Interior deputy confirmed with broad support

Tommy Beaudreau assumes role amid Biden administration push to sharply curtail greenhouse gas emissions from public lands

Tommy Beaudreau testifies during his confirmation hearing in the Dirksen Building on April 29. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Tommy Beaudreau testifies during his confirmation hearing in the Dirksen Building on April 29. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted June 17, 2021 at 7:30pm

The Senate overwhelmingly voted Thursday to confirm Tommy Beaudreau, an energy lawyer with a wide array of former fossil and renewable energy clients, to be deputy secretary of the Interior Department.

By a vote of 88 to 9, the Senate installed Beaudreau in the No. 2 slot behind Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who narrowly cleared the Senate in a 51-40 vote in March.

An alumnus of the Obama administration, Beaudreau grew up in Alaska, where his father worked in the petroleum industry. He served as the first director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a federal agency established after the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster of 2010.

President Joe Biden’s initial pick for the deputy job was Elizabeth Klein, who now is serving as an adviser to Haaland. But her nomination drew opposition from members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee — the panel she would need to pass through — including Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va.

Beaudreau will arrive at the Interior Department as the Biden administration is pushing to sharply curtail greenhouse gas emissions from public lands and is wrapping up a review of federal oil and gas leasing policies.

That review will be published this summer, Haaland told senators Wednesday at a budget hearing. That hearing came hours after a federal judge in Louisiana ruled that the Biden administration had overstepped in January when it placed a moratorium on oil and gas leasing in federal territory during the president’s first week in office.

“We’re reviewing the judge’s opinion,” she said, adding that Interior is consulting with the Justice Department on the case. “We will respect the judge’s decision in this issue.”

Beaudreau identified methane emissions as a key problem for the planet, saying during his confirmation hearing that the gas, which is up to 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, should be brought under control.

“We absolutely need to address greenhouse gas emissions emanating from public lands. That includes methane,” he said. “If I return to the Interior Department, I will work across the board to develop solutions to prevent the waste of that resource both for the benefit of the taxpayer and the benefit of our fight against climate change.”

An attorney in Washington, D.C., most recently with the law firm Latham & Watkins, Beaudreau donated to the Senate campaigns of Democrats, including Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.

He donated $5,850 to Biden’s presidential campaign in 2020, according to Federal Election Commission data, and reported 34 clients in his financial disclosure statement completed for his nomination.

Clients included mining companies Arch Resources Inc. and BHP, a series of pipeline and oil-and-gas transportation firms, and foreign and domestic wind energy companies. Beaudreau also provided legal work to two companies in Saudi Arabia: the Red Sea Development Co. and NEOM Co. Both companies have financial backing from the government’s Public Investment Fund, or PIF, a sovereign wealth fund, and are part of the kingdom’s plan to diversify its economy from fossil energy.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said during the confirmation process that Beaudreau would be a “voice of reason” in the administration, which he has criticized for trying to decarbonize the domestic economy.

“America needs an all-of-the-above energy strategy that includes coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power and renewables,” Barrasso said in May. “I believe that Mr. Beaudreau understands this reality.”

Votes against Beaudreau came from the right wing of the Republican Conference and from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.