Oil execs boasted of 'unprecedented access' to Trump officials: report

A newly reported recording reveals that oil lobbying executives boasted in 2017 about having "unprecedented access" to Trump administration officials, including "direct access" to a former oil industry lobbyist tapped to fill a top role in the Interior Department.

The recording, obtained by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, reportedly features Dan Naatz, political director of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), and a group of oil and gas producers at a June 2017 meeting in southern California.

Naatz reportedly told about 100 energy executives gathered at a hotel there that David Bernhardt, then serving as deputy secretary of Interior, would help prioritize the group's interests.

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"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 the 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 sent to The Hill. 

Russell reportedly said at the meeting that he had contact with then-Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Trump moves to crack down on Iranian oil exports | Florida lawmakers offer bill to ban drilling off state's coast | Bloomberg donates .5M to Paris deal Florida lawmakers offer bill to ban drilling off state's coast Overnight Energy: Gillibrand offers bill to ban pesticide from school lunches | Interior secretary met tribal lawyer tied to Zinke casino dispute | Critics say EPA rule could reintroduce asbestos use MORE and then-EPA chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Six Interior officials under ethics investigation | EPA chief failed to disclose former lobbying client | Greens ask Wheeler to back up claim that climate change is '50 to 75 years out' EPA head asked to back up claim that climate change is '50 to 75 years out' Overnight Energy: Flint residents can sue EPA over water crisis | Environmentalists see victory with Green New Deal blitz | March global temperatures were second hottest on record | EPA told to make final decision on controversial pesticide MORE.

"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.

The IPAA and EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the report on Saturday.

Zinke and Pruitt have both since left the administration.

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 TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 MORE 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.