Documents show that Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Director Scott Angelle has spent more than 98 hours meeting with oil and gas lobbyists and executives since he began the role last May. In contrast, during this same time he only spent 1.75 hours with NGOs.
According to an analysis of Angelle’s calendar released by watchdog group Documented, the director has met with companies that have previously contributed more than $88 thousand to his failed 2012 and 2016 campaigns for elected office. This includes Targa Resources, LLOG, Louisiana Mid Continent Oil and Gas Association (LMOGA), Chevron, Hilcorp, Arena Energy, Fieldwood Energy, and Taylor Energy.
But the list of meetings goes well beyond previous campaign contributors. It includes other big names such as BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, and Halliburton, as well as the American Petroleum Institute.
The news comes days after an investigation by the New York Times showed how the Trump administration, with help from Angelle, has been working to roll back Obama-era safety measures implemented following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
In January, the administration announced plans to open up 90 percent of the nation’s offshore areas to oil and gas leasing. At the time, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke touted the proposal as offering “the largest number of lease sales ever proposed.”
Opposition to the proposal, however, has continued to grow. Many local and state representatives, religious leaders, and environmental groups have voiced concern with the plans. The meeting details released on March 10 by Documented instead show a government that is listening to only one group of stakeholders: industry.
As Documented states, many of the meetings held between Angelle and the offshore oil and gas industry coincide “with actions beneficial to the companies he’s met with.”
For instance, Angelle’s calendar shows that on November 20 he had an “informal discussion” with Italian oil company Eni “Re: SEMS, Alaska Region.” Then, on November 28, 2017 BSEE approved a permit for the company’s US division to start exploring for fossil fuels in the Arctic.
And in December, BSEE issued a decision to end a study into offshore oil and gas drilling safety being conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
The number of BSEE inspections under Angelle have also dropped 15 percent compared to previous levels under President Obama, according to Documented. The number of shut-ins — enforced when an immediate threat to safety or the environment is detected — have also declined by 39 percent.
“The fact that Director Angelle deeply understands the industry we regulate is a good thing. He is extremely qualified to lead this organization,” BSEE press secretary Greg Julian said in a statement to ThinkProgress via email. “He fought for the workers who were arbitrarily put out of a job, workers that had nothing to do with the series of mistakes that led to the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. The moratorium did nothing to make America safer, it was a political stunt. That is why he opposed it.”
“He is on record as having said, ‘we must NEVER have another Deepwater Horizon or anything close to it.’ He works every day to make sure we don’t,” Julian added, highlighting recent announcements made by Zinke regarding a “risk based inspection program,” engaging industry in order to strengthen safety reporting, and increasing the time spent doing physical inspections offshore.
UPDATE, 3/14: Regarding the canceled study into offshore drilling safety, BSEE told ThinkProgress: “We paused it temporarily to review whether we had duplicate efforts underway. On February 15 BSEE leadership met with representatives from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to discuss the BSEE Inspection Program Study and a path forward to resuming work by NAS. BSEE is currently developing a proposed schedule that will allow NAS to resume the study in September 2018.”