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U.S. green groups urge Biden to shun cabinet picks with oil ties

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. environmental activists are heaping pressure on Democratic president-elect Joe Biden to avoid cabinet appointees with fossil fuel ties, with one group on Tuesday slamming his pick of a congressman who received donations from the oil and gas industry.

The pressure reflects the environmental lobby’s desire to push the incoming administration to take aggressive measures to combat climate change, after outgoing Republican President Donald Trump downplayed global warming and rolled back green regulation hampering the drilling industry.

“Today feels like a betrayal,” said Sunrise Movement president Varshini Prakash, reacting to Biden’s appointment of Cedric Richmond as director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, a role that liaises with outside groups such as activists.

Richmond, a Louisiana congressman, was a co-chair of Biden’s presidential campaign and, according to Open Secrets which keeps a database of political funding records, has received $340,750 from oil and gas companies since 2007. Richmond did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Separately, Greenpeace and 75 other climate and environmental justice groups on Monday had issued a statement urging Biden not to select Ernest Moniz, who served as energy secretary under President Barack Obama, for his cabinet.

Moniz, an MIT-trained nuclear physicist, has been a vocal advocate for the continued use of natural gas and nuclear energy to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. He has also championed the deployment of carbon capture and storage technology that could be used to reduce the climate footprint of fossil fuel-fired power plants.

Moniz did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Progressive groups including Justice Democrats and the Progressive Change Institute have sent their own lists of proposed cabinet appointments, including for roles not typically used to enact climate policies such as Treasury and Agriculture secretary.

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