Report: Full analysis of oil and gas industry communication with Interior and State Bureau of Land Management on sage grouse overhaul

FULL ANALYSIS OF OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY COMMUNICATIONS WITH INTERIOR AND STATE BLM OFFICES SPECIFIC TO THE SAGE GROUSE REVIEW 

Released FOIA documents below

On June 21, 2017, Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) lobbyist Samantha McDonald emailed Interior’s Deputy Director, Office of External Affairs, Timothy Williams to ask him if the members of the sage grouse review team had been named yet. There is no email response from Williams.

On June 21, 2017, Samantha McDonald, the Director of Government Relations for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, emailed Interior’s Deputy Director, Office of External Affairs, Timothy Williams, and asked, “Did the members of the Sage Grouse Review Team get named?”  [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 22]

There is no email response from Timothy Williams included in the FOIA results we received from Interior. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry)]

In July 2017, Samantha McDonald, the Director of Government Relations for IPAA, reached out to Timothy Williams and Casey Hammond, both members of Interior’s sage grouse review team. She asked them to talk with IPAA Treasurer Diemer True, who wanted “to see a reference to the merits” of the captive raising of sage grouse in the final report. True spoke with both Williams and Hammond. The August 2017 memo Interior’s sage grouse review team gave to Secretary Zinke concluded that while “further work” was “needed to evaluate captive breeding of sage-grouse,” it “recommend[ed] that new captive breeding efforts continue to be investigated to improve effectiveness.” Captive breeding of sage grouse has been described as “discredited” and “ill-advised,” as it is “expensive, technically demanding and capable of producing very few chicks.”

The June 8, 2017 Interior Department press release announcing the sage grouse review announced that the review team would “consider creative approaches and ideas, including a captive breeding program, setting population targets by state, and opportunities to improve state involvement.” [Press Release, Department of Interior, 06/08/17]

Diemer True is the Independent Petroleum Association of America Treasurer, and a Managing Member of Diamond Wings Upland Game Birds LLC, a company that raises and sells upland game birds. [“Diemer True,” IPAA, accessed 01/23/18; OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 107]

On July 14, 2017, Samantha McDonald, the Director of Government Relations for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, emailed Timothy Williams and Casey Hammond, both members of the sage grouse review team. McDonald wrote nearly identical emails to Hammond and Williams, in which she said “I wanted to touch base with you in your capacity on the sage grouse review team. One of my members, Diemer True (based in Wyoming) is actively involved with the captive raising of sage grouse and he would like to see a reference to the merits of the program in the final report. Would you have some time to speak with Diemer (cc’d)? He may even come to D.C. for the meeting if you feel that is best or maybe you two could coordinate the next time you are out west.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 89-91]

Casey Hammond responded saying he would be “Happy to talk” and asked to set up a call. Timothy Williams responded saying he “would like to speak with” Diemer True, and said he could “meet him either in DC or at our next meeting” which he believed would be “out west.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 92-93]

According to Casey Hammond’s calendar, he had a call on “Greater Sage-grouse” with Diemer True and Samantha McDonald on July 19, 2017 from 3:00pm to 3:30pm. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 481]

On July 19, 2017, Diemer True emailed Casey Hammond, saying “Thank you for talking with me. Here is a brief summary of the Wyoming initiative to attempt to raise a captive breeding program for Greater Sage-grouse.” In the document True sent, he included two “requests to the Department of the Interior.” They were that the “Interior department endorse Wyoming’s efforts to establish a captive breeding population of Greater Sage-grouse in its upcoming review,” and also that Interior “Offer financial support to certified Game Bird Farms in Wyoming in their efforts to establish a captive breeding population of Greater Sage-grouse.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 105-107]

Diemer True also emailed the same talking points to Interior’s Counselor for Energy Policy Vincent DeVito on July 21, 2017. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 123]

Interior’s August 2017 sage grouse memo concluded that “further work” was “needed to evaluate captive breeding of sage-grouse and recommended efforts continue to be investigated to improve effectiveness.” The sage grouse review team, in their memo, said that they “recommend[ed] that new captive breeding efforts continue to be investigated to improve effectiveness.” [Jamila Blake, “Review team submits sage-grouse management recommendations,” Wildlife Society, 08/09/17; DOI Sage Grouse Review, 08/04/17, page 13]

Captive breeding of sage grouse has been described as “ill-advised,” as it is “expensive, technically demanding and capable of producing very few chicks.” Environmental groups have described captive breeding as “‘discredited.'” [Jacques Leslie, “The Trump administration vs. the sage grouse — one more way to undermine the Endangered Species Act,” Los Angeles Times, 08/03/17 and Angus Thuermer Jr. & Andrew Graham, “Experts: Captive breeding of sage grouse won’t work,” High Country News, 06/14/17]

In July 2017, IPAA Director of Government Relations Samantha McDonald emailed Interior’s Deputy Director, Office of External Affairs Timothy Williams, requesting “one more call” with Williams in his “sage grouse review capacity,” on behalf of Chesapeake, Conoco Phillips, EOG Resources and Western Energy Alliance. The organizations had “a pretty specific sage grouse issue they’d like to have addressed in the final report,” that had to do with a “sage grouse map issue.” The report issued by the Interior Department in August 2017 “committed to developing a process to incorporate revised habitat maps.” On August 17, McDonald emailed Williams again to see if he had solved the map discrepancy. In one of many examples of Trump’s DOI regularly acting on specific trade group requests, Williams responded that Interior was “working on it” and that he “let the Secretary know as well.”

Samantha McDonald, on July 18, 2017, emailed Timothy Williams, requesting “one more call” with Williams in his “sage grouse review capacity.” McDonald was requesting the call because “three companies (Chesapeake, Conoco Phillips and EOG Resources and the fellow trade association Western Energy Alliance)” wanted to “chat” with Williams about “a pretty specific sage grouse issue they’d like to have addressed in the final report.” McDonald continued, “While the companies can provide more background in addition to what I have pasted below, essentially we need the Department to issue guidance to BLM concerning an expedited approach to accept Version 4 Core Area Maps within their planning purposes. To ignore the problem could potential jeopardize several dozen projects in Wyoming. Thanks for your consideration of this request.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 195-200]

Timothy Williams, on Thursday, July 27, 2017, had a call with Samantha McDonald of IPAA, and representatives from at least “some of” the following associations– Chesapeake, Conoco Phillips, EOG Resources, and Western Energy Alliance, on “a sage grouse map issue.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 195-200]

The sage grouse report issued by the Interior Department in August 2017 specifically addressed this issue and committed to developing a process to incorporate revised habitat maps. [DOI Sage Grouse Review, 08/07/17]

On August 17, 2017, at 4:02PM, Samantha McDonald sent Timothy Williams a follow up email on her previous map request. She wrote, “Has BLM been able to resolve this map discrepancy in Wyoming yet? I appreciate any update you may have.” On August 17, 2017, at 4:12PM, just ten minutes later, Williams responded, “We are working on it. I have let the Secretary know as well.” McDonald responded “Great! Thank you!” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 284]

On July 19, 2017, Tripp Parks, Western Energy Alliance’s Manager of Government Affairs, emailed the sage grouse review team a letter “regarding the economic impacts of the Greater Sage-Grouse land use plans.” The letter has been described as “an industry wish list,” and the sage grouse review team granted 13 of WEA’s 15 requests.

On July 19, 2017, Tripp Parks, Manager of Government Affairs for the Western Energy Alliance, emailed Interior’s sage grouse review team, Timothy Williams, Vincent DeVito, Casey Hammond, Kathy Benedetto, Katharine MacGregor, Daniel Jorjani, and Scott Cameron, a letter “regarding the economic impacts of the Greater Sage-Grouse land use plans.” Parks wrote in the body of the email that WEA “appreciate[d] your review” of the Sage-Grouse land use plans. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 108]

As previous analysis by Western Values Project has shown, this letter from WEA was “nothing short of an industry wish list, with 15 recommendations for the sage-grouse review team… 13 of those requests were granted by Secretary Zinke’s handpicked sage-grouse review team.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 108 – 112; Jayson O’Neill, “Western Values Project opens investigation in response to leaked document revealing industry influence of Interior’s sage-grouse review,” Western Values Project, 08/21/17]

The Petroleum Association of Wyoming emailed Timothy Williams and BLM staff a letter expressing their support for “Wyoming Sage-Grouse Executive Order 2015-4, (EO)” and detailing “the actions that will need to occur in order to achieve consistency with the EO and help advance energy development in Wyoming.”

On July 17, 2017, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming emailed Timothy Williams a letter titled “PAW support of Wyoming Sage-Grouse Executive Order – Revisions needed to Sage-grouse Management Plans to Advance Oil and Gas Development in Wyoming.” PAW CCed national Bureau of Land Management staff Kathleen Benedetto and John Ruhs, as well as Wyoming BLM staff Mary Jo Rugwell, Larry Claypool, Duane Spencer, and Buddy Green on the email.

In their letter, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming said they supported “Wyoming Sage-Grouse Executive Order 2015-4, (EO).” PAW also “strongly supports consistent application of compensatory mitigation as outlined in the EO, Compensatory Mitigation Framework on fee, state and federal lands.” In particular, in their letter PAW outlined “the actions that will need to occur in order to achieve consistency with the EO and help advance energy development in Wyoming.” These included: “Revise identified PHMA boundaries,” “Eliminate compensatory mitigation requirements on federal lands in GHMAs,” “Eliminate compensatory mitigation requirements on federal lands in PHMA when thresholds are not exceeded,” “Grant timing stipulation relief in GHMA lek buffers on federal lands consistent with the EO Compensatory Mitigation Framework,” “Eliminate project-by-project compensatory mitigation calculation determinations and instead utilize the EO Compensatory Mitigation Framework,” and “Ensure 2017 draft EISs are consistent with EO approach to mitigation.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 97-100]

Based on references to a “final report,” and the fact that industry groups were reaching out to Interior with requests around mid-July, it’s possible that an earlier draft version of the grouse report was circulated among the trade groups. However, there is no direct evidence in any of the emails we received that backs this claim up.

On July 14, 2017, Independent Petroleum Association said one of their members would like to see a certain ” reference… in the final report.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 89]

Independent Petroleum Association told Interior about another issue they wanted “to have addressed in the final report” on July 18, 2017. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 158]

Karen Kelleher, the BLM’s Deputy Assistant Director of Resources and Planning, told state BLM directors that Zinke’s Secretarial Order (SO) on sage grouse plans gave them a “short timeline” to prepare a report. When a meeting of the staff who were implementing the SO had to be rescheduled, then-Idaho state director Timothy Murphy complained, saying the delay left them “no freeboard for adjustment,” disrupted “partner coordination,” and was “not a good idea” because staff would have to work on a weekend.

Karen Kelleher, the BLM’s Washington, DC-based Deputy Assistant Director of Resources and Planning, coordinated BLM’s implementation of Secretarial Order 3353 (Greater Sage Grouse Conservation and Cooperation with Western States). In an email to state directors, she said the SO gave BLM a “short timeline” to report to DOI. [Karen Kelleher email to BLM State Directors, 06/19/17]

In an email, the BLM’s Washington-based Deputy Assistant Director of Resources and Planning Karen Kelleher told BLM state directors that Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado would not be able to send representatives to a meeting on the Sage Grouse EO on June 27-29 due to a scheduling conflict with the Western Governors Association, which she noted “greatly shortens the review timeline.” She suggested meeting face-to-face July 11-13 instead. [Karen Kelleher email to BLM State Directors, 06/19/17]

Timothy Murphy of the Idaho BLM replied, saying that “a further tightening of the schedule leaves no freeboard for adjustment of any kind involving development, partner coordination, or logistics. Planning for staff to conduct weekend work is not a good idea. Idaho prefers the current schedule.” [Timothy Murphy email to Karen Kelleher, 06/20/17]

Sage grouse review team member and Deputy Director of External Affairs Timothy Williams attended the Montana Petroleum Association’s (MPA) annual meeting in Billings, Montana on August 30, 2017, in which he was instructed to discuss “sage grouse issues.” MPA provided Williams with a complimentary registration to the meeting and the barbeque, and also invited Interior staff to golf and fishing tournaments they were hosting as part of the meeting.

On June 29, 2017, Executive Director of the Montana Petroleum Association Alan Olson invited Interior’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Aurelia Skipwith, to participate at MPA’s “annual meeting in Billings, Montana on Wednesday, August 30th to discuss federal issues that affect our industry, primarily sage grouse for this particular discussion.”

Alan Olson sent Aurelia Skipwith “a complimentary registration” to MPA’s Barbeque and Annual meeting, including hosting a golf tournament and a fishing tournament if she was interested in either.

Aurelia Skipwith did not attend, but she emailed Olson with Timothy Willams’ contact info, saying that “Timothy Williams, our Deputy Director for External/ Intergovernmental Affairs, is able to attend and he’s cc’ed.” She explained to Williams that MPA “mentioned that it would be nice to hear about how things are going with land and minerals as well as sage grouse issues.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 201-204]

FULL ANALYSIS OF INDUSTRY COMMUNICATIONS WITH INTERIOR NOT SPECIFIC TO THE SAGE GROUSE REVIEW

On August 3, 2017, the day before Interior’s sage grouse review team sent their report to Secretary Ryan Zinke, Interior Counselor for Energy Policy Vincent DeVito spoke at the Western Energy Alliance’s August 2017 annual meeting. WEA offered to pay for DeVito’s food, lodging and transportation, including an $85 dinner buffet, although it’s unclear which, if any, of these WEA ended up providing for DeVito. Interior employee Gisella Ojeda-Dodds was planning on clearing all meal prices by Interior’s ethics office before DeVito went to the event.

Interior Counselor for Energy Policy Vincent DeVito spoke at the Western Energy Alliance’s annual meeting on August 3, 2017 in Beaver Creek Colorado. WEA wanted DeVito to discuss “General plans on energy policy, progress with nominations, more certainty on leasing/NEPA/permitting, impacts of ESA issues on energy, reorganization plans, basically anything he wants to talk about with respect to the Interior Department and energy.”

Originally, WEA had requested that Secretary Ryan Zinke speak at their annual meeting instead of DeVito, but Zinke was unable to. WEA Vice President of Development and Operations Brian Fakharzadeh had said that, if Secretary Zinke was unavailable, WEA “would also be happy to have Vincent DeVito join us in the Secretary’s place.”

Brian Fakharzadeh offered Vincent DeVito “lodging for either the evening of the 2nd or the 3rd,” as well as “transportation, etc.” It’s unclear what part of DeVito’s trip, if any, WEA ended up paying for.

Interior employee Gisella Ojeda-Dodds, who was helping plan Vincent DeVito’s trip, on July 6, 2017, emailed WEA Vice President of Development and Operations Brian Fakharzadeh concerning details about the trip. Ojeda-Dodds wrote, “if there is a reception the night before or any breakfast or lunch offered for this event please let me know what the items are and their value so I can clear through our ethics office.”

Brian Fakharzadeh responded with the meal prices which, he said were “ridiculously inflated.” He explained, “These numbers get heavy because it’s the way the hotel makes its money after comping us the event room rental. If you need me to contact the hotel to find out what a more realistic (non-inflated) price would be, just let me know.” The various prices were $85 dollars for a dinner buffet, $42 for a breakfast buffet and $48 for a lunch buffet. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 64-71]

On August 4, 2017, the day after Vincent DeVito spoke at WEA’s annual meeting, Interior’s sage grouse review team sent their report on the Sage Grouse plans to Secretary Zinke. [Scott Streater, “Zinke review team calls for big changes to Obama-era plans,” Greenwire, 08/07/17]

In addition to Vincent DeVito, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt also appears to have spoken at WEA’s annual meeting. WEA also invited land seizure advocate Karen Budd-Falen to speak at their annual meeting, but it’s not clear if she attended.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was slated to be Western Energy Alliance’s keynote speaker at the August 2, 2017 dinner during Western Energy Alliance’s annual meeting in Beaver Creek Colorado.

Western Energy Alliance invited land seizure advocate Karen Budd-Falen to speak at the annual meeting, but, as of July 5, 2017, WEA “hadn’t heard” if her schedule would allow her to speak or not. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 64-71]

Interior Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason was a keynote speaker at the Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s (COGA) Annual Energy Summit in Denver on August 23, 2017. Cason’s old boss, former Interior Secretary Gale Norton, had been the one who recommended to COGA that Cason speak at the event and who initially contacted Cason about speaking at the event. At the event, Norton and Cason “spoke alongside” one another. Norton currently runs her own consulting firm that “works closely with the oil and gas industry.”

When Interior Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason worked at George W. Bush’s Interior Department, Gale Norton, as Secretary of the Interior, was his boss. [Adam Federman, “The Plot to Loot America’s Wilderness,” The Nation, 11/16/17]

Sometime prior to August 14, 2017 Gale Norton contacted James Cason about the “opportunity” to attend a Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s 29th Annual Energy Summit in Denver, Colorado on August 23, 2017.

On August 14, 2017, “on the recommendation” of Gale Norton, Colorado Oil & Gas Association sent James Cason received a formal invitation to attend the summit. Rachel McNerney, COGA’s Programs & Administrative Coordinator, said that COGA would be “thrilled” to have Associate Deputy Secretary Cason participate. COGA CCed Gale Norton, using her Gmail address, on Cason’s invitation. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 425]

James Cason “spoke alongside Gale Norton” at the event. According to the agenda Norton and Cason participated in moderated discussion together at COGA’s keynote luncheon on August 23, 2017. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 295; Adam Federman, “The Plot to Loot America’s Wilderness,” The Nation, 11/16/17]

Gale Norton currently runs her own consulting firm, Norton Regulatory Strategies, which “works closely with the oil and gas industry.” [Adam Federman, “The Plot to Loot America’s Wilderness,” The Nation, 11/16/17]

As a speaker, James Cason was “registered for the conference” by COGA staff. It’s unclear whether or not Cason reimbursed COGA for the registration. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 291]

Interior officials Aurelia Skipwith, Timothy Williams and Casey Hammond all spoke at the Independent Petroleum Association of America’s Regulators’ Forum on October 17, 2017. David Bernhardt was also invited to speak but appears to not have attended.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Aurelia Skipwith, Deputy Director of External Affairs, Timothy Williams and Casey Hammond, who works for the Bureau of Land Management, all spoke at the Independent Petroleum Association of America’s Regulators’ Forum on October 17, 2017. The speakers were instructed to “speak to our group on your job, and how you bridge coalitions and secretarial priorities.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 398 and 432]

Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt was also invited to speak, but, IPAA was aware that he may have had “recusal issues” which would have prevented him from speaking. David Bernhardt previously provided the Independent Petroleum Association of America with “legal services.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 432; David Bernhardt OGE 278, accessed via ProPublica, 05/04/17]

The American Petroleum Institute (API) is in close contact with and meets frequently with top Department of Interior officials. Since June 2017, API officials have met or had correspondence with Interior Counselor for Energy Policy Vincent DeVito, Interior Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason, and Interior Deputy Director for the Office of External Affairs Timothy Williams. In particular, Vincent DeVito appears to have meet frequently with API.

Interior Counselor for Energy Policy Vincent DeVito met with Richard Ranger, Matt Haynie, and Carrie Domnitch of API on June 7, 2017, from 12:30pm to 1:00pm. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 468-470]

On June 15, 2017, Holly Hopkins, Senior Policy Advisor, Upstream and Industry Operations at American Petroleum Institute, emailed Interior Associate Deputy Secretary Jim Cason an email titled “quick chat.” She wrote, “Hi Jim, hope all is well. Could you please give me a call when you get a chance, I have a quick question. I’m in my office 202-682-8439 until 3:00, then on my cell [redacted].” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 9]

Interior Deputy Director for the Office of External Affairs Timothy Williams met with the Colorado Petroleum Council, which is a division of the American Petroleum Institute, on June 20, 2017, from 11:00am to 12:00pm. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 473]

Interior Counselor for Energy Policy Vincent DeVito met with Andy Radford from API on June 20, 2017 from 1:00pm to 1:30pm. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 478]

Interior Counselor for Energy Policy Vincent DeVito met with Carrie Domnitch, Matt Haynie, and Holly Hopkins from API on June 27, 2017 from 11:00am to 11:30am. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 479, 480]

On July 24, 2017, Richard Ranger of API emailed Vincent DeVito and CCed Michael Nedd. The subject of the email was “API Letter Responding to S.O.3354 and BLM Future Planning Efforts and Project/Environmental Reviews.” The letter expressed API’s “support for the objectives of Secretarial Order 3354, dated July 7, 2017,” and was API’s response to “the invitation from the BLM to the public to provide input into the agency’s land use planning and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 146]

On June 28, 2017, Vincent DeVito emailed Andy Radford at API, saying “Is there a good time for me to call you today/tomorrow? Thanks.” Radford responded “Yes. Anytime after 9:30 today. Mostly free tomorrow before 11:00.” DeVito wrote back ” left you a vm. I am at 2022082884. Thanks.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 28]

On September 27, 2017, Vincent DeVito emailed Holly Hopkins an email titled “Message.” DeVito wrote, “I returned your call. Your message was delayed in getting to me. Returning from Grand Forks this evening.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 356]

In mid-October 2017, Vincent DeVito “briefed” the API Subcommittee on Exploration and Production Law on “the major DOI issues.”

On September 13, 2017, Vincent DeVito wrote in an email that he was “happy” to brief the American Petroleum Institute’s “Subcommittee on Exploration and Production Law,” a group made up of API’s “member companies’ Assistant General Counsels and others focused on exploration and production law.” According to the invitation, the group was “very interested in hearing from” DeVito “about the major DOI issues, and [to] discuss how industry can be most helpful to the Department and how you all achieve your goals.” DeVito appears to have briefed the group in mid-October 2017. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 336-337]

On July 25, 2017, API officials requested a meeting Vincent DeVito, Katharine MacGregor, and Kathleen Benedetto to discuss API’s concerns about BLM’s venting and flaring rule, which API believed, “exceeded BLM’s authority.” API met with these top Interior officials, and after the meeting, API’s Carrie Domnitch emailed Vincent DeVito, thanking him for the “good discussion” and saying that API would “follow-up with Kathy and BLM staff on next steps.” On October 4, 2017, BLM announced a proposal to delay certain requirements contained in the Venting and Flaring Rule until January 17, 2019, as they had “found that some parts of the 2016 final rule appear to be unnecessarily burdensome on industry.”

On July 25, 2017, API Director of Federal Relations Carrie Domnitch emailed Counselor for Energy Policy Vincent DeVito, Acting Assistant Secretary- Land and Minerals Management Katharine MacGregor, and Senior Advisor to the Bureau of Land Management Kathleen Benedetto, requesting a meeting “on venting and flaring.” Domnitch wrote, “As part of Secretary Zinke’s Secretarial Order 3349, ‘Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,’ the Department was instructed to review the BLM final rule titled, ‘Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation.’ In API’s letter in response to the Order, we reiterated our concerns that the final rule exceeded BLM’s authority under the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA) and that the prevention of waste and conservation of resources can be accomplished using BLM’s proper authority under the MLA. As such, API is requesting a meeting to discuss these issues further. Included in the meeting from API will be Upstream Group Director Erik Milito, Upstream Senior Policy Advisor Richard Ranger, Senior Counsel Matt Haynie and myself.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 154]

Vincent DeVito, Kathleen Benedetto, and Katharine MacGregor met with Carrie Domnitch, Richard Ranger, and Matt Haynie from API on Monday, July 31, 2017. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 496]

After the July 31 meeting, Carrie Domnitch emailed Vincent DeVito saying, “Vincent, Thanks again for meeting with us earlier this week on BLM issues. That was a good discussion and we’ll follow-up with Kathy and BLM staff on next steps.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 221]

On October 4, 2017, the Bureau of Land Management “announced in the Federal Register a proposal to temporarily suspend or delay certain requirements contained in the 2016 final Waste Prevention Rule (also known as the Venting and Flaring Rule) until January 17, 2019.” In their press release announcing the delay, BLM said they “found that some parts of the 2016 final rule appear to be unnecessarily burdensome on industry,” and “determined that a temporary suspension or delay of certain requirements would avoid compliance costs on operators for requirements that may be rescinded or significantly revised in the near future.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 613]

On August 4, 2017, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued an environmental impact statement that concluded that “seismic surveys for oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico would cause significant harm to marine mammals.” The same day, Carrie Domnitch from the American Petroleum Institute emailed Vincent DeVito to tell him API didn’t believe the conclusion reached in the environmental impact statement was “the right choice.” API asked for a meeting “before the Record of Decision” was issued. DeVito said he “look[ed] forward to further discussion,” and API met with DeVito and BOEM Special Assistant James Schindler on August 18, 2017. 

On August 4, 2017, API lobbyist Carrie Domnitch emailed Vincent DeVito regarding the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management’s issuing of a “Programmatic EIS today on Gulf of Mexico seismic.” The environmental impact statement BOEM issued on August 4 “conclude[d] seismic surveys for oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico would cause significant harm to marine mammals.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 221; Press Release, Center for Biological Diversity, 08/04/17]

Carrie Domnitch wrote to Vincent DeVito that API did “not believe Alternative C was the right choice based on the historical record and based on our track record on seismic, we believe Alternative A would have provided as much protection to marine life without being overly burdensome on industry operations. This will be reflected in our public statement. We would like to discuss with you further in the coming weeks before the Record of Decision (ROD) is issued. Let us know your availability.”

Vincet DeVito responded: “I look forward to further discussion. I am adding Gisella to coordinate my end. Thanks, again.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 221]

Vincent DeVito and BOEM Special Assistant James Schindler met with Matt Haynie, Andy Radford, and Carrie Domnitch from API on August 18, 2017 from 11:00am to 11:30am. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 504]

Based on public information, the Interior Department does not appear to have taken any further action on seismic surveys in the Gulf of Mexico.

On October 2, 2017, Secretary Ryan Zinke and Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt hosted a roundtable titled “Cut the Red Tape: Liberating America from Bureaucracy.” The event was described as a “deregulation strategies” roundtable that focused on how the Trump administration “deal[t] with rolling back over burdensome regulations.” API leadership attended. IPAA leadership was invited but it’s not clear if they attended or not.

On September 25, 2017, Jason Funes, a Special Assistant in Interior’s Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, sent American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard an invitation to attend a “deregulation strategies” roundtable at Interior hosted by Secretary Ryan Zinke and Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt. Funes said the round table would “have long lasting effects on how this administration deals with rolling back over burdensome regulations, especially since we will have 20+ other organization’s leadership in attendance.” The title on the invitation that Gerard received was “Cut the Red Tape: Liberating America from Bureaucracy.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 437, 445-447]

Jack Gerard was unavailable, but asked Erik Milito, API’s Group Director for Upstream and Industry Operations, “to attend on his behalf.” Milito attended the roundtable and said it was a “privilege” to attend. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 445-447]

Jason Funes signed off his email with “MAGA.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 445-447]

Samantha McDonald of the Independent Petroleum Association of America also received an invitation for the “Cut the Red Tape” roundtable. It is not clear based on the emails we received whether or not she attended. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 352]

Jay Copan, the Executive Director of the American Gas Association, is currently working with the Interior Department on planning the 2018 World Gas Conference. Interior leadership is “extremely excited” to be working with Copan on the event. 

Jay Copan, Executive Director of the American Gas Association, is working with the Interior Department on the 2018 World Gas Conference. Jason Funes, a Special Assistant in Interior’s Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, in a September 25, 2017 email, said the “department’s senior leadership and myself are extremely excited to work with [Copan] and others on next year’s event!” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 447]

In July 2017, Alan Olson, Executive Director of the Montana Petroleum Association (MPA), contacted Amanda Kaster, an Advisor to Secretary Ryan Zinke, telling her about a problem one of his member companies was having reinstating four oil and gas leases in North Dakota. Olson asked Kaster if she could connect his member with “someone at Interior who could possibly help him out.” Kaster arranged a phone call between Olson and the Acting Assistant Secretary for Lands and Minerals. Olson and Kaster spoke again a couple weeks later. On September 26, 2017, BLM issued a notice in the Federal Register saying that three of the four leases in question had been reinstated.

On July 18, 2017, Alan Olson, the Executive Director of the Montana Petroleum Association, emailed Amanda Kaster, who is an advisor to the Secretary of the Interior. Olson wrote, “I have a request from one of our members who is having an issue getting a BLM oil and gas lease reinstated needing to connect with someone at Interior who could possibly help him out. This is a really good oil and gas operator, not a fly by night type so that is why I’m asking. Let me know if you can point me in the right direction.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 173-174]

The member who Alan Olson was helping was Jeff Herman, a Region Manager at Petro-Hunt, LLC in Bismarck, North Dakota. Herman’s company had taken leases over from Emerald Oil, which had gone into bankruptcy. Herman explained to Olson, “Due to their mismanagement the leases lapsed and we took all the necessary steps with the BLM Dickenson and Billings offices to get them reinstated so all that is left is to get the notice in the Federal Register but can’t seem to get them in there. Is there anything your office could do to get them in the Federal Register quicker so the 30 days period gets started? There are wells shut-in waiting for the reinstatement for us to put them back on production again.” The lease numbers were NDM 94704, NDM 94705, NDM 94706, and NDM 94112. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 176]

Amanda Kaster responded by asking Alan Olson if he was “free around 5pm/EST on Thursday, July 27 to do a call with our Acting Assistant Secretary for Lands and Minerals about this?” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 173-174]

On August 8, 2017, Jeff Herman forwarded to Alan Olson an email he had received from the regional BLM office saying that the reinstatements were “still pending in the Washington DC office.” Herman was told that, because of the process, it would “still be a while” before the local BLM could take action. Herman told Olson “FYI – still not movement.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 224-225]

Alan Olson then forwarded Herman’s email to Amanda Kaster, and said “I am hoping you could get this information to someone that can ‘make things happen’.” Kaster said to Olson, “let’s chat tomorrow if you’re available.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 224]

On September 26, 2017, BLM announced in the Federal Register that it was proposing to reinstate three of the four leases. [Notice of Proposed Reinstatement of Terminated Oil and Gas Leases NDM 94704, NDM 94705, and NDM 94706, North Dakota, Federal Register, 09/26/17]

On July 11 and 12, 2017, IPAA Director of Government Relations Samantha McDonald emailed Counselor for Energy Policy Vincent DeVito and Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Greg Sheehan, saying that IPAA “strongly oppose[d] the listing” of the Texas hornshell mussel “under the ESA as endangered, or threatened.” The Fish and Wildlife Service had been scheduled to issue an Endangered Species Act listing decision for the Texas hornshell mussel in August 2017. McDonald told DeVito that IPAA was “really hoping” he could “intervene” before the species was listed. On July 25 and August 1, McDonald sent emails to Sheehan thanking him for “looking into” the Hornshell issue. On August 10, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delayed “a listing decision on the Texas hornshell for six months.” On August 17, McDonald emailed DeVito and Sheehan, thanking them for the “good call” to delay the decision, and saying that IPAA members were “most grateful.”

IPAA Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Political Affairs Dan Naatz and IPAA Director of Government Relations Samantha McDonald met with Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Greg Sheehan on June 30, 2017. On July 11, 2017, in her thank you email following up after the meeting, McDonald told Sheehan, “We appreciated you hearing our concerns and asking so many great questions about the oil and gas industry.” In the meeting, Sheehan “requested letters outlining issues [IPAA was] facing from the [Fish and Wildlife] Service in the field.” McDonald sent Sheehan a letter “regarding a proposed listing decision” for the Texas hornshell mussel which was “expected by August of 2017.” IPAA members were “concerned that the FWS” was “pre-disposed to listing the species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) without sound data” and that IPAA “strongly oppose[d] the listing of this species under the ESA as endangered, or threatened.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 83-84]

The Texas hornshell mussel is a “rare species” and “the last remaining native mussel in New Mexico.” The Texas hornshell mussel is a freshwater mussel, “‘one of the most imperiled animals in the U.S.'” “A listing under the Endangered Species Act for the Texas hornshell… could lead to federal protection of its habitat and would require the Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a recovery plan for the mussel.” [Daniel J. Chacón, “Feds put off decision on Texas hornshell’s status,” The New Mexican, 08/10/17; Adrian Hedden, “Blight on the banks: Officials hope saving a rare mussel could restore the Black River,” Carlsbad Current-Argus, 11/26/17]

On July 12, 2017, Samantha McDonald emailed Vincent DeVito. She wrote that it was “great meeting” DeVito a couple of weeks prior, and given DeVito’s “interest in help with energy matters,” she was sending him a copy of the letter opposing the potential listing of the Texas Hornshell mussel she had sent Sheehan. McDonald wrote, “It appears our energy is being blamed as a deterrent to the species, despite facts on water science and lack of sound science. We’re really hoping that you can intervene before this species gets listed next month.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 104]

Vincent DeVito responded, “Please let me know what you may be hearing as this unfolds.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 104]

On July 24, 2017, Greg Sheehan emailed Samantha McDonald, saying that he was “learning more about” the Texas hornshell listing issue internally, but he had “not seen any listing documents” so he didn’t know that anything was “formally being finalized yet.” McDonald responded to Sheehan saying “I noticed that the Texas Hornshell was slated for a listing determination in the Unified Agenda… next month,” and provided him with a link. She continued, “Again, thank you for your interest and I appreciate your willingness to look into this for us. What is being stated in the field as fact is misconstrued and could lead to a listing decision that could adversely affect future operations in the region.” Sheehan responded, “I am scheduled to go over this with Gary tomorrow so that we can properly respond.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 170]

On August 1, 2017, Samantha McDonald wrote in an email to Greg Sheehan, “Thanks for looking into the Texas Hornshell issue for us. Our members are very concerned about the listing implications of this species.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 205]

On August 10, 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delayed “a listing decision on the Texas hornshell for six months and would reopen the comment period for an additional 30 days.” [Daniel J. Chacón, “Feds put off decision on Texas hornshell’s status,” The New Mexican, 08/10/17]

On August 17, 2017, Samantha McDonald sent Vincent DeVito and Greg Sheehan an email titled “THANK YOU!” She wrote, “Vince and Greg, On behalf of my members, I wanted to thank you for the 6-month delay on the Texas Hornshell. They are most grateful for the extra time to allow their significant conservation efforts to come to fruition. It was a good call.” Vincent DeVito responded “No problem.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 274]

In September 2017, the Independent Petroleum Association of America sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a lawsuit designed to push the American Burying Beetle “off the endangered species list.” Before the IPAA filed the lawsuit, IPAA Director of Government Relations Samantha McDonald emailed Greg Sheehan, Vincent DeVito, and Tim Williams “as a courtesy” to inform them that IPAA would be suing. She sent Vincent DeVito briefing materials on the issue and at one point thanking him for his “interest and attention to this species.” After sending DeVito a letter from the CEO of an Oklahoma oil and gas company, DeVito asked to be put in touch with the CEO, and the two had a phone conversation. The case is ongoing.

The American burying beetle is a scavenger insect that was “once present in 30 states and parts of Canada,” but by the late 1980s “had been reduced to living in eastern Oklahoma and Block Island, Rhode Island.”

“Classified as an endangered species since 1989, American burying beetle mitigation has slowed pipeline and road construction and inflated project costs throughout the eastern half” of Oklahoma. Oil and gas companies have complained that policies protecting the American Burying Beetle are “‘a major impediment… to produc[ing] oil and gas.'” [Adam Wilmoth, “Oil association sues government over endangered beetle,” The Oklahoman, 09/22/17; “Oil and gas groups sue over beetle protections,” Energy & Environment, 09/21/17]

On September 21, 2017, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, along American Stewards of Liberty and Osage Producers Association, sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “in a lawsuit designed to push the beetle off the endangered species list.” The lawsuit “revolve[d] around the agency’s failure to rule within 12 months of receiving an August 2015 petition seeking removal of the beetle from Endangered Species Act protections.” [“Oil and gas groups sue over beetle protections,” Energy & Environment, 09/21/17]

Before IPAA filed the lawsuit, on August 1, 2017, IPAA Director of Government Relations Samantha McDonald emailed Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Greg Sheehan “as a courtesy” to send him a letter on IPAA’s “legal efforts to delist the American Burying Beetle, which has significant impacts on our Oklahoma producers.” McDonald said IPAA “wanted to share our intentions to challenge and the steps that necessitate a challenge.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 205-206]

Samantha McDonald also emailed Vincent DeVito, who she called “Vince,” on August 1, 2017 to inform him that “IPAA intends to file a lawsuit for failure of the Service to issue a 12-month finding on our petition to delist the American Burying Beetle.” McDonald told DeVito, “Due to the impacts to our Oklahoma producers, I wanted to flag for you in your energy role.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 207]

Samantha McDonald also emailed Timothy Williams, saying she was “looping” him into the “impending lawsuit as well.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 209]

On August 3, 2017, Samantha McDonald emailed Vincent DeVito, thanking him for his call that morning. In her email, she sent a link to IPAA’s “original delist petition for the ABB from 2015” which contained IPAA’s “best arguments and an article referencing problems the listing has caused.” She concluded her email to DeVito, “Thank you for interest and attention to this species.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 213- 214]

The next day, on August 4, 2017, Samantha McDonald emailed Vincent DeVito again, telling him that, “relating to the American Burying Beetle” it had come to her “attention that some small oil and gas companies are experiencing great hardship due to changing survey requirements in eastern Oklahoma. In this case, its tribal minerals that are jeopardized from being accessed.” She shared a letter from J. Scott DuCharme, President of Performance Operating Company, “that paint[ed] a picture of the ongoing shenanigans.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 215-216]

After receiving the email, Vincent DeVito asked Samantha McDonald for a call with Scott Ducharme. DeVito had a phone call with “Scott at Performance” on August 17, 2017—DeVito told McDonald that he got “the information [he] needed” from the call. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 246 and 288]

As of February 2, 2018, the lawsuit is ongoing. [American Stewards of Liberty et. al. v. Department of the Interior et. al., Case No. 6:2017-cv-00352]

The Interior Department is currently in the process of deciding whether or not to relist the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act, a listing that the oil and gas industry opposes. IPAA Director of Government Relations Samantha McDonald, on August 31, 2017, emailed Casey Hammond, who works at the Bureau of Land Management, asking Hammond what the “latest timeline on the listing decision for the LPC” was. McDonald said she was “trying to get some valuable intel.”

In July 2016, the lesser prairie chicken was “removed from the threatened and endangered species list… following court rulings in Texas and a decision by government lawyers not to pursue an appeal.” [“Feds remove the lesser prairie chicken from protection list,” Denver Post, 07/19/16; Susan Montoya Bryan, “US officials will review status of lesser prairie chicken,” Associated Press, 11/29/16]

In November 2016, “Environmentalists responded by petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take another look at the bird,” arguing “that emergency protections are needed for isolated populations of the bird along the Texas-New Mexico border, in Colorado and western Kansas.” The US Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to reconsider the status of the grouse.

The oil and gas industry has been concerned that “relisting the grouse could hamper drilling.” [Susan Montoya Bryan, “US officials will review status of lesser prairie chicken,” Associated Press, 11/29/16]

Samantha McDonald, on August 31, 2017, emailed Casey Hammond, who works in the Bureau of Land Management, an email titled “Lesser Prairie Chicken.” McDonald asked Hammond, “What’s the latest timeline on the listing decision for the LPC? I thought it was to come out in September, but now I’m hearing chatter that FWS is shooting for November. Just trying to get some valuable intel.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 314]

There is no email response from Casey Hammond included in the FOIA results we received from Interior. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry)]

Timothy Williams receives daily news clips from the Independent Petroleum Association of America monitoring the Endangered Species Act.

Interior Deputy Director for the Office of External Affairs Timothy Williams appears to be on a list serve for daily news clips that Independent Petroleum Association of America circulates monitoring the Endangered Species Act. His email address sent several out of office replies at various dates to the Samantha McDonald in response to “IPAA ESA Clips.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 1, 4, 81, 212, 414]

On December 22, 2017, the Interior Department issued a legal decision declaring that the “Migratory Bird Treaty Act [MBTA] applies only to purposeful actions that kill migratory birds, and not to energy companies and other businesses that kill birds incidentally.” Industry groups appear to have been engaged on this issue with Interior months before the ruling. In August 2017, Western Energy Alliance sent a letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking that “FWS… work with the administration” to produce “guidance that MBTA does not give the FWS to regulate incidental take for migratory birds.” Independent Petroleum Association of America lobbyist Samantha McDonald seems to have known that the Interior Department was considering revising their interpretation of the MBTA in November, when she emailed Deputy Director for the Office of External Affairs Timothy Williams asking if there was “any word” on the MBTA opinion. When Interior issued their legal decision on December 22, both WEA and IPAA applauded the decision.

On December 22, 2017, “revers[ing] a rule made in the last weeks of the Obama administration,” Interior’s Principal Deputy Solicitor Daniel Jorjani, issued a legal decision that “declare[d] that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act applies only to purposeful actions that kill migratory birds, and not to energy companies and other businesses that kill birds incidentally.” [Laurel Wamsley, “Accidentally Killing Birds Isn’t A Crime, Says Trump Administration,” NPR, 12/27/17; Daniel Jorjani, M-37050, Department of Interior, 12/22/17]

On August 31, 2017, Western Energy Alliance submitted a letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “suggesting statutory changes to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).” WEA wrote that the “threat of criminal enforcement for incidental take by FWS is unjustifiably causing delays or preventing permitting of projects on federal lands.” They asked that “FWS…. work with the administration” to produce “guidance that MBTA does not give the FWS to regulate incidental take for migratory birds.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 315-323]

Independent Petroleum Association of America Director of Government Relations Samantha McDonald, on November 3, 2017, emailed Interior Deputy Director for the Office of External Affairs Timothy Williams an email with the title “MBTA.” In her email, she asked “Any word on the solicitor’s opinion yet?” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 421]

On December 22, 2017, the day that Interior issued the legal decision declaring that the MBTA did not apply to companies that kill birds incidentally, both IPAA and WEA issued press releases applauding the “new Solicitor’s Opinion.” [Press Release, Independent Petroleum Association of America, 12/22/17; Press Release, Western Energy Alliance, 12/22/17]

A bipartisan group of former Interior Department officials who served under the last eight Presidents have since written a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke asking him to reverse Daniel Jorjani’s decision, which they described as a “‘new, contrived legal standard that creates a huge loophole’ in the existing act… allowing companies to engage in activities that routinely kill migratory birds so long as they were not intending that their operations would ‘render an animal subject to human control.'” [Dino Grandoni and Juliet Eilperin, “17 former wildlife officials urge Interior to rethink easing rules against killing birds,” Washington Post, 01/12/18]

In August 2017, Western Energy Alliance submitted letters on BLM Reform and FWS Reform. The focus of the BLM letter was to transfer oil and gas oversight authority from BLM to the states while WEA highlighted “three main areas for reform at FWS: the ESA and conservation agreements, mitigation and climate change policies, and MBTA implementation.” On September 12, 2017, WEA President Kathleen Sgamma met with Vincent DeVito and told him that WEA “really appreciate[d] the direction the Department is headed in.” 

On Thursday, August 10, 2017, Western Energy Alliance Manager of Government Affairs Tripp Parks emailed Kathleen Benedetto, Katharine MacGregor, and Vincent DeVito a copy of Western Energy Alliance’s comments regarding DOI’s reform initiative that were “specific to BLM.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 248]

Western Energy Alliance’s lead ask in the BLM letter was to transfer oil and gas oversight authority from BLM to the states. WEA argued that “the federal government is much less efficient than states in managing oil and natural gas development, taking more than 250 days to issue drilling permits compared to about 30 days on average for state agencies.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 250]

On August 31, 2017, Western Energy Alliance submitted comments on Fish and Wildlife Reform, which Tripp Parks mailed to Casey Hammond and Vincent DeVito. The comments in this letter focus on “three main areas for reform at FWS: the ESA and conservation agreements, mitigation and climate change policies, and MBTA implementation.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 315-323]

On September 12, 2017, presumably as a follow up to Western Energy Alliance’s BLM and FWS regulatory reform letters, WEA President Kathleen Sgamma met with Counselor for Interior Energy Secretary Policy Vincent DeVito. After the meeting, Sgamma thanked DeVito and said that “[w]e really appreciate the direction the Department is headed in.” She also indicated that “[w]e’ll work up a comprehensive briefing paper on the federal nexus and delegation of primacy ideas we discussed and get that to you as soon as they’re ready.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 341]

Kathleen Sgamma told Interior officials WEA would be releasing sage grouse emails they had exchanged with the Department as part of WEA’s response to Western Values Project’s lawsuit.

Kathleen Sgamma, on October 25, 2017, forwarded a Western Energy Alliance press release to Vincent DeVito, Timothy Williams, and Kate MacGregor to give them a “heads up” that Western Energy Alliance had “publicly released all our sage grouse emails to the Department today, as per the WVP FOIA lawsuit.” She continued, “The reason should be obvious from the press release below.” [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 415]

Vincent DeVito met with Independent Petroleum Association of America and representatives from oil and gas companies on October 10, 2017.

According to his calendar, Counselor for Energy Policy Vincent DeVito met with Mallori Miller, Director of Government Relations of IPAA on October 10, 2017. Also in the meeting were representatives from QEP Resources, EOG Resources, Chesapeake Energy Corporation, Devon Energy, and Encana. Interior employees Christopher Stolte, William Dove, and Joshua Campbell were also in the meeting. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 512]

In September 2017, Deputy Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Greg Sheehan called in a favor to his old friend, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife Founder Don Peay. Sheehan had been contacted by a concerned individual who was trying to save privately-owned cabins in a wilderness area in the Tongass National Forest. The land is managed by the United States Forest Service, and the cabins could be saved if Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue intervened and changed the policy. Sheehan said Peay had a “very strong relationship” with the “now Assistant Secretary of agricultural [sic]” and Sheehan wanted to get Peay “engaged” on the issue. When he worked for the state of Utah in 2015, Sheehan was criticized for giving Peay’s organization, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, preferential treatment.

“90 privately-owned cabins were grandfathered into the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska when areas of it were designated as wilderness. But once the cabins are passed down one generation, they are slated to be removed or destroyed.” Some of the residents of the cabins have started a campaign to try to save them. Some of Alaska’s state and federal legislators have also reached out to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, asking him to “use his authority to intervene and change the policy.” [Nora Saks, “AK: Petersburg family leads charge to save historic cabin in Tongass National Forest,” Alaska Public Media, 08/31/17]

On September 21, 2017 Thu Vo-Wood, an administrative assistant in the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, emailed Principal Deputy Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Greg Sheehan asking for Sheehan’s help with the issue. Vo-Wood and Sheehan had previously discussed the issue at an Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies event. Vo-Wood wrote, “Mike Schwartz asked me to help him escalate it to someone higher up with influence and an interest within the administration.” Schwartz is a Petersburg, Alaska resident who previously had a cabin “taken away” from him, and has been a leading force behind the campaign. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Page 354; Nora Saks, “AK: Petersburg family leads charge to save historic cabin in Tongass National Forest,” Alaska Public Media, 08/31/17]

Greg Sheehan responded to Vo-Wood saying that he knew “exactly” who could help. Sheehan CCed Don Peay, the founder of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, on his response to Vo-Wood. Sheehan explained, “The now Assistant Secretary of agricultural was in Utah last summer and Don and I spent two days with him. Don has a very strong relationship there. Let’s get him engaged. This plan to eliminate cabins would effect thousand of hunters, anglers, and campers each year. I have stayed at and hunted out of one of these cabins while bear hunting.” Sheehan promised Vo-Wood that he would talk with Peay about the issue. [OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 353 – 354]

In 2015, before he worked at the Interior Department, Greg Sheehan, as Director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, came under fire for accepting a $1 million check from Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (SFW) and for giving SFW preference over other groups as a permit distributor at the Western Hunting and Conservation expo, a hunting expo that happens annually in Salt Lake City. Although on their website SFW brags that they are “dedicated to the perpetuation of wildlife,” that they are “passionate about hunting,” SFW has “ties to energy interests.” SFW has defied “mainstream sportsmen groups by not opposing the Bush administration’s oil and gas policies on public lands.” [“About SFW,” Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, accessed 08/10/17; Matt Lee-Ashley, “Oil and Gas Industry Investments in the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International: Reshaping American Energy, Land, and Wildlife Policy,” Center for American Progress, 04/14; “SFW Donates $1 Million Dollars to the DWR,” Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, 12/05/12; Tom Wharton, “Wharton: Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife about wrong kind of bucks,” Salt Lake Tribune, 03/21/13; Chris Miller, “Allegations of corruption surround Utah Hunting and Conservation Expo,” KUTV, 02/26/16]

ANALYSIS OF STATE BLM COMMUNICATIONS NOT SPECIFIC TO THE SAGE GROUSE REVIEW

Michael Nedd encouraged BLM’s Executive Leadership Team (ELT) to ensure that all documents they produce are “consistent with the administration’s priorities.” Nedd also encouraged the ELT to only focus on the positive aspects of the 2019 budget, which will have “significant deductions,” because he is concerned about conveying the impression that BLM doesn’t support the president’s budget.

Wyoming BLM Director Mary Jo Rugwell wrote a memo describing her meeting with BLM’s Executive Leadership Team (ELT). In the memo, Rugwell describes a directive from Mike (Nedd) that emphasized communicating a “common mission and values” to BLM employees. Mike said the ELT must “pay close attention to all the documents that (they) send in to ensure that things are consistent with the administration’s priorities.” [Mary Jo Rugwell email to BLM Wyoming Leadership Team, 07/25/17]

Mary Jo Rugwell’s memo says that Mike Nedd talked about the 2019 budget, which will have “significant deductions.” Nedd said the ELT should “focus on what we can do with the money we get” and be “cautious that we not make it too negative which could convey the impression that we don’t support the president’s budget.” [Mary Jo Rugwell email to BLM Wyoming Leadership Team, 07/25/17]

Michael Nedd, in a presentation to BLM’s Executive Leadership Team, said that BLM is “not interested in acquiring new areas for federal management” but said that one of BLM’s “major priorities” is “energy security and mineral development.”

Wyoming BLM Director Mary Jo Rugwell says that Michael Nedd identified BLM’s “major priorities,” which include “energy security and mineral development,” grazing, and “increasing access for sportsmen and recreation.” Another of Nedd’s “major priorities” is that BLM is “not interested in acquiring new areas for federal management of wilderness.” [Mary Jo Rugwell email to BLM Wyoming Leadership Team, 07/25/17]

Kathleen Benedetto, in an address to BLM’s Executive Leadership Team, said that managing a “large amount of federal estate” for “conservation purposes” is a “concern.” She identified wilderness as another “concern” because she believes only minerals can “drive progress.”

Wyoming BLM Director Mary Jo Rugwell’s memo of a July Executive Leadership Team meeting describes concerns expressed by Kathleen Benedetto. Benedetto said that one of her “concerns” is that “a large amount of federal estate is being managed for conservation purposes,” and that “it takes minerals (as a raw material) to drive progress.” Benedetto also identified Areas of Critical Environmental Concern and Lands with Wilderness Characteristics as “areas of concern.” [Mary Jo Rugwell email to BLM Wyoming Leadership Team, 07/25/17]

Michael Nedd said that Ryan Zinke does not want to approve any emergency wild horse and burro gather request unless the animals are a threat to public health or safety.

Mary Jo Rugwell’s memo says that Mike Nedd said “hard choices will need to be made” with regard to the wild horse and burro program because of Zinke’s “direction that he will no longer spend millions of dollars” on it. Nedd said that emergency gather requests would not be approved unless there is a “public health/safety component.” [Mary Jo Rugwell email to BLM Wyoming Leadership Team, 07/25/17]

Department of Interior FOIA results

Wyoming BLM FOIA results part 1

Wyoming BLM FOIA results part 2

Colorado BLM FOIA results

Idaho BLM FOIA results

Nevada BLM FOIA results part 1

Nevada BLM FOIA results part 2

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