Top Trump Interior official joins oil company in Alaska after resignation

Top Trump Interior official joins oil company in Alaska after resignation
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Joe BalashJoseph (Joe) BalashTop Trump Interior official joins oil company in Alaska after resignation Interior official threatens to withhold jobs in lawmakers' districts after opposition to BLM move Overnight Energy: Trump officials gut DC staff for public lands agency to move West | Democrats slam EPA over scientific boards | Deepwater Horizon most litigated environmental issue of decade MORE, a former official with the U.S. Department of the Interior who pushed for expanded drilling in Alaska’s Arctic, has landed a top position at an oil company that operates in the state and is seeking to increase production, The Washington Post reports.

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Balash, who served as an assistant secretary at the office until his resignation on Friday, told the national paper that he had been tapped to become senior vice president for external affairs at Oil Search.

According to The Post, the company, which is based in Papua New Guinea, currently runs drilling on lands not far from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. Both the refuge and the reserve are places where the Trump administration has made steps toward allowing oil and natural gas drilling.

The publication reports the company has been “aggressively” increasing its production in the state.

However, Balash told The Post that he will not violate the president’s Ethics Pledge in the new role, which bars appointees from engaging “in lobbying activities with respect” to their former agency within five years of their termination or resignation.

Balash said he will, however, be supervising those at the company who do instead.

“I’ll supervise those who do, but I have a ton of restrictions dealing with the Department of Interior. Most of Oil Search’s properties are state lands. There isn’t really the federal nexus,” he told The Post.

The move has already been met with scrutiny from some environmental groups and Democratic lawmakers.

According to The Post, Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallTrump seeks to expand electoral map with New Mexico rally Trump at a pivotal crossroads on Iran Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't want war with Iran | Pentagon chief calls attack on Saudi oil facilities 'unprecedented' | Administration weighs response | 17th US service member killed in Afghanistan this year MORE (D-N.M.) is pressing the Interior Department about “whether the necessary steps were taken to address this potential conflict of interest" regarding the matter.

Lena Moffitt, the Senior Director of the Sierra Club's Our Wild America Campaign, also took aim at Balash over the move in a statement obtained by NPR News on Wednesday, in which she blasted him for his spearheading efforts “to suppress science … and sell off the Arctic Refuge for drilling at all costs.”

"Now, he's shamelessly seeking to profit from this destruction while the American people and our public lands pay the price,” she added.