Joe Biden's administration waived a key – and required – environmental payment to smooth the path of an offshore wind project in the Atlantic off the coast of Massachusetts, according to a report from Fox News.
And it happened just as a lawyer who had represented the corporation working on the energy deal was being hired by the Department of the Interior, which is supervising the work.
"If you want to talk about bad optics, I don't see how they could be any worse than right here," Michael Chamberlain, head of Protect the Public's Trust, which documented the scheme, told Fox.
"For an administration touting itself as the most ethical in history, this represents yet another incident in which Secretary Haaland’s Interior appears to have a tough time living up to that standard."
It was Vineyard Wind that had requested an exemption from a required fee that must be paid by projects on federal sites to assure that resources are there to restore the site when the project eventually is decommissioned.
The Trump administration refused to give the special privilege.
But under Biden, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) told Vineyard the decommissioning costs fee would be waived.
Even though, "Federal statute mandates that developers pay that fee prior to construction on their lease, a potentially hefty fee designed to guarantee federal property is returned to its original state after a lessee departs its lease," the report said.
"At the same time the Department of the Interior was looking at forcing greater and more expensive bonding requirements on holders of long-standing oil and gas leases, they were relaxing these requirements on the nation's first utility-scale offshore wind energy producer, one that just coincidentally happened to be a client of their incoming #2," Chamberlain told Fox News Digital.
He explained former Deputy Interior Secretary Tommy Beadreau, the second-highest ranked official at the Department of the Interior which houses BOEM, had represented Vineyard Wind on legal issues before he joined DOI. That's from Beadreau's 2021 financial disclosure form, the report said.
It was a week after BOEM approved Vineyard Wind's request for the special waiver of the ordinary fee that Beaudreau left a legal firm and was installed at DOI.
He recently left DOI for another position.
He told Fox he wasn't involved in the decision to grant a special privilege.
The report explained documents uncovered by PPT found the feds told Vineyard it would not have to pay the required fee until 15 years after the project enters operations.
The government's instructions to Vineyard included that the "regulatory departure" would let the company invest its capital in speeding up construction.
The Biden administration also championed that the project "promotes the production and transmission of energy from a source other than oil and gas."
PPT also obtained documents showing that an expert at BOEM admitted canceling the fee was "vital" to make sure the company could "secure financing."
BOEM since then has promoted a number of other offshore wind campaigns, including one that shortly later was canceled by its developer because of costs.