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Top Biden Bureaucrat Consulted With Eco-Activists To Justify Infusing Social Justice Into Wind Program


A senior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) official consulted climate activists about finding legal justification for the agency’s push to get developers to invest in “underserved communities,” according to communications obtained by Protect the Public’s Trust.

Marissa Knodel, a senior adviser at BOEM who formerly worked for eco-advocacy group Earthjustice, sought the advice of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Ocean Conservancy, two environmental activist groups, in 2021. Knodel was looking for a legal explanation as to how encouraging offshore wind developers to invest in “underserved communities” aligns with BOEM’s mission, the discovered emails reveal.

Specifically, Knodel wanted to find a legal strategy to make sure that offshore wind bidding credits — which are commitments from developers to do things like support workforce development programs — would support “underserved communities” in ways that align with BOEM’s mandate to pursue “orderly and expeditious” offshore wind development. Functionally, the bidding credits can increase the value of a developers’ bid because the developer commits to engaging in certain activities, according to the Regional Economic Action Coalition, a California-focused economic development and research organization.

The Ocean Conservancy was unable to provide a specific legal roadmap to Knodel, but advised her to proceed carefully so as to not advance offshore oil and gas interests with her actions.

“These records are very revealing about the Biden administration’s grossly disparate treatment of different segments of the energy industry,” Michael Chamberlain, executive director of Protect the Public’s Trust, told the DCNF. “While it appears BOEM was bending over backwards working with special interests to try to tie offshore wind to their environmental justice goals, they were simultaneously twisting themselves in knots looking for ways to prohibit those same rules from benefiting oil and gas producers.” (RELATED: Commercial Fishers Say Biden Admin’s ‘Ocean Justice’ Initiative Totally Ignores Their Concerns)

BOEM previously “asked for feedback on a proposal to award bidding credits to developers that directly invest in underserved community benefits,” Knodel wrote in a message to Ocean Conservancy officials in July 2021. “In addition to learning more about how to identify those communities and what those benefits might be, I am researching how we connect those bidding credits to our [Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA)] authority, both the general purpose of the statute and our 43 USC 1337(p)(4) renewable energy factors specifically,” Knodel continued, before asking the Ocean Conservancy officials whether they have conducted similar research on a potential justification and whether they could help her.

“We’ve thought a bit more about the questions you raised concerning bidding credits for investments that benefit underserved communities. I’m not sure there is a clear-cut answer, but, then again, you probably wouldn’t have asked if there were,” the Ocean Conservancy officials wrote back to Knodel on August 3, 2021.