Biden’s new offshore energy chief becomes prime GOP target

Biden’s new offshore energy chief becomes prime GOP target

  • January 12, 2023

Emma Dumain, E&E News

House Republicans say a key promotion at the Interior Department will go under the microscope.

Elizabeth Klein, whose nomination for deputy Interior secretary was withdrawn in 2021, will lead the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. That promotion comes at a pivotal moment, as House Republicans are looking to flex their muscle in their new majority.

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), the incoming chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, is poised to pick up where he left off in 2021, when, as ranking member, he sought without success to get documents from Interior regarding Klein’s potential conflicts of interest.

“Those same conflicts of interest still apply,” Westerman’s spokesperson, Rebekah Hoshiko said in an email, “and we hope to get some answers from the [administration] now that she’s been elevated to this new appointment.”

In her role there, Klein helped support state attorneys general in filing dozens of lawsuits challenging Trump-era environmental rollbacks, including the former administration’s efforts to open up public lands within the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development.

This background earned Klein scrutiny among conservatives at the time of her original selection to be deputy Interior secretary at the start of the Biden administration. Some critics launched an anonymous website scrutinizing her record.

At the same time, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) teamed up with Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to demand Biden pick a nominee they perceived as more friendly to fossil fuel interests.

In the end, Biden passed Klein over for Tommy Beaudreau, who was also the first person to ever serve as director of BOEM.

Yet even in her senior counselor role, Klein continued to garner attacks from the right.

Months after Beaudreau was nominated for the deputy secretary position in her stead, Westerman — alongside Republican Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Lauren Boebert of Colorado — sent letters to Heather Gottry, the designated ethics official at the agency, demanding the list of agencies, individuals and issues on which Klein had agreed to recuse herself in official dealings.

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