A newly reported recording obtained by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that oil lobbying executives boasted about having “unprecedented access” to Trump administration officials, including having “direct access” to a former oil industry lobbyist tapped to fill a top role in the Interior Department.
The recording reportedly features Dan Naatz, political director of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), and a group of about 100 oil and gas producers attending a June 2017 meeting in southern California.
Naatz reportedly told about the energy executives gathered at a hotel there that David Bernhardt, the then-deputy secretary of Interior, would help prioritize the group’s interests.
“We know him very well, and we have direct access to him, have conversations with him about issues ranging from federal land access to endangered species, to a lot of issues,” Naatz said, according to audio reported by Reveal.
An Interior Department spokesperson denied that Bernhardt has communicated with Naatz or IPAA CEO Barry Russell, who was also mentioned in the report.
“Acting Secretary David Bernhardt has had no communication or contact with either Barry Russell or Dan Naatz,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Russell reportedly said at the meeting that he had contact with then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt.
“Last week we were talking to Secretary Pruitt, and in about two weeks we have a meeting with Secretary Zinke. So we have unprecedented access to people that are in these positions who are trying to help us, which is great,” he said, according to Reveal.
Pruitt and Zinke have both since departed the administration.
The Hill adds:
The Trump administration has rolled back several Obama-era environmental protections, including limits on fracking and methane gas releases.
Before entering government, Berhardt worked for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP as a lobbyist. He represented companies including Eni Petroleum, Sempra Energy, Halliburton Energy Services, Targa Energy, Noble Energy and the Westlands Water District in this role.
Last month, President Trump announced he would nominate Bernhardt to permanently serve as secretary of Interior. Bernhardt has been serving as acting secretary since January, when Zinke resigned amid scrutiny over numerous allegations of violating ethics rules while in office.