Close Industry Ally Faces Senate Confirmation Hearing Amid Interior’s Rampant Culture of Corruption

Kate MacGregor, Nominee to be Deputy Interior Secretary, Must Answer for Her Pro-Extractive Development Record 

Today, Kate MacGregor, who has a long history of bowing to oil and gas industry demands, will face a Senate committee in her nomination hearing to be the Interior Department’s Deputy Secretary.

“The culture of corruption within President Trump’s cabinet has never been worse. And now, another political nominee with rampant conflicts of interest has been put forward for a high-ranking position with immense power over our public lands,” said Jayson O’Neill, Deputy Director of Western Values Project. “Kate MacGregor has spent years on Capitol Hill fighting against the preservation of America’s outdoor heritage and has a proven track record of doing industry’s bidding while at Interior. If the Senate truly values America’s public lands, they must reject Trump’s latest swampy nomination given MacGregor’s unusually close special interest ties and potentially corrupt actions.” 

Kate MacGregor has been at Interior since 2017, when former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appointed her to serve as a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. Prior to her work at Interior, she was a registered water lobbyist and then a staffer on Capitol Hill. 

New reporting by Reveal detailed Kate MacGregor’s close industry ties when she fast-tracked and helped approve an oil drilling permit that career public servants within the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had determined was “incomplete” and “deficient.” Audio obtained by Reveal and shared with Western Values Project shows a new mantra for many oil and gas industry representatives and lobbyists: “We’ll call Kate” became the go-to solution when the oil and gas industry had issues with permitting requirements.

Previously, she worked for Congresswoman Thelma Drake, Congressman Eric Cantor, and on the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, where she helped craft and implement a “legislative agenda” to “advance U.S. oil and gas development on federal lands.” MacGregor has repeatedly supported the oil and gas industry’s agenda, even praising legislation that would allow pipelines through national parks.

Questions the Senate Should Ask Kate MacGregor, Who Must Answer for Her Conflicted and Pro-Industry Record

How can the American public trust you to preserve and protect their public lands when you have been a vocal proponent of oil and gas development? 

MacGregor supports expanding oil and gas drilling and praised legislation that would allow oil pipelines to be built through National Park Service land. While working on Capitol Hill, the oil and gas industry paid for her to take trips to visit oil and gas sites in Pennsylvania and Alaska. She also received an award at an event sponsored by Alpha Natural Resources and ExxonMobil and hosted by BP America. MacGregor regularly uses social media to show support for the oil and gas industry. Between January 2017 and January 2018 alone, MacGregor reportedly met over 100 times with groups or representatives from extractive industries. 

Recent reporting revealed that MacGregor worked to fast-track and helped approve a permit for an oil company — sidestepping career public servants and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) advisement. Independent Petroleum Association of America, a former client of Sec. Bernhardt’s, audio details how MacGregor became the go-to point-person when the oil and gas industry had issues with permitting requirements.

Who exactly is the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Relocation to Grand Junction, CO intended to benefit besides the oil and gas special interests and corporations that will now share an office with the people who are supposed to be regulating them? 

As Acting Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, MacGregor outlined how the BLM could make oil and gas drilling easier for industry. Now, the BLM will share its new headquarters in Grand Junction with Chevron, Laramie Energy, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. BLM career staff see the headquarters relocation as part of a wider effort to drive experienced federal employees out of government. At a September meeting, none of the 200 employees present expressed support for the move. Eleven employees quit between July and September, with more departures anticipated. Acting BLM director Pendley has acknowledged that the agency will have trouble recruiting experienced individuals in Grand Junction.

Have you met with Sec. Bernhardt’s former lobbying client, the Westlands Water District? Did you ever discuss Westlands Water District with Sec. Bernhardt? Did you play any role in the decision-making processes which led either to scrapping the rules protecting endangered salmonids in the Central Valley, or the proposal to enlarge the Shasta Dam? 

Secretary Bernhardt was recused from meeting with 26 different former clients after rejoining Interior, including the powerful Westlands Water District. Westlands benefitted from a rollback of rules intended to protect endangered fish, and would have also benefited from a plan to enlarge the Shasta Dam, but Secretary Bernhardt denies meddling on their behalf. MacGregor, who had lobbied on behalf of a Virginia water authority in 2006, participated in at least 11 meetings that included former Bernhardt clients between September 2017 and November 2018. Most notably, MacGregor met several times with representatives of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck (BFHS), Secretary Bernhardt’s old lobbying firm. During the same period, BFHS was representing the Westlands Water District. As recently as August 2019, MacGregor met with the Fish and Wildlife Service official overseeing the environmental review of the Shasta Dam project.

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