US Representative Cedric Richmond (D-LA), who served as the national co-chair for the campaign of President-Elect Joe Biden, has been named a senior adviser for the Office of Public Engagement (formerly the Office of Public Liaison). The position deals largely with issues of "public policy" — which, in the Biden administration, means a lot of domestic climate policy.
Who is Cedric Richmond? As The Philadelphia Inquirer explains:
For nearly a decade, Democratic U.S. Rep Cedric Richmond has represented what most environmentalists agree is the most polluted congressional district in America. It's a stretch of Louisiana that runs from from Richmond's home base of New Orleans up the Mississippi River that is lined with so many smoke-belching petrochemical plants that many now unhappily call their region "Cancer Alley."
Think the nickname is hyperbole? The federal government's own toxic-release inventory has found Louisiana the second-worst state overall for releasing killer chemicals into the environment, with many of the worst offending plants in Richmond's district. His state, perhaps not coincidentally, also has one of America's highest cancer rates, with African-Americans like Richmond and many of his constituents at particularly high risk.
While it's understandably difficult for anyone, let alone a Black Democrat in Louisiana, to undo decades of deeply entrenched environmental racism, that's still not great. I can even understand the difficult catch-22 of looking out for the jobs in the area you represent when that area is also heavily reliant on the fossil fuel industry.
Unfortunately, the deeper you look, it still doesn't look great. From Jacobin:
During his ten years in Congress, Richmond has received roughly $341,000 from donors in the oil and gas industry — the fifth-highest total among House Democrats, according to previous reporting by Sludge. That includes corporate political action committee donations of $50,000 from Entergy, an electric and natural gas utility; $40,000 from ExxonMobil; and $10,000 apiece from oil companies Chevron, Phillips 66, and Valero Energy.
During the climate crisis that has battered his home state of Louisiana, Richmond has joined with Republicans to vote to increase fossil fuel exports and promote pipeline development. He also voted against Democratic legislation to place pollution limits on fracking — and he voted for GOP legislation to limit the Obama administration's authority to more stringently regulate the practice.
The Sunrise Movement is, understably, not happy with this move. Frankly, neither am I — though I do feel a begrudging sense of vindication after trying to ease the fears of my Trumper Aunt (who lives in Connecticut of all places), who was deeply concerned that Biden would ban fracking.
I knew Biden would never actually ban fracking. I just hoped I could ride high on the not-Trump wave for a little bit longer before returning to the standard status quo of government disappointment to which I'd grown accustomed.
On the bright side, we will have John Kerry as a climate advisor for the National Security Council. I feel good about that. But even the best foreign climate policy won't save if we can't clean up our act at home.
Biden Taps Several Senior Campaign Aides For Key White House Positions [Alana Wise and Asma Khalida / NPR]
Joe Biden Just Appointed His Climate Movement Liaison. It's a Fossil-Fuel Industry Ally. [David Sirota, Julia Rock, and Andrew Perez / Jacobin]
In La.'s polluted 'Cancer Alley,' activists say new president's guy has been MIA on climate [Will Bunch / The Philadelphia Inquirer]
Sunrise Movement Climate Activists Call On Biden To 'Keep His Promises' [Tonya Mosley and Allison Hagan / WBUR]
Image: Mark Dixon / Flickr (CC 2.0)