Hard-left environmental groups are raising red flags over President Joe Biden’s second pick to serve as deputy Interior secretary, Tommy Beaudreau, as his long list of private clients presents a myriad of potential conflicts of interest for the nominated position.
While President Donald Trump’s nominees were endlessly scrutinized by the press for possible conflicts, no matter how obscure, Biden’s administration appears to be piling up their own, with far less scrutiny.
Beaudreau, an energy lawyer who also served a stint at the Interior Department under President Barack Obama, has represented well more than two dozen clients deeply invested in the industry since leaving the administration for the Los Angeles-based firm Latham and Watkins, according to financial disclosure reported by the Huffington Post. The number of clients, which range across the industry from fossil fuels to renewable energy, far exceeds those of former Trump Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt, who was a former fossil fuel lobbyist before joining the department that oversees a quarter of the nation’s oil and gas production.
Bernhardt, who was first the deputy secretary at Interior and ascended to its chief in 2019, carried around a card of 17 former clients as to avoid conflicts of interest. Beaudreau’s list is more than double in size, at 35.
The potential for conflict has provoked leftist environmentalists to demand senators oppose Beaudreau’s confirmation after Biden pulled Elizabeth Klein’s nomination for the same position in March. She is another environmental lawyer with a background in the Obama and Clinton administrations whose overt hostility towards fossil fuels spooked needed votes in the upper chamber.
“To me, it’s pretty disqualifying,” Brett Hartl, who runs government affairs at the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Huffington Post of Beaudreau’s private-sector interests. “This is a massive amount of conflict, and frankly, he has biases that I think are going to be difficult to reconcile.”
Hartl’s group spearheaded a letter last week to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee signed by 29 other leftist environmental organizations to oppose Beaudreau’s nomination, demonizing Beaudreau as a primary driver of the “climate crisis.”
“Tommy Beaudreau is too cozy with the industry that is most responsible for the escalating climate crisis,” the letter reads, “and would likely undermine the President’s stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030.”
Beaudreau’s background defending fossil fuels, however, while characteristically seen as antithetical to goals of leftist environmentalists, is an asset to Republicans hopeful his perspective will steer Biden’s radical Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in the right direction.
“You know from personal experience the critical importance of energy production to the livelihoods of Americans all across the United States,” said Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso at Beaudreau’s hearing. Barrasso highlighted the experience of the nominee’s father working in the Alaskan oil fields. “Your appreciation of the benefits that energy production on public lands affords to millions of Americans is very welcome news.”
In its first 100 days, the Biden administration has been hostile to oil and gas production, canceling oil and gas leases on federal land through June while the department under Haaland conducts a review to assess their effect on climate change.
Haaland’s March coronation to the powerful environmental department as a “champion” of the left’s Green New Deal sparked ample anxiety among Republicans to even play a part in the Alaska GOP’s decision to censure and abandon support for its incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski for voting in Haaland’s favor. The leftist pushback to Beaudreau as an ally to the fossil fuel industry without significant GOP opposition, then, marks the Obama White House alum a peculiar choice to join Haaland at Interior, whose backgrounds and constituency of support throughout the nomination process stand in stark contrast.
According to the Huffington Post, Independent Sen. Angus King, a progressive from Maine, was the only senator to ask Beaudreau of potential conflicts that may arise given the long list of his private-sector clients since departure from the Obama administration. The nominee told lawmakers he had begun consulting with career ethics staff within the department to avoid such conflicts.
Beaudreau’s nomination has yet to be voted on by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chaired by West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin.