Ex-Obama aide slams Sanders climate platform push

A former top energy and climate adviser to President Obama is hammering Bernie Sanders supporters for their insistence on stronger environmental planks in the Democratic platform. 

In a Bloomberg Government op-ed, Heather Zichal, Obama’s former deputy assistant for energy and climate change, equated supporters of the Vermont senator’s presidential bid to the Tea Party, arguing their fight to beef up climate issues in the Democratic platform is akin to a “burn-it-down march to the ideological sea.”

{mosads}“Bernie Sanders deserves great credit for elevating many important issues, especially regarding climate and energy policy, but that doesn’t mean he’s entitled to shape the entire platform of the party on climate without compromise,” she wrote. 

Zichal argued that the Democratic platform is stronger on climate than any platform that came before it, with a goal of producing 100 percent clean energy by 2050, phasing out fossil fuel extraction on public lands, and other priorities. 

Sanders and his appointees to the platform committee hope to go further. They are calling for a national ban on hydraulic fracturing and instituting a carbon tax. 

Zichal wrote that if Democrats don’t unite behind the platform — and, by extension, rival Hillary Clinton’s climate pledges — a fractured and fighting Democratic Party could deliver the White House to presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. 

“We can’t defeat them in November if we’re stuck fending off myths and deceptions from within,” she wrote. “Sanders environmental advocates who spout voter-depressing untruths will have carbon on their hands if they cost us this election.”

Zichal was an energy policy adviser for Obama’s 2008 campaign and served in his White House until 2013. After her time in government, she joined the board of Cheniere, a natural gas company, and launched an energy and environment consulting firm.

In a response, Ben Schreiber, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth Action, called Zichal a “surrogate” for Clinton and dismissed the op-ed as a conflict of interest. 

“You have to question Secretary Clinton’s judgment when she trots a climate surrogate that is receiving fat checks from a fracking company,” he said. 

“Fracking is one of the most contentious issues on the Democratic Platform and Heather Zichal’s financial relationship makes it a conflict of interest for her to weigh in on it.”

Friends of the Earth Action endorsed Sanders early in the election cycle. 

Greens on Friday released a letter signed by 223 Democratic delegates calling on the platform committee to institute a fracking ban in the final document, a draft of which was released last week. 

“Climate change presents humankind with an unprecedented challenge and poses a threat to life, as we know it, on this planet,” the letter said. “We can’t achieve our nation’s legal commitment if we continue to rely on fossil fuels. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we act to keep the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground.”

—This post was updated at 2:45 p.m.


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