Head of top oil lobbying group to step down

Head of top oil lobbying group to step down
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Jack Gerard, the head of the main lobbying group for the oil and natural gas industry, is stepping down in August.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) announced Gerard’s planned departure Wednesday, saying his contract will be up after 10 years at the helm. 

In a statement, Gerard celebrated the oil industry’s accomplishments during his tenure. 

“Serving the oil and natural gas industry during this historic time, when an American energy renaissance has made the U.S. the world’s leading producer and refiner of oil and natural gas, has been among the most fulfilling professional experiences of my career,” he said. 

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“We have accomplished what few would have imagined: important public policy victories at all levels of government, and a revitalized association that has expanded globally and added significant strength to its advocacy capabilities.” 

Gerard implied he wouldn’t be heading into retirement, saying in the statement that he is “ready for my next challenge."

The departure opens up one of the most powerful and prestigious lobbying positions in Washington, creating the potential for a broader shakeup in the industry. Gerard earned $6.3 million in total compensation from API in 2015, the most recent year for which tax records are publicly available.

“It's certainly one of the most plum jobs in Washington and is likely to create a musical chairs situation at other trade associations, because they certainly will look at CEOs from other associations,” said Ivan Adler, a headhunter at the McCormick Group. 

And with the slew of Republicans retiring from Congress, even more potential candidates are added to the mix. 

Even lawmakers who intend to serve out the rest of their terms “have 6 1/2 million reasons not to,” Adler quipped.

In 2008, the executive search firm Korn Ferry plucked Gerard from the helm of the American Chemistry Council to run API. It’s unclear whether they will be conducting API’s new search. 

“What the search committee-slash-board ultimately wants in Jack's successor will determine how challenging the search will be. If they want someone to maintain the framework or improve [API] incrementally, that's one type of candidate,” said another headhunter for K Street executives who asked for anonymity to speak on the subject. 

If, however, API’s board and search committee “want someone to transform [API], and take it to the next proverbial level, you would need to find someone to roll up their sleeves,” the person said. 

Under Gerard, API doubled its membership and increased its clout in Washington. He fought off numerous attempts at climate change policies by the federal government and pushed back against some offshore drilling standards that the industry saw as unnecessary.

In 2015, Gerard oversaw a merger between API and America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA). Marty Durbin, former ANGA chief executive, is now at API and considered a potential internal candidate for Gerard’s job.

“If anything, you would want someone who could be more aligned with this regime,” the headhunter added, referring to the Trump administration. 

That requirement could disqualify some retiring Republicans, including Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump keeps tight grip on GOP McSally to back Trump on emergency declaration Flake: Biden 'strikes fear in a lot of Republicans' MORE (Ariz.), who sits on Senate energy panels but has been critical of President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: 'White supremacists pose a threat to the United States like any other terrorist group' National Enquirer paid 0,000 for Bezos texts: report Santorum: Trump should 'send emails to a therapist' instead of tweeting MORE.

Gerard has been with the group for important milestones, including the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the massive boom in domestic oil and natural gas production, the aggressive climate change and environmental push from the Obama administration, the Trump administration’s rollback of that agenda and Congress’s 2015 action ending the ban on oil exports. 

Darren Woods, CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp. and API’s current chairman, cheered Gerard’s tenure.

“Jack has been an extraordinary leader for the oil and natural gas industry during a time of challenge and opportunity,” Woods said in a statement.

Gerard previously served as CEO of the American Chemistry Council and the National Mining Association, and has worked for former Idaho Republican Reps. George Hansen and James A. McClure. Gerard also led his own lobbying firm, Gerard & Neuenschwander.

API represents numerous facets of the oil industry, including drillers, pipeline companies, refiners and fuel sellers. 

The group spent $4.9 million on lobbying in 2008, the year Gerard started, and that spending increased to a peak of $9.3 million 2013, before falling to $6 million in 2016, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, based on disclosures by API. It spent $6.7 million lobbying through the third quarter of last year.

Updated at 3:54 p.m.