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House GOP Ramps Up Pressure on Environmental Groups’ Foreign Ties

The window location of a CH-53 helicopter is seen covered at Futenma US Marine Corps Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa prefecture

House Republicans on Wednesday expanded their investigation into U.S. environmental groups' ties to foreign governments, opening a probe into the Center for Biological Diversity over its work with Japan.

In a letter to CBD Executive Director Kieran Suckling, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (Utah) and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Bruce Westerman (Ark.) demanded the organization turn over any documents related to its work with Japanese government employees.

The letter marks the third action taken by the committee this month as part of a broader probe into foreign interference in U.S. energy and environmental policy.

Earlier this month, Bishop and Westerman pressed the Natural Resources Defense Council to handover documents related to its dealings with the Chinese government. Last week, they sent a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis asking him to detail the impact of legal challenges against the military by environmental groups on national security.

In Wednesday's letter, the congressmen took issue with CBD's involvement in a pending lawsuit to block the relocation of a Marine Corps air station in Okinawa, Japan, because of the potential harm to the dugong, a marine mammal.

Though the lawmakers acknowledge "sincere concerns" among some locals, they write that the greatest opposition to U.S. military presence in Okinawa has come from political parties and activist groups such as the Japanese Communist Party, which has aligned itself with pledges to "never allow construction of a new military base … by employing every possible means."

"Okinawa's strategic southern location in the Ryukyu islands provides a critical forward-operating platform for U.S. military in the region," the congressmen wrote, heeding, "[Marine Corps Air Station Futenma's] urban location presents challenges to expanding military operations at the base and is a flashpoint for local opposition to the U.S. military presence."

"The committee is concerned that your organization's political activities in the United States in opposition to the relocation of MCAS Futenma and continued U.S. military presence in Okinawa may require compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act."

The Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, requires people or organizations to disclose to the Justice Department when they lobby in the United States on behalf of foreign governments.

The congressmen asked CBD to provide clarification of its advocacy work to influence U.S. environmental policy given its links to Okinawan government officials and foreign environmental groups, including those tied to China.

CBD has not yet commented on the letter. The group has until June 27 to hand over the requested documents.