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President-elect Joe Biden listens to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris make a statement at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on November 16, 2020.

President-elect Joe Biden listens to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris make a statement at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on November 16, 2020. (Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

Campaigners Put Forth 'Cabinet Climate Test' for President-Elect Biden

"We demand an executive branch ready to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and face the climate crisis at scale."

Andrea Germanos

Advocacy group 350.org released a new guide Thursday to assess how likely President-elect Joe Biden's possible picks for top roles will be "to stand up to the fossil fuel industry to take on the climate crisis."

The "Cabinet Climate Test" was launched as Biden faces increasing pressure from progressive groups to reject a cabinet members with a track record of putting corporate interests above the public good and those not committed to a transition to a renewable energy-based economy.

The tool also comes as the climate crisis continues to deepen, with the coronavirus-triggered global economic slowdown barely budging CO2 emissions, and as U.S. workers face increasingly precarious economic conditions amid the ongoing pandemic.

Despite that backdrop, the fossil fuel industry has continued to take in direct federal relief since the public health crisis broke out, and that needs to change, says 350 Action associate policy director Natalie Mebane.

"For too long and in a time of deep crisis, federal officials have disavowed our interests by slipping US$15.2 billion a year into the pockets of fossil fuel executives that exploit, pollute, and destroy our communities and planet," she said in a statement.

Mebane pointed to Biden's stated "commitment to prioritize climate action, racial and economic justice, and pandemic response," and said, "Our stance is clear: we will accept no malarkey," invoking one of Biden's favored words.

The criteria set forth by the group states that potential nominees have:

  • Not profited from fossil fuel money, either from campaign cash or from a previous role in the polluting industry;
  • Possess a record of supporting clean energy and climate justice;
  • Taken clear action to keep fossil fuels "in the ground";
  • Demonstrated support for corporate accountability including a commitment to "a just transition to a workers-first, 100% clean energy economy"; and
  • Boast a track record of "advocating for policies at the intersection of climate and other social justice issues like racial, gender, class, and immigration justice."

:50.org 's criteria are that nominees who have not profited from fossil fuel money, either from campaign cash or from a previous role in the polluting industry; possess a record of supporting clean energy and climate justice; have taken clear action to "keep it in the ground"; have demonstrated support for corporate accountability including a committment to "a just transition to a workers-first, 100% clean energy economy"; and boast a track record of "advocating for policies at the intersection of climate and other social justice issues like racial, gender, class, and immigration justice."

According to the climate group, three individuals that appear to be in the running for Cabinet or top government roles meet such criteria: Mustafa Santiago Ali, a veteran of the Environmental Protection Agency with expertise in environmental justice, to be head of the EPA or Council on Environmental Quality; Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), a member of Pueblo of Laguna seen as a climate ally, to be U.S. Secretary of the Interior; and Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), who's been praised as an ally to food system workers, to be U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

The guide also lists who 350.org "wholeheartedly" opposes for top posts, with one of the two being former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.

Calling Moniz "a blatant example of the wrong kind of energy policy," the new document cites his ties to major fossil fuel companies and his being a proponent of so-called "clean" coal.

The other possible candidate 350.org singles out for opposition is Heidi Heitkamp for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Among the criticisms listed are her "thousands of dollars in campaign donations from giant agribusiness companies" and the fact that Heitkamp "raised $633,000 from the fossil fuel industry—more than any other incumbent Senate Democrat during her two elections."

Worthy of further scorn is what the group frames as Heitkamp's pride in support for slashing $4 billion from SNAP in 2014, as well as her support for both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

Mebane, in her statement, applauded Haaland and Ali's backgrounds and referenced their "robust track record of prioritizing climate justice for BIPOC communities." She also praised Fudge for being "a strong climate advocate who has fought for workers' rights."

"Our lives are at stake," said Mebane. "We demand an executive branch ready to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and face the climate crisis at scale."


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