On Tuesday, former Florida governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush penned an op-ed at CNN.com. Its purpose was to defend President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to tap Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma Attorney General and vocal critic of the EPA, to head that agency. Pruitt wants to roll back key EPA regulations, like the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States Rule, and has argued that the EPA, in its current form, exerts too much power over environmental regulations.
“I cannot think of a person more suited to lead the Environmental Protection Agency than Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, someone who understands how to rein in an out-of-control bureaucracy and ensure that Washington focuses solely on its core functions,” Bush wrote.
Bush has been largely absent from the public stage since ending his bid for the presidency early this year. But it was recently announced that he would be joining the law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in a “strategic affiliation” through his own law firm, acting as a consultant to the firm and its clients.
So what does Bush’s career move have to do with his defense of Scott Pruitt? Turns out that Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney bills itself as the “go-to” energy law firm for companies looking to expand their production.
“For more than five generations, Buchanan has practiced energy law… playing a pivotal role in shattering barriers to energy industry growth,” the company’s website reads. “Through landmark litigation, legislative prowess, and legal and business street smarts, our high-profile, industry-defining wins have paved the way for national energy companies to operate successfully in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays, and beyond.”
The company’s clients include fossil fuel heavyweights like Chevron and Consol Energy, which received grades of “poor” and “egregious,” from the Union of Concerned Scientists with respect to each company’s role in fueling climate change and sowing doubt about its causes. In 2008, Chevron’s vice chairman spoke before Congress to ask for help opening up the Outer Continental Shelf to drilling.
Consol Energy does not even mention climate change on its website, nor does it have a company-wide plan for transitioning to carbon-free sources of fuel. In 2016, the firm lobbied for the American Petroleum Institute, Exxon, Shell, BP, Chevron, and ConcoPhillips, among other fossil fuel interests and companies.
In October, John Povilaitis and Alan Seltzer, two shareholders in Buchanan’s Energy section, wrote an op-ed for Temple University’s business law magazine arguing that the regulatory processes for approving oil pipelines needs to be streamlined, so that more pipeline projects can move forward with construction. But the company focuses most on oil production from shale — it has, according to its website, “represented clients in oil and gas related transactions with an aggregate value of $28 billion in the last few years.” The firm represents oil and gas companies in a variety of ways, but one primary way is by helping them comply with Department of Transportation and EPA regulations.
As Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt fought regulations related to fracking. Meanwhile, Oklahoma — which is one of the top producers of natural gas in the country, thanks in part to the state’s embrace of fracking since 2009 — has become the most seismically active state in the lower 48. Pruitt also has extremely close ties to the fossil fuel industry — a 2014 New York Times investigation found that Pruitt had sent the EPA a letter, in his capacity as attorney general, which had been drafted by Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies. (Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney also lobbied on behalf of Devon Energy in 2016.)
Cutting regulations that restrict fracking and aim to limit the industry’s pollution would likely be a business boon for Bush’s new partner firm. If that’s what he’s interested in, his public support for Pruitt makes good political — and financial — sense.