Green Groups Angling for Influence in Potential Biden Administration
Environmental activist groups opposed to oil and natural gas development have made it clear they don’t want industry executives to serve in former-Vice President Joe Biden’s potential administration, while at the same time they are seeking to push Biden to adopt restrictive climate policies.
The behind-the-scenes campaign to shows the extensive efforts of activists groups are taking to bend a Biden presidency to their liking after they showed very little enthusiasm for his candidacy during the Democratic primary campaign.
The Sunrise Movement, among the loudest of these groups, is demanding that Biden block oil and natural gas industry officials from serving on his transition team, administration, or other roles.
“Ban all fossil fuel executives, lobbyists, consultants to and lawyers for fossil fuel firms and aligned organizations from a Biden-Harris transition team, cabinet, campaign or administration advisor roles, or any other position in a Biden-Harris administration,” the group’s website says.
In a letter sent to Biden last month, 145 environmental activist groups, including Greenpeace, Oil Change U.S., Physicians for Social Responsibility, WildEarth Guardians, and 350.org urged the same policy.
“Your leadership on climate and environmental justice is why we urge you to ban all fossil fuel executives, lobbyists, and representatives from any advisory or official position on your campaign, transition team, cabinet, and administration,” the groups wrote.
The Biden-Harris Transition Team has already announced that as part of its ethics plan, it won’t hire leaders from fossil fuel companies.
This criticism of outside influence appears not to cut both ways, however, as many of these same groups are seeking to push their own aggressive environmental agenda under a Biden presidency. After spurning Biden’s climate plan for not going far enough earlier in the campaign, green groups are now angling for positions of influence in a future administration.
Last year, the Sunrise Movement gave Biden’s climate plan an “F” rating, but after he secured the Democratic nomination over the group’s preferred candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the Sunrise Movement, along with other youth-led groups, demanded that Biden embrace its environmental and climate agenda that “are needed to earn the support of our generation” plus a commitment to spend $100 million to support his candidacy.
In their endorsement of Biden, 350.org said, “Together we will continue to demand a swift end to fossil fuel subsidies; hold fossil fuel companies accountable; transition to a 100% clean energy economy, and achieve real gains on net zero emissions by 2035. We will hold the administration to these promises and commit to working with them to make bold climate action a reality.”
The Sierra Club echoed this accountability message in its own endorsement of Biden while noting the former vice president’s environmental plans came about because of pressure from activist groups.
“These ambitious plans came as a result of listening to the calls of the climate justice movement, and we are committed to continuing to hold Biden accountable to making them a reality and evolving still further,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.
Activist groups aren’t the only ones pressuring Biden to restrict the appointment of private sector leaders to key government positions. A group of progressive U.S. House lawmakers including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that the body should reject all corporate leaders regardless of the industry.
“We therefore write to you today to urge you to oppose Senate confirmation of any nominee to an executive branch position who is currently or has been a lobbyist for any corporate client or c-suite officer for a private corporation, in this or any future administration,” the lawmakers wrote while specifically singling out the energy industry.
In August, E&E News explored several potential picks to serve as chief of Environmental Protection Agency under Biden including Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee’s, whose own short-lived presidential campaign last year focused almost exclusively on climate and environmental issues and argued for that the U.S. should completely “phase out” oil and natural gas production.