Joe Biden’s nominee for deputy secretary of the Interior Department Tommy Beaudreau, who was selected after fossil fuel industry allies in Congress objected to Biden’s original pick, has released his financial disclosure. Amid the multiple oil, gas, and coal companies that Beaudreau disclosed recently working for as a partner at Latham & Watkins, one client stands out as particularly misaligned with the conservationist mission of the Interior Department: Mohammed bin Salman’s NEOM Company, a high-tech utopian megacity that is being built on pristine tribal land along the coast of the Red Sea.
NEOM, which is slated to have an artificial moon, flying drone taxis, robot maids, and glow-in-the-dark beach sand, is being constructed on land that for hundreds of years has been occupied by the Huwaitat tribe. According to The Guardian, at least 20,000 members of the tribe are being forcibly removed to make way for NEOM.
Last year, Huwaitat tribe member Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti was shot dead by Suadi security forces after distributing videos on social media about how the tribe was being treated and defying orders to leave. The Saudi government claims that the killing was done in self defense after Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti opened fire, but tribal members reject that description of the events and say that al-Huwaiti had no weapons.
Several United Nations special rapporteurs said in a 2020 letter that the killing appears to be in violation of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights as it “appears to be linked to the legitimate exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression.”
The Interior Department says it “protects America’s natural resources and heritage, honors our cultures and tribal communities, and supplies the energy to power our future.” The Department is being led by Deb Haaland, the first Native American to ever serve as a cabinet secretary.
Beaudreau has worked as a partner with the global law firm Latham & Watkins since leaving the Obama administration, where he held several positions at the Interior Department.
At Latham & Watkins, Beaudreau has been a member of the firm’s Environment, Land & Resources Department, and Global Co-Chair of the firm’s Project Siting & Approvals Practice.
Latham & Watkins developed NEOM’s alternative court system in which all judges will be appointed by the Saudi king and will comply with Sharia law, according to leaked planning documents from Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Co. and Oliver Wyman that were obtained by the Wall Street Journal in 2019.
“This should be an automated city where we can watch everything,” NEOM’s board says in the documents. “[A city] where a computer can notify crimes without having to report them or where all citizens can be tracked.”
NEOM has said it has attracted foreign and domestic interest, but foreign investment in the project struggled after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The developers originally intended the project to be complete by 2025.