President-elect Joe Biden’s liaison to the climate-change movement is “perpetuating the oil and gas industry” with an offshore-drilling bill he introduced, a Democratic congressional staffer tells TYT.
The criticism is the latest in a chorus against Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Biden’s climate-change liaison during the transition and future director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Richmond supported the Keystone XL Pipeline, takes fossil-fuel donations, and has come under scrutiny for his ties to the industry and alleged neglect of vulnerable communities.
The Biden transition team did not respond to TYT’s request for comment, but previously defended Richmond as "committed to serving the President-elect's vision.”
However, a bill Richmond introduced last year is raising new questions about his own vision. And when TYT spoke with one congressional staffer who works for a Democratic member of the Natural Resources Committee, the staffer’s response also raised questions about Democratic support for Richmond.
The bill, The Domestic Offshore Energy Reinvestment Act, would raise the amount that offshore drillers have to pay for coastal restoration and protection of Gulf Coast states, including Louisiana. Although it sounds environmentally friendly, cementing offshore drilling as a revenue source poses potential problems, the Democratic staffer said.
“Some people look at it as a win-win to fund environmental priorities with a reliable stream of income,” the staffer said. “But a lot of people are upset you are perpetuating the oil and gas industry you should be winding down, should be shutting down.”
The staffer said that the bill “creates an unavoidable conflict of interest to maintain this funding for good environmental projects, since you are reliant on the oil and gas industries.”
Richmond did not respond to TYT’s request for comment. His bill is now in the Natural Resources Committee, and has strong support from some Gulf Coast Republicans. In fact, more Republicans (nine) than Democrats (five) co-sponsored Richmond’s bill. One of the co-sponsors is Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the House minority whip.
Richmond’s bill did receive support from some of the more established, mainstream environmental organizations. The Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Society, and other groups said in a joint press release last year, “We thank Congressman Richmond for his commitment to the critical restoration needs of coastal Louisiana… It is important that coastal producing states are also well-equipped to ensure the sustainability of coastal communities and ecosystems.”
The Biden team’s earlier statement about Richmond said that he “is committed to serving the President-elect's vision to meet this moment by prioritizing both an inclusive, clean energy future and federal investment in transitional communities, creating millions of good-paying jobs and protecting our planet for generations to come.”
But some progressive environmental organizations have criticized Biden’s choice of Richmond as his senior advisor, because he has taken more oil and gas donations than nearly any other House Democrat: $341,000 over 10 years, The Daily Poster reported.
The congressional staffer who spoke with TYT acknowledged that Richmond’s state depends on oil and gas, but also noted that his district includes New Orleans, devastated by hurricanes intensified by climate change due in part to fossil fuel emissions.
Richmond’s district also includes “Cancer Alley,” which runs from Baton Rouge to New Orleans and is adjacent to polluting chemical and industrial plants, most of them fossil-fuel related. The rate of air-pollution-caused cancer there is 50 times the national average.
A major concern is that Richmond, with his fossil fuel ties, will be a key figure implementing Biden’s Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice Plan. The question is: Will Richmond deal with fossil fuel companies with the same principles behind his bill of apparent practicality, but possible support of climate-destroying oil and gas?