Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was condemned Monday for a proposed policy shift on offshore drilling panned as a “sweetheart giveaway” for a former client.
The new extraction-encouraging proposal was announced last month in a report (pdf) by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), two agencies within the Interior Department and occurred, according to transparency group Western Values Project, “under the cloud of impeachment.”
“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.” —Jayson O’Neill, Western Values Project.
Bernhardt’s announcement followed longstanding fears that the former lobbyist would use his position in the federal government to serve the interests of the fossil fuel lobby above those of the American people and public lands. The recommendations laid out in the report pertain to royalties for offshore leasing and drilling.
“Federal officials,” as Louisiana’s Houma Today reported, “are offering oil and gas companies a discount on the fees they pay the government to drill in the Gulf of Mexico’s shallow waters.”
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If enacted, the policy to “ensure maximum resource recovery” would benefit the oil and gas industry National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), on whose behalf Bernhardt previously lobbied, said Western Values Project.
Also noteworthy, said the advocacy group, is that the report was co-authored by BSEE Director Scott Angelle, who also has ties to the fossil fuel industry. Western Values Project said that, during the government shutdown, Angelle—who has NOIA’s stamp of approval for his current position—green-lit 53 permits for offshore drilling for companies that sit on the board of directors for NOIA.
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