A Time magazine blogger reported Thursday that the Sierra Club, America’s oldest and most august environmental organization, accepted millions of dollars in donations from one of the nation’s biggest natural gas-drilling companies for a program lambasting coal-fired power plants as environmental evildoers.

The total take for John Muir’s conservation group? A whopping $26 million over four years from Chesapeake Energy and its subsidiaries, mostly through Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon.

The news rocked the environmental movement, sent the Sierra Club headlong into explanation mode, angered coal companies that the organization targeted with natural gas money, and had free-market advocates shaking their heads.

The episode “raises concerns about influence industry may have had on the Sierra Club’s independence and its support of natural gas in the past,” wrote Time’s Bryan Walsh.

The Daily Caller asked Chesapeake Energy spokesman Jim Gipson whether his company’s donations were made with the expectation that the Sierra Club would attack the coal industry, and whether the company has subsidized other green groups that oppose generating electricity by burning coal. Gipson did not respond to the email.

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