It’s no secret that the Trump administration has prioritized bailing out Big Oil and extractive resource corporations over assistance for workers, struggling small businesses, and the unemployed, but new reporting by the Casper Star-Tribune, based on research by Western Values Project, further highlights the windfall for oil and gas producers in Wyoming after the Interior Department’s unilateral decision to grant royalty relief and suspend leases. Both Interior Secretary Bernhardt and the illegal Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management William Pendley have represented oil and gas interests whose members are now reaping the rewards.
Overleveraged oil and gas corporations in Wyoming had an inside track to plenty of bailouts with Trump’s corrupt former mega-lobbyist David Bernhardt leading Interior and the Petroleum Association of Wyoming’s former representative William Pendley illegally serving as the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management. Taxpayer-backed relief has been flowing to Big Oil while revenues that are shared with state and local budgets have plummeted due to the administration’s unilateral actions and favoritism,” said Jayson O’Neill, Western Values Project director.
Revenues collected from onshore oil and gas production are shared with state and local governments to offset the impacts of development and fund local firefighters, schools, and other public services, but the latest data from the Interior shows a dramatic 26 percent dip in onshore revenues compared to last year. Wyoming officials have already been forced to make ‘devastating cuts’ to the budget due to the state’s over–reliance on revenues generated by natural resource production.
Trump administration officials’ close ties to Wyoming oil and gas interests may explain the concentration of relief awarded in the state. Interior Secretary Bernhardt is a former mega-lobbyist that used to represent the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and producer Samson Resources while illegal acting Bureau of Land Management director Pendley’s extensive 17-page recusal list includes the Petroleum Association of Wyoming.
Influential Wyoming oil and gas corporations have used their close ties to the Trump administration to secure a raft full of favors. Western Values Project has tracked many of those backroom deals, including Big Oil’s efforts to derail cooperative sage-grouse habitat protections to the revolving door between special interest lobbyists and political appointees at the Department of the Interior.