Biden's Top Energy Regulator Lobbied for Company Behind Admin-Approved Wind Farm

FERC chair Richard Glick now working to aid Biden's green energy push

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May 24, 2021

President Joe Biden's pick to lead a major federal energy agency spent years lobbying for the renewable power giant behind an offshore wind farm backed by the administration, a Washington Free Beacon review of disclosure forms found.

Shortly after his inauguration, Biden tapped Richard Glick to chair the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. From 2001 to 2016, Glick served as head lobbyist for Avangrid Renewables, the U.S. subsidiary of Spanish electric conglomerate Iberdrola. The company holds a 50 percent 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.

Glick's elevation to chairman comes as a boon to Avangrid and other renewable power companies. The role grants Glick the authority to prioritize environmental projects that bolster the White House's green energy push and potentially enrich his former clients. The commission is also responsible for approving natural gas pipeline permits—a common target of environmentalists. Just weeks into his chairmanship, Glick announced the creation of a senior-level "environmental justice" position to determine if pipeline projects "unfairly impact historically marginalized communities."

The "environmental justice" metric has generated backlash from Congress amid rising gas prices. A bipartisan group of 25 senators in April 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 reads. "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." 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission did not return a request for comment.

Glick is not the only top environmental official with ties to a green energy company championed by the Biden administration. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm holds up to a $5 million stake in Proterra, an electric bus manufacturer that Biden has promoted on multiple occasions. A slew of Biden's top donors also have sizable investments in the company, and Proterra recently turned to a pair of Obama administration alums to lobby the White House for funding.

In addition to Glick, deputy interior secretary nominee Tommy Beaudreau represented Vineyard Wind as a corporate attorney. Under federal ethics rules, Beaudreau is barred from participating in any "particular matter" involving his former clients for two years. The Biden appointee can, however, assert himself into deliberations pertaining to the wind industry as a whole.

Beaudreau's financial disclosure forms reveal long ties to the industry. Over the course of his time in the private sector, Beaudreau represented 10 of the 14 companies with active wind farm proposals before the department.

Avangrid spent about $6 million on its lobbying operation under Glick's direction, disclosures show. Glick transitioned back to the public sector in 2017, following a brief stint working for the Senate where he advised Democrats on renewable energy.

As a commission member, Glick in 2019 admonished his Republican colleagues for declining to act on an emergency waiver requested by Vineyard Wind. The waiver would have helped the offshore wind farm—located 15 miles south of Martha's Vineyard—enter New England's multibillion-dollar electricity market. The commission later approved an agreement between Vineyard Wind and the region's grid operator in October.

A CNN story on Vineyard Wind published Sunday described the project as 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 the outlet.

Only two offshore wind farms exist in the United States—both of which stand substantially smaller than the Vineyard Wind project. Waterfront property owners and local fishermen bitterly opposed the proposal before the Trump administration canceled its permitting process. Those groups appear ready for future litigation.

Although Biden sold his prioritization of offshore wind by promising "good-paying, union jobs," much of its manufacturing takes place in Europe. That dynamic is reflected by Vineyard Wind's corporate backers. In addition to Iberdrola's Bilbao, Spain, headquarters, Denmark-based investment firm Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners is helping finance the project. 

The Biden administration has pledged to offer billions in federal loan guarantees to drive similar projects. Multiple states on the East Coast—including Massachusetts—plan on purchasing tens of thousands of megawatts of offshore wind power in the next 15 years.