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Ethics watchdog warns that No. 2 at Interior Dept. has 'massive potential conflicts'

The watchdog said that "the American public needs to know how he can lead initiatives in the sector while still adhering to federal ethics rules and the Biden Ethics Pledge." 

Updated: June 27, 2021 - 10:14pm

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A watchdog group is warning that Deputy Secretary of the Interior Department Tommy Beaudreau, who was confirmed earlier this month to serve in the number two slot at the department, carries "massive potential conflicts" into his new role.

"With the extent of potential conflicts posed by his former clients in the offshore wind industry, the American public needs to know how he can lead initiatives in the sector while still adhering to federal ethics rules and the Biden Ethics Pledge," Protect the Public's Trust declared in a press release.

The Washington Post reported in May that the Interior Department had been examining wind farm proposals for various projects and that while a partner at Latham Watkins Beaudreau had represented businesses responsible for 10 of those projects, according to his financial disclosure form.

The disclosure reveals that Beaudreau worked for Avangrid Renewables, Vineyard Wind, Orsted, Dominion and EnBW North America, five firms integral to the Biden administration's offshore wind expansion aims, the Post reported, adding that the disclosure did not indicate what he did for Orsted or other organizations beyond "legal services." 

"Vineyard Wind LLC, an offshore wind development company 50 percent owned by funds of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) and 50 percent owned by Avangrid Renewables, LLC, is currently in the permitting and financing process for the first large-scale offshore wind energy project in the United States," according to vineyardwind.com. The Vineyard Wind farm secured federal approval in May.

The Post reported that Beaudreau had signed an ethics agreement vowing to recuse himself from issues pertaining to his former clients for two years, as the law demands.

Beaudreau previously served as the first-ever director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management under President Obama. He also served as the Alaska point person for the department when he was working as chief of staff for Interior Secretary Sally Jewell during the Obama era, according to the Post.

"As Tommy Beaudreau makes yet another pass through the DC revolving door, a number of questions arise," Protect the Public's Trust Director Michael Chamberlain said. "The American public rightly demands that high-ranking government officials serve the public interest not their former clients. With the depth and breadth of Mr. Beaudreau's entanglements with offshore wind firms, we all have to wonder how he will be able to lead the Department's work while still fulfilling his ethics obligations."

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