Analysis Finds 235 Interior Department Meetings With Dirty Energy Over Two Years, Compared to 19 With Conservation and Renewable Energy Interests
By Mac England Ι The Meteor
March 10, 2020
Executives from the oil, gas, electricity, coal and mining industries held 12 times as many meetings with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s top two officials over about two years as with conservation and renewable energy interests, a new report by Public Citizen and Documented Investigations finds.
Public Citizen and Documented Investigations analyzed calendars of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and his top deputy Katharine MacGregor, both of whom are former lobbyists. The analysis identified 361 meetings listed on Bernhardt and MacGregor’s calendars from January 2017 through March 2019.
The results showed 235 meetings with executives from the oil, gas, electricity, coal and mining industries during that time. By contrast, conservation and renewable energy interests had only 19 meetings with the top two officials. Lobbying and law firms, which represented primarily industry interests, had 31 meetings; hunting groups had 21 meetings.
“Clearly, the best way to get on the Trump administration’s radar is to be an oil, gas or a mining company looking for favors,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “As former lobbyists, Bernhardt and MacGregor speak the same language as industry lobbyists and don’t seem to think twice about doing their bidding.”
Major trade groups and companies that met with Bernhardt and MacGregor included the American Petroleum Institute (10 meetings); the National Ocean Industries Association, which represents the offshore drilling industry (nine); meetings with multiple oil industry groups and companies (eight); individual meetings with Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips (six each); the National Petroleum Council (six) and the National Mining Association (five).
Bernhardt and MacGregor had 21 meetings with hunting groups such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (four meetings), Ducks Unlimited (four) and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (three). The calendars show 10 meetings with conservation groups such as the National Park Foundation, Public Lands Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, Nature Conservancy; and nine meetings with renewable energy interests including the American Wind Energy Association and Solar Energy Industries Association.
A Public Citizen analysis released earlier this year found that former lobbying and legal clients of Bernhardt spent about $30 million lobbying the federal government since the start of the Trump administration, and that 17 former lobbying and legal clients who were on Bernhardt’s recusal list have lobbied the federal government since the start of the Trump administration
“If you’re a big polluting oil and gas company or a mining firm, you’ve got a friend in, and a distinct advantage with, the Trump administration,” said Alan Zibel, research director of Public Citizen’s Corporate Presidency Project.
The calendars, which are available online, were obtained through Interior Department public disclosures and public records requests. The Interior Department has released calendars for both Bernhardt and MacGregor from 2017 through 2018. Bernhardt’s calendars for 2019 and part of 2020 have been posted on the Interior Department’s website, but those newer calendars contain almost no detail and mostly obscure the identities of individuals and companies meeting with Bernhardt. The Interior Department has not published MacGregor’s calendars since November 2018.