Quantcast

With Nation Transfixed by Impeachment, Trump Admin Quietly Serves Offshore Drilling Companies a 'Sweetheart Giveaway'

Politics
U.S. Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt (L) speaks as President Donald Trump (R) looks on during an East Room event on the environment July 7, 2019 at the White House in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

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 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."

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."

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.

"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," he continued, "Bernhardt probably thought this sweetheart giveaway to his former oil and gas client would slip by unnoticed."

Oil giants like Chevron and Shell are already taking advantage of a loophole in federal law to avoid paying at least $18 billion in royalties on oil and gas drilled in the Gulf since 1996, The New York Times reported in October, citing a report from the Government Accountability Office.

The possible policy shift sparked environmental worries from New Orleans-based advocacy group Healthy Gulf, which called the proposal "a recipe for disaster" in a tweet last month.

"This administration wants to lease areas of the Gulf for 'high-risk, small-upside opportunities' to smaller oil companies who don't have the resources to handle spills," the group said. "This proposal is as illogical as it is dangerous."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A First Nations protester walks in front of a train blockade in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ontario, Canada on Feb. 21, 2020. LARS HAGBERG / AFP via Getty Images

An indigenous rail blockade that snarled train travel in Canada for more than two weeks came to an end Monday when police moved in to clear protesters acting in solidarity with another indigenous community in British Columbia (B.C.), which is fighting to keep a natural gas pipeline off its land.

Read More
A rainbow snake, a rare reptile spotted in a Florida county for the first time in more than 50 years, seen here on July 5, 2013. Kevin Enge / FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute / Flickr

A Florida hiker recently stumbled across a slithering surprise — a rare snake that hadn't been spotted in the area for more than 50 years.

Read More
Sponsored
We need our government to do everything it can to stop PFAS contamination and exposure from wreaking havoc in communities across the country. LuAnn Hun / Unsplash

By Genna Reed

The EPA announced last week that it is issuing a preliminary regulatory determination for public comment to set an enforceable drinking water standard to two of the most common and well-studied PFAS, PFOA and PFOS.

This decision is based on three criteria:

  1. PFOA and PFOS have an adverse effect on public health
  2. PFOA and PFOS occur in drinking water often enough and at levels of public health concern;
  3. regulation of PFOA and PFOS is a meaningful opportunity for reducing the health risk to those served by public water systems.
Read More
Charging EVs in Stockholm: But where does a dead battery go? Ranjithsiji / Wikimedia Commons

By Kieran Cooke

Driving an electric-powered vehicle (EV) rather than one reliant on fossil fuels is a key way to tackle climate change and improve air quality — but it does leave the old batteries behind as a nasty residue.

Read More
U.S. Secretary of the Treasure Steven Mnuchin arrives for a welcome dinner at the Murabba Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Feb. 22, 2020 during the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting. FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP via Getty Images

Finance ministers from the 20 largest economies agreed to add a scant mention of the climate crisis in its final communiqué in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Sunday, but they stopped short of calling it a major economic risk, as Reuters reported. It was the first time the G20 has mentioned the climate crisis in its final communiqué since Donald Trump became president in 2017.

Read More