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'Revolving-Door Cronyism': Groups Line Up Against Fossil Fuel Lawyer for Interior

One environmental advocate said that industry-friendly attorney Tommy Beaudreau "has failed to stand up to the fossil fuel industry when it mattered most, and he'll likely fail again if confirmed to this critical position."

Fire boats battle a fire at the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon on April 21, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images)

Fire boats battle a fire at the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon on April 21, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images)

A coalition of 30 environmental groups on Thursday urged U.S. senators to oppose attorney Tommy Beaudreau's nomination for deputy secretary of the Interior due to his extensive record of working on behalf of fossil fuel corporations.

"Beaudreau exemplifies the worst type of revolving-door cronyism, jumping back and forth between representing fossil fuel interests and working for the government."
—Brett Hartl, Center for Biological Diversity

"Tommy Beaudreau simply possesses too many conflicts of interests with the fossil fuel industry and a lackluster record within the Department of the Interior during the Obama administration to serve in such a critical role managing our nation's public lands and irreplaceable natural heritage, not to mention tackling the climate crisis that has been caused by the very industry that Mr. Beaudreau has represented for years."

So begins a letter (pdf) addressed to members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and written by organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, and Revolving Door Project.

According to the coalition, "Beaudreau's financial disclosure report reveals numerous, deeply troubling conflicts of interests with the fossil fuel industry," which "stand in stark contrast to Secretary [Deb] Haaland's disclosure report."

After leaving the Obama administration, where he was the first director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy and Management (BOEM) and later chief of staff to then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Beaudreau became a partner in the law firm Latham & Watkins.

While there, "he represented numerous coal-mining, oil and gas, pipeline development, and mining companies including: Arch Resources, Total, Beacon Offshore Energy, Epic Midstream, Unocal Pipeline, and BHP," the groups wrote.

"Beaudreau also appears to have done work for two Saudi Arabian companies—Red Sea Development and NEOM—the latter of which is connected to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman," the groups added. "Reports indicate that the NEOM megacity project will result in at least 20,000 members of the Huwaitat tribe being evicted from their land."

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According to the coalition, Beaudreau's previous tenure in the Interior Department, which began shortly after the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, was also problematic.

"Eleven years ago, the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster killed 11 oil workers and spewed more than 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months, killing thousands of marine mammals, sea turtles, and birds," the groups wrote. As the BOEM director, Beaudreau was tasked with reforming offshore oil and gas drilling, "including the design and implementation of new regulations establishing standards for blowout preventers."

"Beaudreau is too cozy with the industry that is most responsible for the escalating climate crisis, and would likely undermine the president's stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030."
—Coalition letter

The coalition wrote that "Beaudreau failed to ensure that the strongest possible regulatory safeguards were implemented post-Deepwater Horizon."

"The rules failed to require the use of crucial safety technology such as blind shear rams on all blowout preventers by excluding them on existing floating drilling units and those currently under construction," the groups noted. "The administration even admitted the new rules did not make the blowout preventers completely fail-safe, and it provided the industry up to seven years to comply with many of the requirements."

In addition, the organizations wrote, Beaudreau "failed to adequately address systemic problems that led to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe." Although the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling "called for significant revisions" to the environmental review process, "meaningful changes never occurred" at the BOEM under Beaudreau, who instead "continued to rubber-stamp offshore drilling with no real review."

"Beaudreau is too cozy with the industry that is most responsible for the escalating climate crisis, and would likely undermine the president's stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030," the coalition wrote, adding: "his confirmation would greatly hinder the protections of our most cherished natural and cultural resources."

In a statement, Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said that "Beaudreau exemplifies the worst type of revolving-door cronyism, jumping back and forth between representing fossil fuel interests and working for the government."

"Beaudreau has failed to stand up to the fossil fuel industry when it mattered most, and he'll likely fail again if confirmed to this critical position," added Hartl.

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