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WASHINGTON, D.C. May 30, 2020 – Nearly two-thirds of top U.S. Department of the Interior meetings with the private sector have been with oil, gas and coal groups or their lobbyists that may benefit from coronavirus bailouts, a new Public Citizen report finds.

The report comes as President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday instructing federal agencies like the Interior Department to waive, suspend and eliminate public protections.

The report examined 679 meetings that nongovernment groups and corporations had with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and five top aides from January 2017 to May 2019. Many of the corporations, trade group members and their clients in the meetings stand to benefit from numerous coronavirus federal rescue programs and bailout funds, such as avoidance of royalties paid to the government for the right to drill on public lands and in public waters.

The analysis of these meetings found that officials’ schedules were dominated by the energy and mining industries. Those in the meetings included individual corporations, lobbyists and trade groups. The analysis found that 443 meetings, or nearly two-thirds of the 679 meetings analyzed, were with energy corporations and lobbyists.

“With energy corporations mounting an intense lobbying campaign to receive emergency bailouts from the government, it is important to know who has the ear of the Trump administration,” said Alan Zibel, research director of Public Citizen’s Corporate Presidency Project. “Under Bernhardt, the Trump administration has been able to exert influence at the highest levels and has consistently favored industry over conservation groups.”

The analysis also found that Bernhardt’s former firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, was present at 13 meetings, the most of any lobbying firm.

The high proportion of corporate meetings highlights how important access to key Interior Department officials is to corporations that drill or mine on public lands and offshore.

The analysis found:

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  • Oil and gas corporations met 225 times with top officials, representing about 33% of meetings analyzed;
  • Lobbying and law firms representing mostly corporate interests met 104 times with top officials, representing 15% of the meetings;
  • Mining and coal corporations met 83 times with top officials, representing12% of meetings; and
  • Electric and gas utility corporations met 31 times, representing 5% of meetings.  

By comparison:

  • Conservation groups met 63 times with top Interior officials, representing 9% of meetings; and
  • Renewable energy interests met only 22 times with top Interior officials, representing 3% of meetings.

Meeting most frequently with the top officials were the American Petroleum Institute (13 times); ConocoPhillips (11); the National Ocean Industries Association (11), which represents offshore drilling firms; law firm Wilmer Hale (eight) and coal mining corporation Peabody Energy (eight).

Read the report here.