Recently-appointed White House clean energy czar John Podesta has hired several officials who have advocated in favor of far-left energy and climate policies to join his team.
Podesta, who founded the progressive Washington, D.C.-based think tank Center for American Progress (CAP), has hired Kristina Costa, Alison Cassady and Joshua Peck to serve in the White House Office of Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation. The three officials have previously worked in private and public sector roles pushing climate policies and have past ties to Podesta.
‘We are fortunate that John Podesta will lead our continued innovation and implementation,’ President Biden said in September. ‘His deep roots in climate and clean energy policy and his experience at senior levels of government mean we can truly hit the ground running to take advantage of the massive clean energy opportunity in front of us.’
Among its main tasks, Podesta’s office will be implementing the programs and grants included in the Inflation Reduction Act, Democrats’ $739 billion climate and tax bill passed over the summer. The legislation enables the federal government to distribute more than $350 billion worth of loans and grants to green energy projects nationwide.
Shortly after assuming the role, Podesta hired Costa to serve as the deputy for clean energy innovation and implementation in his office, a position that makes her a deputy assistant to the president as well.
Costa was most recently a senior adviser and speechwriter at the Department of State. Before that, she worked at a communications firm founded by Obama administration officials. And, between 2010 and 2019, Costa worked alongside Podesta in various roles at CAP, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and President Obama’s White House.
Throughout her career, Costa has repeatedly argued in favor of more government action to combat climate change.
‘Relatively little direct federal spending today is aimed explicitly at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, whether through infrastructure or other programs.’ she wrote in a CAP report in September 2019, arguing in favor of using infrastructure legislation to fight climate change. ‘However, it is urgent that Congress pursue all avenues to reduce carbon pollution and address climate change, including through direct federal spending.’
She argued in a CAP report published years earlier that climate change would disproportionately impact low-income and minority communities. Costa added that lawmakers must ‘take immediate action to curb the greenhouse gas pollution.’
‘The extreme weather events amplified by climate change have caused billions of dollars in damage, claimed hundreds of American lives, and traumatized communities in ways that will reverberate for years to come,’ she wrote. ‘Denying these facts or attempting to sow doubt about the accepted conclusions of climate science does nothing to change the reality that American communities are living.’
Costa also co-authored a memo with the Climate 21 Project in 2020, saying the White House should hire a ‘single, forceful actor with the mandate to lead the President’s climate agenda.’ The memo made a series of policy recommendations that included a massive expansion of resources and series of organizational changes in the federal government to implement climate policies.
The memo concluded that the Biden administration would ‘need to set ambitious goals,’ push an agenda that achieves net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest and position the U.S. to lead the world in climate policymaking.
In 2016, Costa helped craft an op-ed for Clinton to defend the then-presidential candidate’s opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and has recently said that helping block an effort to repeal limits on methane emissions from oil and gas operations on public lands during a brief stint in Sen. Chuck Schumer’s, D-N.Y., office was among her top accomplishments.
In addition to Costa, Podesta hired Cassady and Peck to serve as senior policy advisers in his White House office in October and November respectively, according to a review of online career websites.
Like Costa, Cassady has worked on climate and energy issues in both the private and public sector. Most recently she was the deputy chief of staff for policy at the Environmental Protection Agency and was considered in the ‘inner circle’ of the agency’s administrator Michael Regan, E&E News reported in August.
Cassady also led Biden’s energy and environment transition team in 2020. Before that, she was the deputy staff director for the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, crossed paths with Podesta at CAP between 2014 and 2019 and, years prior, was a registered lobbyist on nuclear and climate issues.
Cassady has previously taken progressive positions on climate change, arguing in favor of a carbon tax, implementing significant federal methane emission reductions and mitigating natural gas use in the electricity sector. Natural gas is by far the largest source of electricity in the U.S., according to federal data.
‘In order to achieve a 100 percent clean economy, you’re going to need a lot of tools. A carbon tax could get you there part of the way,’ she told Politico in 2018.
‘By acting decisively to implement ambitious renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs, states can help ensure that the United States does not overcommit to natural gas and that it continues on a path toward decarbonization of the economy,’ Cassady wrote in 2014. ‘Fuel switching does not go far enough to achieve the deep reductions necessary to avert catastrophic climate change.’
And Peck has an extensive background in health care policy and most recently worked at the Department of Health and Human Services. He has also worked for the HealthCare.gov initiative and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
As a political consultant, Peck previously helped advise number of left-wing groups including Walk Free, The Rules, Rebuild The Dream, The Sum Of Us, the National Democratic Institute, Presente.org and the Citizen Engagement Lab.
In 2017, Peck co-founded Get America Covered, a non-profit organization that seeks to help Americans find health coverage, with Lori Lodes who has since become the director of eco group Climate Power.
According to a 2018 investigation by the Capital Research Center, Get America Covered shared a webpage with and appeared to be sponsored by the Hopewell Fund, which receives operational and management support from the Arabella Advisors consulting firm and is part of a billion-dollar nonprofit liberal dark money network.
An Arabella spokesperson previously told Fox News Digital that the funds in the network hire them ‘to provide HR, legal, payroll and other administrative services’ and that they ‘make their own decisions on strategy, fundraising, and programmatic goals.’
CAP, meanwhile, has experienced increased financial backing from a large left-wing environmental fund.
The ClimateWorks Foundation, which Influence Watch describes as a ‘pass-through’ entity that pushes money from Democratic donors to environmental advocacy groups, was among CAP’s top donors, which the group posts to its website in monetary ranges. CAP’s site says ClimateWorks contributed more than $1 million in 2021.
However, ClimateWorks’ tax forms show that the figure was $1.45 million, which went towards lobbying, project, and program support – a $1 million increase from the $450,000 ClimateWorks gave CAP in 2020 for project support.
CAP also received between $100,000 and $499,000 from the Energy Foundation, which works to accelerate ‘the transition to a clean energy economy,’ its website states.
Podesta’s CAP has deep ties to White House and Biden administration. Dozens of current government officials have taken on key roles across government agencies and White House offices since 2021.
CAP’s influence within the Biden White House began months before he entered office. In late 2020, a half dozen of the group’s employees joined Biden’s transition team in the Treasury, Federal Reserve, Labor Department, Interior Department, National Security Council, and Office of the United States Trade Representative.
‘CAP attracts a staff that is smart and passionate about doing the hard work to create a more equitable, healthy, and just country,’ a CAP spokesperson previously told Fox News Digital. ‘So, it’s no surprise that we have dozens of alumni who have joined the Biden administration.’
‘We also have a hugely talented staff still working at CAP and many alumni working on the Hill, in state and local governments, and across the progressive movement,’ the spokesperson added. ‘We’re immensely proud of the contributions our staff and alums are making to meet some of the country’s biggest challenges.’
The influential think tanks’ reach has only expanded since its work on the Biden transition team. As of mid-2021, nearly 70 CAP employees moved from the group to the administration to fill key posts, Business Insider reported.
CAP president Patrick Gaspard, who previously acted as president of George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, also enjoys a direct pipeline to the administration.
Gaspard has visited the White House a handful of times this year and has met directly with Biden, a Fox News Digital review of visitor logs shows. During another visit, Gaspard met with Richard Figueroa, another former CAP employee who is now a White House policy adviser focusing on race and ethnicity, his LinkedIn profile shows.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.