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The Congressman Biden Tapped to Liaise With Climate Activists Has Received $340,000 in Fossil Fuel Money

Biden bumps elbows with Rep. Cedric Richmond, who has taken big bucks from the fossil fuel and petrochemical industry.

Biden bumps elbows with Rep. Cedric Richmond, who has taken huge bucks from the fossil gasoline and petrochemical business.
Photograph: Jim Watson (Getty Photos)

President-elect Joe Biden is starting to fill prime positions for his administration, together with sending a climate signal. Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat, will reportedly function director of the Workplace of Public Engagement, Bloomberg reported on Monday night. In response to Politico, that function will embody serving as a “liaison with the enterprise group and local weather change activists.” However activists say he’s the flawed particular person for the job.

“He’s a nasty selection,” stated Anne Rolfes, govt director of environmental justice nonprofit Louisiana Bucket Brigade who lives and works in Richmond’s district.

Biden will enter the presidency at a crucial time, and local weather activists helped elevate him there. They’re persevering with to place stress on him to handle the local weather disaster, however Richmond’s place stands in distinction to their calls for.

Richmond represents Louisiana’s second district, which covers most of New Orleans and stretches west and north to Baton Rouge. It features a stretch of communities alongside the Mississippi River known as Cancer Alley due to the elevated most cancers danger that residents face as a consequence of their proximity to a hub of polluting fossil gasoline and petrochemical crops. Richmond is not any local weather denier—he acquired a 74% lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters and has supported measures to protect wildlife and shield public lands. However with regards to laws that impacts fossil gasoline and petrochemical firms like those that have arrange store in Louisiana’s chemical hall, he’s sung a unique tune.

“We’ve seen Richmond do issues like vote for the repeal of crude oil export ban in 2015, which has led to this explosion in improvement alongside that hall,” stated Jane Patton, senior environmental well being campaigner with the Middle for Worldwide and Environmental Regulation who has lived in Richmond’s district her complete life. “When that crude oil export ban was repealed, all this new improvement was instantly deliberate alongside the hall … lots of that development we’ve seen is being pushed by this complete new marketplace for crude oil exports.”

Richmond didn’t simply vote to open the door for expanded fossil gasoline exercise in his district. He’s additionally ignored residents’ cries concerning the ensuing air pollution. Rolfes, as an example, has spent years campaigning in opposition to Formosa Plastics’ proposal to open up a $9.four billion chemical complicated in Most cancers Alley’s St. James Parish, which might be one of many largest plastic crops within the nation. ProPublica discovered that the brand new plant’s emissions will greater than triple exposure to cancer-causing chemical compounds in what’s already considered one of America’s most polluted zip codes. It will additionally launch an infinite quantity of climate-warming emissions—13.6 million tons annually, per a Louisiana Division of Environmental High quality allow. That’s the equal of three and a half coal-fired energy stations.

“Rep. Richmond has not lifted a finger to assist the group that will be destroyed. He has refused to even meet with St. James residents,” Rolfes stated. “He has been content material to roll out the purple carpet for polluters and switch his again on the residents of this historic Black group.”

Darryl Malek-Wiley, an environmental justice organizer with Sierra Membership in New Orleans, stated that is notably irritating as a result of Richmond occupies the one safely Democratic seat in Louisiana.

“He might be very outspoken and nonetheless get elected, and but, he’s by no means been there,” he stated. “He hasn’t pushed for accountability, he hasn’t been there combating the oil and fuel impacts on coastal wetlands, on stopping air pollution.”

Malek-Wiley stated that Richmond “hasn’t even been useful within the struggle to watch air air pollution,” not to mention quelling it. For years, Malek-Wiley has been working with involved residents to enhance monitoring emissions of chloroprene, a chemical that may increase risk of cancer and reproductive injury, from a rubber plant began by DuPont and later bought to a Japanese firm known as Denka. The Environmental Safety Company installed new displays across the plant earlier this yr, however outside experts said these new displays haven’t picked up chloroprene spikes although impartial monitoring has.

“Cedric [Richmond] wrote one letter final yr on situation, however hasn’t been actively engaged,” stated Malek-Wiley. Since then, he’s promised to become more engaged, however to this point hasn’t delivered. “He might have had one assembly with organizers, however there’s been no ongoing dialogue.”

With this expertise in thoughts, Malek-Wiley stated he needed to chortle when he noticed experiences that the Biden administration would anticipate Richmond to be a liaison between business and activists.

“Liaison? He doesn’t liaise,” he stated. “He’s by no means liaised with any environmental justice teams engaged on points with the petrochemical business in Louisiana. He might need liaised with enterprise, however he hasn’t talked with us.”

If cash is any indication, Richmond has performed loads of liasing with enterprise. Over the course of his 10-year profession, Richmond has taken in $340,750 for the oil and fuel business, in accordance with data collected by the Middle for Responsive Politics. A deeper look reveals particular donors embody Exxon ($35,500), Chevron ($33,350), Phillips 66 ($25,000), and Marathon Petroleum ($35,500). He’s additionally acquired $15,000 from the American Petroleum Institute, the business’s entrance group that has helped stall out local weather motion.

Along with oil and fuel donations, Richmond has additionally accepted cash from different firms and commerce teams which have at varied factors denied local weather change, lobbied in opposition to local weather and environmental protections, poisoned communities with poisonous waste and emissions, or, in a single case, are embroiled in a large bribery case.

There’s a 2018 donation from DowDuPont ($7,000), a chemical big that’s since cut up up, and is on the middle of quite a few environmental justice fights, together with the one which inspired Dark Waters. There’s Lockheed Martin ($22,000), a weapons producer that’s at the moment going through two lawsuits alleging it created an “environmental nightmare” in Florida by releasing heavy metals and chemical compounds within the Orlando space. Richmond has additionally acquired cash from the freight rail business, the most important contributor of which is CSX ($62,500), a bunch that performed a lesser-known however nonetheless essential function in spreading climate denial for decades.

Richmond has additionally acquired a large inflow of cash from utilities which can be a few of the most egregious machines of local weather denial and air pollution within the nation. These ranks embody Entergy ($82,750), a Louisiana utility that paid actors to show up to help a pure fuel energy plant at a public listening to opposed by the precise public. Then there’s Duke Vitality ($23,000), which activists have fought over coal ash spills in Carolinas and Virginia. It’s additionally curious {that a} utility that doesn’t work in Louisiana would donate a lot to a member of Congress there. And at last, there’s FirstEnergy ($6,500), a utility that once more doesn’t serve Louisiana however is embroiled in a huge bribery scandal in Ohio over a coal energy plant bailout.

Among the many solely environmental teams who’ve kicked cash to Richmond’s marketing campaign is the Middle for Sportfishing Coverage, a bunch that seems to be largely a entrance for boat producers primarily based on its board and membership ranges. To provide you a way of its credentials, the group handed out its Jack Lawton, Jr. Conservation Award this yr to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who has overseen the downfall of key climate agency and invested in shady companies tied to grease and fuel. To say it doesn’t mirror the view of grassroots local weather activists is an understatement.

The subsequent 4 years are completely essential for local weather motion. They’re the start of a decisive decade. To fulfill the dimensions of that disaster, the Biden administration should work to abolish the fossil gasoline business and quickly draw down our greenhouse fuel emissions whereas defending staff and probably the most weak. That’s the message from grassroots organizers and the very best obtainable science, but when Biden is appointing Richmond as a liaison, it appears the incoming president might not be prepared to listen to it.

“With the restricted time that we have now left to handle the local weather disaster, it’s completely important that folks with fossil gasoline connections not be those driving decision-making,” Patton stated. “The very last thing we want is one other one who’s placing the pursuits of the fossil gasoline business first.”

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Dharna Noor and Brian Kahn on Earther, shared by Andrew Couts to Gizmodo