Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden participates in CNN
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden participates in CNN's climate crisis town hall in New York on September 4, 2019.
PHOTO: Edward M. Pio Roda/CNN
(CNN) —  

Joe Biden has not canceled a Thursday fundraiser co-hosted by a founder of a fossil fuel company despite criticism from climate activists who point to his pledge to turn away money from oil and gas industry executives.

Biden is scheduled to attend two high-dollar fundraisers Thursday in New York – one of which is being co-hosted by Andrew Goldman, a former aide in Biden’s Senate office who co-founded Western LNG, a Houston-based natural gas production and transportation company. Natural gas is a fossil fuel, according to the US Energy Information Administration, because it was “formed from the buried remains of plants and animals that lived millions of years ago.”

His schedule did not change Thursday, even after Biden said Wednesday night he might reconsider attending the fundraiser with Goldman.

The controversy over the fundraiser illustrates progressives’ skepticism of the approach to the 2020 race taken by Biden, the Democratic front-runner in national 2020 primary polls. His two chief challengers, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, have decided not to hold fundraisers at all, instead relying mostly on online, small-dollar donors. Biden, though, regularly holds fundraisers, sometimes high-dollar affairs – and faces increased scrutiny over his ties to individual donors because of those events.

All the top Democratic presidential contenders, including Biden, have signed the “No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge,” a commitment to reject contributions of more than $200 from fossil fuel executives, lobbyists and political action committees.

At CNN’s climate town hall Wednesday night, an attendee asked Biden whether the fundraiser with Goldman would break the pledge.

Isaac Larkin, a Northwestern University doctoral candidate, said to Biden: “I know that you signed a No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge. But I have to ask: How can we trust you to hold these corporations and executives accountable for their crimes against humanity when we know that tomorrow, you are holding a high-dollar fundraiser hosted by Andrew Goldman, a fossil fuel executive?”

“He is not a fossil fuel executive,” Biden responded.

Goldman is the co-founder of Western LNG, a company whose website lists a major project as a floating production facility off the coast of British Columbia designed to help export Canadian natural gas to Asia.

“I was told, if you look at the SEC filings, he’s not listed as one of those executives. That’s what we look at – the SEC filings. Who are those executives? I’ve kept that pledge, period,” Biden said.

In a July 31, 2018, filing with the British Columbia Utilities Commission, asked to identify senior management personnel involved in Western LNG, the company’s president identified Goldman as its co-founder and said he is a ” long-term investor in the liquefied natural gas sector.” Goldman is also the chief investment officer at Hildred Capital Partners.

Biden’s campaign quickly pushed back Wednesday night, arguing that Goldman does not meet the definition of a fossil fuel executive.

“Andrew Goldman isn’t a fossil fuel executive. He’s not involved in the day to day operation. He’s not on the board of the company, nor the board of the portfolio company,” senior Biden adviser Symone Sanders tweeted.

But progressive activists were not satisfied.

“While it may not technically violate the pledge, it clearly goes against its spirit,” said David Turnbull, a spokesman for Oil Change U.S., one of the organizations involved in launching the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge.

“We defined the pledge’s rule to make it simple for candidates to commit to and follow, not to provide loopholes to continue raising funds from fossil fuel-adjacent sources, Turnbull said. “We hope all candidates who sign the pledge truly endorse its goal of ridding our politics of the influence of the fossil fuel industry. Unfortunately the fundraiser hosted by Andrew Goldman calls that commitment into question when it comes to Vice President Biden.”

“Holding this fundraiser clearly violates the spirit of the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge that Biden signed,” said Varshini Prakash, the co-founder of Sunrise Movement, a youth climate change advocacy organization. “If Biden is serious about taking on the power of the fossil fuel lobby, why is he going to a fundraiser hosted by the co-founder of a natural gas company?”