1991 plane crash.

In 1990, Teresa Heinz met Kerry at an Earth Day event. Two years later, she was made a delegate to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which created the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which governs today’s U.N. global warming agenda. In 2017, Heinz joined Al Gore to “recruit and train climate change activists” in Pittsburgh prior to the release of his second global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. (In his 2006 alarmist documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Gore predicted that the Earth’s climate would reach a “point of no return” by 2016.)

In 2019, the Heinz Endowments (2019 assets: $1.2 billion) paid out grants totaling $59 million. While the foundation supports many philanthropic causes—such as public libraries and the arts—at least $12 million of that money benefited political groups that aim to wipe out coal production, “clean air” groups that support stricter emissions regulations, and “environmental justice” activists. Even some of its grants to universities such as Carnegie Mellon University are meant to promote environmental ideology, such as a $370,000 grant “to visualize air quality impacts and engage communities in the region.”

In 2019 alone, Heinz supported a host of national and local environmental groups:

  • $375,000 to the Clean Air Task Force, an anti-oil think tank;
  • $590,000 to the Clean Air Council, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit created in 1967 to file environmental lawsuits;
  • $1.1 million to Sustainable Pittsburgh, a renewable energy group;
  • $375,000 to the Group Against Smog and Pollution “to advocate for improved air quality in the region” of Pittsburgh;
  • $60,000 to Mothers Out Front “to engage mothers and families to promote a sustainable region and to protect communities from fossil energy development”;
  • $300,000 to the Mountain Watershed Association, a Pennsylvania conservation group, “to protect the public and environment from fossil fuel development impacts”;
  • $475,000 to Pittsburgh United, an environmentalist-union coalition backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Sierra Club, to support multiple “clean water and air” advocacy and organizing campaigns, much of it to “invest in [its] staff, board, and operations”; and
  • $90,000 to the Sierra Club “to protect the region from impacts from fossil fuel use and development.”

To a lesser degree Heinz also funds activist groups involved in other issues in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. In 2019 alone, it granted:

  • $250,000 to the Keystone Research Center “to increase the effectiveness of Pennsylvania state government by attracting top quality candidates for administration positions and creating a training and capacity building program” (emphasis added);
  • $170,000 to the Fair Elections Center, an anti-voter ID litigation group incubated by the “dark money” network run by Arabella Advisors;
  • $75,000 to Arabella Advisors’ New Venture Fund to support its 2020 Census Project “in achieving a full and accurate count of the U.S. population,” which in reality targeted Democratic-leaning cities;
  • $350,000 to Pennsylvania Voice, part of the national leftist get-out-the-vote group State Voices, to “build a coordinated field plan to ensure a fair and accurate 2020 Census”; and
  • $250,000 to Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania to “establish a DeFund fund to offset the Title X gag rule” and “reduc[e] dependency on federal funding,” referring to the Trump administration’s 2019 decision to block federal funding through Title X for abortions.

The William Penn Foundation is another key donor to environmentalist causes in Pennsylvania. While the foundation is named for William Penn, the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania, it was endowed by Otto Haas, the late billionaire founder of the Rohm and Haas Company, a major chemical manufacturer that was acquired by Dow Chemical in 2009.

The Penn Foundation has paid out over $1 billion in grants to other groups since 2000. While much of that money has benefited charitable causes—such as the Philadelphia Orchestra and city libraries—it has also heavily supported environmental organizations. Since 2000, those grants have included:

  • $10 million to Open Space Conservancy, which acquires land to halt development and construction;
  • $7.1 million to National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a federally funded conservation group that makes grants to left-leaning conservation organizations such as Trout Unlimited and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network; and
  • $2 million to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, an activist group that regularly sues the federal government over environmental issues, such as construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal on the Delaware River in April 2020.


In the next installment, find out who is funding PennFuture’s war on coal, natural gas, and oil.

Hayden Ludwig

Hayden Ludwig is the Director of Policy Research at Restoration of America. He was formerly Senior Investigative Researcher at Capital Research Center. Ludwig is a native of Orange County, California,…
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Kevin Mooney

Kevin Mooney, a frequent CRC contributor, is an investigative reporter for The Daily Signal.
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