Biden's Top Energy Regulator Previously Lobbied for Offshore Wind Farm Approved by Administration Wind turbines, of the Block Island Wind Farm, tower above the water on October 14, 2016, off the shores of Block Island, Rhode Island. (DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images)
By Charlie McCarthy | Monday, 24 May 2021 09:08 AM
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Richard Glick was a longtime lobbyist for a company set to become the country's first large-scale offshore wind farm.
Glick, who was promoted by President Joe Biden shortly after he took office, served as head lobbyist for Avangrid Renewables from 2001-16, The Washington Free Beacon reported Monday.
Avangrid Renewables, the U.S. subsidiary of Spanish electric conglomerate Iberdrola, holds a 50% stake in Vineyard Wind, which is set to become the country's first large-scale offshore wind farm after the Biden administration approved the project on May 11.
As FERC chairman, Glick has the authority to prioritize environmental projects that bolster the White House's green energy initiatives.
FERC also is responsible for approving natural gas pipeline permits, a popular target of environmentalists. Glick already created a senior-level "environmental justice" position to determine if pipeline projects "unfairly impact historically marginalized communities."
Lawmakers have criticized the "environmental justice" metric amid rising gas prices. In April, a bipartisan group of 25 senators called on Glick to ignore any "newly contemplated considerations" and "take timely action" on the 14 pipeline projects pending before the commission.
"These projects represent substantial private-sector investment in our nation's economy and our workforce," the letter said. "Delaying and moving the regulatory goalposts on projects filed in good faith is contrary to the otherwise equitable application of the Policy Statement that all stakeholders expect."
FERC did not return the Free Beacon’s request for comment.
Other environmental officials also have ties to a green energy company championed by the Biden administration.
The Free Beacon reported Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm owns nearly $5 million stake in Proterra, an electric bus manufacturer Biden has promoted.
Many of Biden's top donors have sizable investments in Proterra, and the company recently asked a pair of Obama administration officials to lobby the White House for funding.
Then there’s deputy interior secretary nominee Tommy Beaudreau, who represented Vineyard Wind as a corporate attorney.
Beaudreau is barred from participating in any "particular matter" involving his former clients for two years under federal ethics rules. However, he can take part in general deliberations about the wind industry.
The Free Beacon said Beaudreau's financial disclosure forms revealed long ties to the wind industry. He represented 10 of the 14 companies with active wind farm proposals before the commission.
Glick, who previously advised Senate Democrats on renewable energy, returned to the private sector in 2017 and directed Avangrid’s near-$6 million lobbying efforts, according to disclosures.
In 2019, Glick scolded his FERC Republican colleagues for declining to act on an emergency waiver requested by Vineyard Wind, located 15 miles south of Martha's Vineyard. The waiver would have helped the offshore wind farm enter New England's multibillion-dollar electricity market.
The commission later approved an agreement between Vineyard Wind and the region's grid operator.
CNN recently reported the Vineyard Wind project was critical to Biden's pledge of achieving a carbon-free power sector by 2035.
"The Biden administration has convened an all-of-government approach to offshore wind, which we've never seen before," Avangrid told CNN.
Biden sold his offshore wind prioritization by promising "good-paying, union jobs," but much of its manufacturing takes place in Europe. Besides Iberdrola, which has its headquarters in Bilbao, Spain, Denmark-based investment firm Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners is helping finance the project.