Don't let the White House silence key advisor John Podesta on the Keystone XL decision
Apparently in the White House, having common sense now constitutes a conflict of interest.
John Podesta is the highly respected founder of the Center for American Progress and recognized as a uniquely effective chief-of-staff to President Clinton. He announced yesterday he'll be going to work as a top advisor to the president.
That should be good news. But because he has a fact-based track record on climate change and has publicly and truthfully criticized the Canadian tar sands for being a highly inefficient and environmentally irreconcilable source of energy, the White House has already announced Podesta will recuse himself from participating in the decision on whether or not to award a foreign oil company the presidential permit necessary to build the Keystone XL pipeline across our northern border.1
It's simply shameful. Podesta has no financial interest in the Keystone XL decision. Meanwhile, key players allied to the oil industry with massive conflicts of interest are playing a major role in Keystone XL decision-making. State Department contractor ERM is writing the key environmental impact statement for the State Department, an analysis on which the White House will base its decision-making, despite ERM's having direct financial ties to TransCanada.
Tell President Obama: If anyone should be recused from discussion of Keystone XL, it’s the ethically compromised ERM, not John Podesta. Don’t silence key White House advisors who tell the truth about tar sands and climate change.
Oil-industry contractor ERM has direct financial ties to the builder of the Keystone XL pipeline. That's as direct a conflict of interest as you can get. But instead of recusing ERM from involvement in the decision when this information came to light, the State Department literally attempted to cover it up!2
Podesta will be a valuable advisor on the Keystone XL decision precisely because he doesn’t have compromising ties to the fossil fuel industry. On the contrary, he has issued honest, straight ahead indictments of their worst products. This perspective has been marginalized at high levels of the Obama administration, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that climate change poses serious dangers to our national interest through heat waves, fires and superstorms, not to mention escalation of overseas conflicts that are exacerbated by drought, devastating floods and the refugee crises they provoke.
That's why after three years we’re still fighting a pipeline whose approval the president’s own leading climate scientist declared would help lead to "game over for the climate." This decision, which is President Obama’s alone, should have been a non-starter given President Obama's previous commitments on climate change and dirty oil.
Far from a radical environmentalist, Podesta has touted a widespread embrace of natural gas - something we disagree with. Still, in a White House that has sorely lacked in prominent climate champions, his employ is a welcome addition. And the decision to silence him on what may be the single most closely watched decision of the Obama presidency is a shameful indication that the White House is not yet ready to face the challenge before us as a generation and embrace the climate leadership he promised and we so desperately need.
Tell President Obama: We need climate leadership in the White House! Let John Podesta speak on the Keystone XL decision.
- "John Podesta Recuses Himself From Keystone Issue, White House Aide Says," Reuters, December 11, 2013.
- Andy Kroll, "EXCLUSIVE: State Dept. Hid Contractor's Ties to Keystone XL Pipeline Company," Mother Jones, March 21, 2013.