Interior Department Official Fast-Tracked An Oil Permit

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

The Trump administration is rife with corruption and the Department of Interior is no exception. Kate MacGregor, current nominee for Department of Interior Deputy Secretary, one more example of a conflicted and complicit political appointee unclear or unconcerned about her duties as a public servant. Best to call it the Department of Oil and Gas, for that is what it has become.

Just when you think the Interior Department can’t possibly become more corrupt and kowtow more to the oil and gas industry, you are proven wrong. Take the current nominee for Deputy Secretary, Kate MacGregor who currently serves as the department’s Chief of Staff. She previously fast-tracked and approved an oil drilling permit which employees with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had determined was both “incomplete” and “deficient,” Reveal reported.

MacGregor and six other high-level political appointees fast-tracked a drilling permit for the oil and gas drilling company Cimarex, emails revealed that were obtained from a public documents request. Cimarex wanted to expedite a drilling permit with BLM to started hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, on an area of farmland in Western Oklahoma. The company had problems with its application for a drilling permit and was required to wait another 60 days for its revised application to be reviewed.

Cimarex first went to the lobbying firm, Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) who turned to MacGregor. IPAA is a former client of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. Cimarex acquired the permit within 16 days after IPAA contacted MacGregor.

“Political appointees like Kate MacGregor are skirting legally required review processes and ignoring science and career officials all so that oil and gas corporations can benefit at the expense of America’s public lands,” said Western Values Project Deputy Director Jayson O’Neill. “MacGregor’s ethically questionable actions and cozy relationship with extractive industry, oil and gas associations, and lobbyists should immediately disqualify her from Interior’s deputy secretary post.”

Who is Kate MacGregor?

MacGregor served in various roles in the Interior Department until being promoted to Deputy Chief of Staff on August 29, 2018. She was nominated to be Deputy Interior Secretary on October 1, 2019. The position of Deputy Interior Secretary is responsible for the federal department’s daily operations.

MacGregor is characterized as a “Washington insider and an ally of the oil and gas industry” by the Western Values Project’s Department of Influence website. While working on Capitol Hill, she became a darling of the oil and gas industry, with companies paying for her trips to oil and gas sites in Pennsylvania and Alaska. 

She is a staunch defender of President Trump’s America First Agenda. While testifying before the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, she said, “America First Energy Plan is an “all-of-the-above” plan that includes oil and gas, coal, and renewable resources. Public lands are integral to the development of these important energy resources. Through this plan, America’s free markets will help determine where and when energy development on public lands is feasible.” 

A department of corruption

MacGregor is typical of the Interior Department under Trump. It is filled with people who have insider ties to the oil and gas industry. The stated purpose of the department is to “conserve and manage the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people.” Instead of fulfilling its purpose, the department is serving the interests of the oil and gas industry.

Kowtowing to the oil and gas industry is not the only questionable activity going on at the Interior Department. The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a complaint recently concerning foreign trips made by Interior officials during the last year which appear to violate legal restrictions. “We are concerned about more than illegal foreign junkets but also the overall atmosphere of lawlessness within Interior,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Peter Jenkins.

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