Watchdog Group Alleges Unethical Alliance Between Biden Admin, Wind Company

‘If you want to talk about bad optics, I don’t see how they could be any worse than right here,’ said Michael Chamberlain of Protect the Public’s Trust.
Watchdog Group Alleges Unethical Alliance Between Biden Admin, Wind Company
Wind turbines located at the Block Island Wind Farm near Block Island, R.I., on July 7, 2022. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Matt McGregor

A government watchdog organization has obtained internal documents showing that the Biden administration waived the development fees for a wind energy company a week before the company’s attorney took a job with the Department of the Interior (DOI).

According to a June 2021 letter recently obtained by Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) and first reported by Fox News Digital, Vineyard Wind requested and was granted a payment deferment for “the full amount of its decommissioning financial assurance until year 15 of actual operations under its 20-year Power Purchase Agreements.”

The letter described the fee as “financial assurance for decommissioning costs before installation of facilities on their lease,” and stated that Vineyard Wind requested the deferral as the fee was “unnecessarily burdensome for lessees because, at that point, they have not begun receiving project income.”

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), an agency within the DOI, waived the fee for the Vineyard Wind project and agreed with Vineyard Wind’s stated “risk-reduction factors,” such as its “insurance policies that cover any damages to the project throughout the construction and operations phases, and the restoration of project operations after any catastrophic event,” the “use of proven wind turbine technology,” and the use of “long-term (20-year) PPAs with guaranteed electricity sales prices that, coupled with the consistent supply of wind energy, ensure a predictable income over the life of the Project.”

“BOEM agrees that these risk-reduction factors, along with our review of the Project’s projected revenue and costs, demonstrate that deferring the decommissioning financial assurance requirement until 15 years after construction does not expose the U.S. Government to undue risks,” BOEM said in the letter.

PPT stated that, like other energy companies granted a lease by the federal government, Vineyard Wind must “provide financial assurance for decommissioning costs” before it begins construction, which is a “safeguard against taxpayers being left with the liability of closing down or remediating a lease site.”

“The request was originally made and rejected in 2017,” PPT reported. “In March 2021, it was resubmitted ‘with additional information.’ BOEM granted the request on June 15, 2021, exactly one week before attorney Tommy Beaudreau, who represented Vineyard Wind, LLC, was sworn in as Deputy Secretary of the Interior.”

‘Hostility to Fossil Fuels’

However, BOEM “took the opposite approach” when dealing with independent offshore oil and gas companies with new rules PPT said were “to ratchet up financial assurance obligations.”

PPT pointed to BOEM’s proposed new rule that increased surety bonds to cover the decommissioning of offshore structures.

A week after BOEM approved Vineyard Wind’s request to waive the fee, PPT stated that Mr. Beaudreau—who formerly represented Vineyard Wind—was sworn in as the deputy secretary of the DOI, the department’s second-highest ranking position.

“At the same time the Department of the Interior was looking at forcing greater and more expensive bonding requirements on holders of long-standing oil and gas leases, they were relaxing these requirements on the nation’s first utility-scale offshore wind energy producer, one that just coincidentally happened to be a client of their incoming [No. 2],” Michael Chamberlain, the PPT director, told Fox News Digital.

“If you want to talk about bad optics, I don’t see how they could be any worse than right here,” he said. “For an administration touting itself as the most ethical in history, this represents yet another incident in which Secretary [Deb] Haaland’s Interior appears to have a tough time living up to that standard.”

According to PPT, the waiver for the client of “then-incoming Deputy Secretary Beaudreau” reveals a “hostility to fossil fuels as well as a part of an effort to reduce competition for wind producers.”

Orsted’s New Jersey Exit

“Ironically, despite BOEM’s rationale for the waiver indicating that Vineyard Wind’s ‘proven technology’ and ‘guaranteed electric sales prices’ would protect against future taxpayer liability, another prominent wind developer recently withdrew from two wind projects on DOI lease areas off the East Coast,” PPT said.

In November, the Danish offshore wind energy company Orsted announced that it was “ceasing the development” of its Ocean Wind 1 and 2 projects off the coast of New Jersey, citing supply chain issues.

“We firmly believe the US needs offshore wind to achieve its carbon emissions reduction ambition, and we remain committed to the US renewables market and truly value the efforts by the US government to support the build-up of the US offshore wind industry,” Orsted President Mads Nipper said in a statement.

“However, the significant adverse developments from supply chain challenges, leading to delays in the project schedule, and rising interest rates have led us to this decision, and we will now assess the best way to preserve value while we cease development of the projects.”

‘A Backdoor Subsidy’

According to Mr. Chamberlain, that the waiver coincided with Mr. Beaudreau’s getting the position with the DOI raises several ethical questions.

“Next time someone asks why the government has lost the trust of the American people, point them to this incident,” he said. “Tommy Beaudreau is the poster child for the revolving door, and his client’s project, whatever its actual merits, fit the administration’s practice of prioritizing their policy goals over ethics and the public’s trust. The fact that Vineyard Wind received what appears to be a backdoor subsidy from the agency its lawyer was about to help run certainly smells bad and definitely leaves Interior, once again, in a position in which they should have to answer serious questions.”

Mr. Beaudreau joined the DOI in 2010 and continued there for nearly seven years during the Obama administration, according to a DOI press release announcing his exit as deputy secretary in October.

He served as the first director of BOEM, the acting assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management, and the chief of staff to former Secretary Sally Jewell.

“Deputy Secretary Beaudreau has overseen the Department’s implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, which are the most transformative infrastructure and climate investments in history,” the announcement said.

The Epoch Times contacted DOI, BOEM, and Vineyard Winds for comment but received none by press time.