New report highlights energy lobbyist and special interest influence at Interior

Report shows all the ways Interior has allowed special interests to jeopardize America’s public lands

One year ago, President Trump and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke tried to sell the American people a plan that would substantially increase the energy developed on our public lands. To date, it has been a flop.

When President Trump signed the Executive Order and the subsequent Secretarial Order by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the administration essentially gave the keys to America’s public lands to the oil and gas industry. What has emerged is a series of policies and directives to undermine public land protections, allow wastefulness, and undercut returns to taxpayers for the benefit of big oil and gas companies.

A new report from the Western Values Project highlights some 33 meetings Secretary Zinke has held with extractive industry companies and representatives over a ten month period, averaging nearly one meeting per week. The report also details extensive communication between Interior officials and industry leaders, and their resulting influence over key policies and decisions at Interior.

“This administration and Secretary Zinke have flat out ignored basic ethical principles to manage our nation’s public lands for all uses, and instead have let special interests and lobbyists run put the West’s outdoor heritage at risk,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project. “Given Secretary Zinke’s meeting schedule, appointees and policy directives, he seems to have no qualms about letting special interest lobbyists run Interior. Zinke’s beltway bubble is clearly out-of-step with the majority of Americans, who value our public lands and want to protect our outdoor heritage for future generations.”

Influence by industry from the report:

As Western Values Project documented in the Rigged series, oil and gas is already the dominant use on our public lands despite the multiple use requirement laid out in the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). The act states America’s public lands should be managed in a way that will ‘best meet the present and future needs of the American people.’ Congress passed FLPMA with the intent of giving federal land management agencies guidelines to balance use on public lands. Secretary Zinke has failed to follow the FLPMA directive nor is he giving full consideration to the outdoor industry’s economic impact that now ellipses oil, gas and mining industries combined.

Secretary Zinke’s actions undermining America’s public lands tied to industry:

This list and report is far from exhaustive, as it does not cover all the cozy relationships, revolving door appointments, and favors granted to industry by Interior. A recently released internal email summarizing a Bureau of Land Management Executive Leadership Team meeting might encapsulate the last year best. It stated that all documents produce should be “consistent with the administration’s priorities,” which include “energy security and mineral development.”

“It appears as if Interior and Secretary Zinke will only give lip service to hunters, anglers, hikers, and campers while selling out our public lands to his political supporters,” said Saeger.

Also published on Medium.

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