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Analysis: NPR citing sources targeting fossil fuel industry funded by similar donors

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As Congress investigates the “ideological bias” of National Public Radio (NPR) – a nonprofit news organization established by Congress and partially funded by taxpayers – some of its philanthropic funding sources also appear to be in question.

The Rockefeller Foundation helped launch NPR’s Climate Desk in 2022, The Center Square reported. Two Rockefeller funds, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Rockefeller Family Fund, are dedicating billions of dollars to fund a range of groups, including the Environmental Integrity Project, recently highlighted by a Wall Street Journal investigation. The Journal reported that the RBF and RFF, the EIP and several activists successfully launched a campaign to put pressure on the Biden administration to halt new LNG permits.

The RFF created a Funder Collaborative on Oil and Gas to help “groups that are fighting the development of oil, gas, plastics, and petrochemicals infrastructure.” Its stated goals are to “limit ongoing oil and gas production; prevent the lock-in of (greenhouse gas)-emissions for new and expanded oil, gas, and petrochemical infrastructure; and weaken the industry’s financial standing and political influence.”

“To solve the climate crisis,” the RFF collaborative argues U.S. fossil fuel production must be curtailed and “massive new domestic infrastructure” must be blocked. The collaborative says it’s funding media outlets like NPR and associations like the Society of Environmental Journalists, as well as a range of nonprofit and activist groups to achieve its goal. They are targeting ExxonMobil, carbon capture and sequestration and “potentially dangerous plants, wells and pipeline projects.”

The Journal highlights three activists opposing the Biden LNG ban, John Beard, James Hiatt and Roishetta Ozane, who are all connected to the EIP and cited as sources by NPR.

NPR climate desk reporting in 2022, for example, claimed LNG exports would “complicate climate goals.” It quoted then community organizer Ozane who claimed building additional LNG terminals would negatively impact low-income Black neighborhoods. NPR cited her recently celebrating the LNG ban, which she took credit for, the Washington Post reported.

NPR also cites Hiatt, an activist with Louisiana Bucket Brigade, which received $665,000 from RFF. In NPR articles, the reporter writes “soon more natural vistas here could be lost” if new LNG facilities are built along the Gulf of Mexico and highlights LNG protesters, including Hiatt.

NPR also regularly cites the EIP alleging petrochemical plants are polluting low-income and minority communities; low-income and minority communities are suffering from “disproportionate air pollution;” “oil refineries release lots of water pollution near communities of color,” among others.

The EIP also regularly cites Hiatt, Ozane and Beard opposing the fossil fuel industry. A new EIP report claims, “Billions of taxpayer dollars in the U.S. are helping to pay for dangerous, and often illegal, air pollution from a rapidly-growing plastics industry that disproportionately threatens Black and Latino communities that live beside plastic manufacturing plants.”

It cites Beard, founder of the Texas-based Port Arthur Community Action Network, saying, “Plastic petrochemical proliferation in Port Arthur packs a double whammy. First, the pollution from refined crude forms the basis for plastics building blocks, and then the cracking of those molecules releases even more toxics into the air we breathe. We have some of the worst air in America, yet these companies plan billions more in expansions to further endanger our health and safety.”

NPR also cited the EIP report claiming, “Oil refineries release billions of pounds of pollution annually into waterways, and that pollution disproportionately affects people of color.” It cites Beard who says oil sheen on the water affects recreational and commercial fishing and the refineries are built in low-income communities “not River Oaks,” referring to a wealthy Houston neighborhood. NPR states, “communities that have faced generations of systemic racism also live with polluted air and water” because of the fossil fuel industry.

Beard claims the industry he worked in for nearly 40 years is devastating “the mostly African-American community.” Working with the EIP and Lone Star Legal Aid, he petitioned the EPA to investigate the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. He alleged it violated residents’ civil rights “by allowing a petroleum processing plant owned by billionaire William Koch to release tons of potentially deadly sulfur dioxide air pollution every year without any modern pollution control equipment.”

NPR’s climate desk editor Neela Banerjee previously worked at Inside Climate News. ICN quotes Hiatt and EIP data claiming LNG terminal facilities will have “long-term environmental and climate damages” to local communities. Banerjee also investigated and published a report on Exxon as the Rockefellers reportedly worked with Democratic attorneys general to sue Exxon, according to documents released by the Government Accountability & Oversight group.