Under the cloud of impeachment, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is still doling out favors to his former clients. Buried in the middle of a briefing report released the other week, Sec. Bernhardt’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement included a major policy shift that would dramatically reduce royalty rates for shallow-water offshore oil wells, or even allow royalty-free production — a move that will be a boon for his former client’s membership, the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA).
“Since day one, Secretary Bernhardt has operated as though Interior was his own personal lobby shop by doling out favors for his former clients with impunity. This offshore royalty rate reduction deal is short selling our shared resources and ripping off taxpayers,” said Jayson O’Neill, Deputy Director of Western Values Project. “With Trump’s own corruption dominating headlines, Bernhardt probably thought this sweetheart giveaway to his former oil and gas client would slip by unnoticed.”
Interior and Sec. Bernhardt’s efforts to reduce offshore royalty rates aren’t new. During scandal-plagued Interior Secretary Zinke’s tenure, the now-disbanded and industry-heavy Royalty Policy Committee recommended massive royalty reductions for offshore oil and gas development. At the time, the proposal went too far for even Zinke.
But times have changed under Sec. Bernhardt. Before joining Interior, Bernhardt lobbied on behalf of NOIA and represented the offshore oil and gas association in a lawsuit against the BOEM after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. Now, Bernhardt is using his role at Interior to push for reduced or eliminated royalty rates — another move that would benefit another former client.
Bureau of Safety And Environmental Enforcement Director Scott Angelle, another conflicted Trump appointee with deep ties to the oil and gas industry, famously gave out his cellphone number and urged attendees at the Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition to call him since calls are not part of the public record. Angelle, the co-author of the report, met with NOIA at least once and approved offshore drilling permits for 53 companies that are members of NOIA during the historic Trump government shutdown.
On April 5th, 2017, Assistant Secretary Of The Interior For Insular Affairs Doug Domenech Was Scheduled To Have A Meeting With NOIA Board/Executive Leaders from 11AM-11:45AM. It is unclear which leaders NOIA met with Domenech. [Doug Domenech April 2017 Calendar, accessed 04/23/19, About NOIA, accessed 04/24/19]
On July 6th, 2017, Bureau of Safety And Environmental Enforcement Director Scott Angelle’s Calendar Had An Entry Labeled: “Prepare for NOIA Talk, 7/14 @2413” From 11:30AM To 12:30PM. NOIA could be the National Ocean Industries Association. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is recused from them. [Scott Angelle July 2017 Calendar, accessed 04/24/19, About NOIA, accessed 04/24/19]
On July 12th, 2017, Bureau of Safety And Environmental Enforcement Director Scott Angelle’s Calendar Had An Entry Labeled: “Prep for NOIA Legislative Group remarks” From 2PM To 3PM. NOIA could be the National Ocean Industries Association. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is recused from them. [Scott Angelle July 2017 Calendar, accessed 04/24/19, About NOIA, accessed 04/24/19]
David Bernhardt Is Recused From Working On Particular Matters Involving The National Ocean Industry Association (NOIA) Until August 3, 2019 Under EO 13770. [Bernhardt Ethics Agreement, 08/15/17]
During the December 2018-January 2019 Government Shutdown, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Approved Offshore Drilling Permits For 53 Companies That Are Members Of NOIA. [Medium, 01/30/19; EcoRI News, 01/14/19]