Green Watch

Behind Pennsylvania’s “Green” Activists: PEC and PennEnvironment

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


Meet the Activists: PEC and PennEnvironment

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) is a lobbying group with roots in the radical environmental movement of the early 1970s. The group was founded in 1970 to combat “the ravages of litter, air and water pollution, chemical waste”—and “overpopulation.” A memoir by some of the group’s founders in 2020 recalls the influence of Rachel Carson’s infamous 1969 book Silent Spring—whose wild claims about the toxicity of DDT have been blamed by conservatives and leftists alike for costing the lives of millions of people in developing countries—and The Population Bomb, a 1968 book that predicted the world would end from overpopulation and starvation in 1985.

PEC aims to totally replace “fossil fuels” with renewable energy sources—what it calls “deep decarbonization”—and creating a carbon pricing scheme by formally entering Pennsylvania into RGGI. Its senior vice president, John Walliser, urged the state legislature to join the pact in 2019 legislative testimony. The group’s ultimate goal is “100% zero-carbon electricity supply” by 2050, a sheer impossibility using wind and solar sources (although interestingly PEC supports the expansion of nuclear power plants, a rarity on the Left).

PEC also wants the government to promote electric vehicles (EVs) and EV charging stations. In this it cites Driving PA Forward, a left-wing coalition of pro-illegal immigration and “social justice” groups. Driving PA Forward was created in 2018 using funding from Pennsylvania’s $118.5 million settlement with Volkswagen, after the automobile manufacturer was caught cheating in EPA emissions tests for some of its vehicles.

PEC is also connected to PennFuture and Conservation Voters of PA. In the months before the 2020 election, they formed a joint organizing group to “empower” Pennsylvanians to “advocate for sustainable policies” (read: vote Democratic).

The Penn Foundation is the biggest known donor to PEC, giving at least $10.6 million since 2001. The Heinz Endowments has gifted PEC roughly $1.2 million since 2003. The foundation has also received nearly $6.4 million between 1999 and 2020 from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, a Ligonier-based funder that supports a host of philanthropic causes as well as left-leaning groups such as the Society of Environmental Journalists. The Colcom Foundation—a Pittsburgh-based grantmaker that supports environmentalist, population control, and pro-abortion groups—has given PEC $4.9 million since 2000.

PennEnvironment and PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center form a 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(3) pair of local affiliates for a massive, multi-million-dollar activist nexus in Washington, DC: the Public Interest Network. The inner workings of the Public Interest Network are obscure; it consists of roughly 100 left-wing nonprofits and for-profit companies that specialize in fake “grassroots” campaigns for other left-wing groups, hiring out poorly paid activists to solicit donations on street corners for groups such as Planned Parenthood and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Its labor practices that have earned it a reputation on the Left as a “liberal sweatshop.” In 2019, CRC charted the vast network, revealing two pillars that together control most of its activism: the Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), dating back to the antiwar activism of the 1960s, and Environment America.

Environment America is the puppet master of PennEnvironment and PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center. It also controls similar paired affiliates across the country that act as local branches of the master group. Environment America and its minions advocate for a host of left-wing environmental policies, including 100 percent renewable energy, banning fracking and offshore drilling, and halting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline (something President Biden ordered almost immediately upon taking office). In March, PennEnvironment lauded Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) for announcing the largest push for solar power in Pennsylvania history, providing almost 50 percent of the electricity in a slate of counties after construction finishes in 2023.

PennEnvironment’s known donors include the Energy Foundation, a major San Francisco–based pass-through funder to environmental causes, and its associated Energy Action Fund; the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, which funds local “green” activism; and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Action Fund. PennEnvironment is also one of the top-funded groups by Environment America, which gave it close to $773,000 between 2015 and 2018.

PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center, the 501(c)(3) arm, has received $1 million from the Colcom Foundation since 2008, $767,000 from the Penn Foundation since 2006, $235,000 from Heinz Endowments since 2010, and $245,000 from the Energy Foundation since 2018. The Claneil Foundation—a grantmaker based in Montgomery County, Maryland, that funds groups addressing food waste and conservation—has gifted the group $323,000 since 2006.


In the next installment, note the environmental fundamentalism of Pennsylvanians Against Fracking.

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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