SPECIAL REPORT - Mark Tapscott: Crucial funding for Big Green comes from taxpayers 

American taxpayers provide hundreds of millions of dollars to Big Green environmental groups in the form of federal grants and contracts from federal agencies, especially the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior.

An Examiner analysis of the most recently available IRS Form 990 tax returns for major Big Green groups found six that collectively received more than $160 million in federal grants and contracts in return for providing services and as reimbursement for expenses.

Topping the six is the Nature Conservancy's $110.6 million, followed by the Trust for Public Land ($28 million), Audubon Society ($17.5 million), the Environmental Defense Fund (parent of the EDF Action Fund) with $3.6 million, Natural Resources Defense Council ($358,072), and Defenders of Wildlife ($205,021).

Together, the six groups received nearly $2.1 billion in total revenue in 2008, for an average of $333,311,128 per group, from all sources in 2008. So the $160 million from the government wasn't critical to the financial health of the six.

Still, the federal funding is important to these groups because that $160 million from Uncle Sam freed up another $160 million the groups got from private sources to be used to fatten the compensation packages received by Big Green's well-paid executives; to reward its friends in government, the liberal mainstream media and the academic community; and on the campaign trail.

The federal funding creates a $320 million empowerment bonus to six of the leading Big Green environmental groups, courtesy of the American taxpayers.

With a staff of more than 4,000 employees and operations around the globe, the Nature Conservancy annually buys millions of acres it considers threatened by development, economic growth or climate change. It also lobbies governments, produces educational materials and conducts media campaigns.

In 2008, for example, the Nature Conservancy started a worldwide campaign -- the Campaign for a Sustainable Planet -- that it claimed "is the largest conservation campaign in history." The group said the campaign requires "partnering with governments, businesses, non-profits, communities and individuals."

Leaders and employees of the group contributed more than half a million dollars to candidates in 2008 and so far in 2010, with 71 percent of the total going to Democrats and the remainder to Republicans.

The Trust for Public Land is the second-biggest recipient of government contracts and awards. Its employees and leaders also contributed in excess of half a million dollars to candidates, with $495,186 going to Democrats and $11,300 to Republicans.

Government grants or contracts awarded to Big Green groups raise questions about why tax dollars are used when the recipient organizations already have huge bank accounts from private sources.

The EDF's 2008 revenues exceeded $125 million, its net assets and fund balances were more than $161 million, and it received more than $3.6 million in government grants and contracts.

Last year, the EPA awarded the Environmental Defense Fund $400,000 "to establish the Northeast Hybrid Truck Consortium (NHTC). Through the NHTC, EDF will replace at least 12 pre-2007 diesel class 4-7 vehicles with hybrid versions.

"This project will replace vehicles operating in all six New England states. This project will cover 25% of the cost of the new vehicles and will significantly reduce diesel pollution and improve air quality in New England."

No explanation was provided in the EPA database for why EDF received the grant or how the agency calculated that using tax dollars to cover one-fourth of the cost to replace a dozen of the thousands of diesel vehicles operating in six New England states could possibly "significantly reduce diesel pollution and improve air quality."

The government grant did, however, free up $400,000 for other EDF activities that might otherwise have gone unfunded in the absence of the grant, such as lobbying. The organization reported spending just short of $1 million on lobbying in 2008.

Mark Tapscott is editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner and proprietor of Tapscott's CopyDesk blog on washingtonexaminer.com

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared with the figure of $2.1 trillion in the fourth paragraph. That figure should have been billion and has now been corrected. - MT(9/29/10)

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Mark Tapscott

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