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 ZinkeEurope deepens energy dependence on Russia Overnight Energy: House Science Committee hits EPA with subpoenas | California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver | Interior disbands board that floated privatization at national parks Interior disbands advisory board that floated privatization at national parks MORE and then-EPA chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA employees push 'bill of rights' to protect scientific integrity EPA's independent science board questions underpinnings of numerous agency rollbacks Overnight Energy: Rate of new endangered species listings falls | EPA approves use of 'cyanide bombs' to protect livestock | Watchdog says EPA didn't conduct required analyses 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 TrumpSanders apologizes to Biden for supporter's op-ed Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Trump' if the US doesn't elect progressive Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover up,' 'national disgrace' 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.