Energy & Environment

Progressive group slams Biden White House pick over tie to fossil fuel industry

Bonnie Cash

Progressive environmental group the Sunrise Movement on Tuesday criticized President-elect Joe Biden’s selection of Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) to be his senior adviser over Richmond’s fossil fuel donations. 

The group called the appointment of Richmond, who was also a national co-chairman of the Biden campaign, a “betrayal.”

“One of President-Elect Biden’s very first hires for his new administration has taken more donations from the fossil fuel industry during his Congressional career than nearly any other Democrat, cozied up to Big Oil and Gas, and stayed silent and ignored meeting with organizations in his own community while they suffered from toxic pollution and sea-level rise,” said Varshini Prakash, the group’s executive director, in a statement. 

“That’s a mistake, and it’s an affront to young people who made President-Elect Biden’s victory possible. President-Elect Biden assured our movement he understands the urgency of this crisis; now, it’s time for him to act like it,” Prakash added. 

In response to the statement, a Biden-Harris transition official stressed that the president-elect “knows that climate change is the challenge that will define our American future” in an email to The Hill. 

“The incoming White House staff members are committed to building an administration that will tackle the climate crisis and fight for environmental justice,” the official said. 

Richmond, who represents parts of the New Orleans area, had nearly $113,000 in campaign donations this cycle from the oil and gas sector, more than any other sector that donated to his campaign, according to Open Secrets

He was also one of a few Democrats who voted in favor of authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline. 

Progressive groups have been keeping a close eye on whether Biden will appoint officials to his administration who have worked for, received money from or otherwise expressed support for fossil fuels. 

The Biden transition ethics code also states that the president-elect “aims to ensure that those who serve are aligned with his values and policy priorities, and have not, for example, been leaders at fossil fuel or private prison companies.”

Progressive groups in recent days have also come out against other potential Biden picks over fossil fuels.

On Monday, they urged the transition not to select former Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to lead the Energy Department, partly due to his past work for British Petroleum, and on Tuesday, they urged Biden away from choosing former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-Minn.) for Agriculture secretary. 

However, Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), a House colleague of Richmond’s and a longtime Biden supporter, said that Richmond has been supporting “the working men and women of this country.”

“That’s the tragedy that Americans up to now have been faced with, that it’s either fossil fuel jobs or bad-paying jobs. His district has been dependent on fossil fuels,” McEachin said. 

Tags Cedric Richmond Donald McEachin Ernest Moniz Heidi Heitkamp Joe Biden

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