Two Trump administration officials, while serving in their official government roles, have forged ties with a long-time Republican fundraiser who made his fortune in the coal industry.
White Stallion Energy LLC CEO Steven Chancellor met with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt on May 22, 2017, according to records obtained by the Sierra Club and provided to Politico. White Stallion Energy mines coal from five sites in the Illinois Basin.
Pruitt’s meeting with Chancellor at EPA headquarters was described on Pruitt’s calendar as a “courtesy call and introductory meeting.”
Chancellor’s company had a major interest in the rules coming out of the EPA at the time as his meeting with Pruitt. About five months before he met with Pruitt, Chancellor submitted a petition to the EPA urging the agency to weaken a rule aimed at limiting pollution that crosses state lines.
In his December 23, 2016 letter to the EPA, Chancellor said an update to the rule, known as the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, “has the potential to significantly impact the ability of electric generating units … in Indiana to continue to rely on coal for power generation.”
The letter was sent after the EPA finalized an update strengthening the Cross State Air Pollution Rule ozone season program in September 2016. This rule addresses the summertime ozone pollution in the eastern United States that crosses state lines. Starting in May 2017, the updated rule took effect, even though it was one of the many EPA rules that Pruitt filed suit against when he was Oklahoma attorney general.
According to Politico, the EPA has not yet responded to Chancellor’s petition or any other petitions regarding the update to the cross state pollution rule.
On the same day that Pruitt met with Chancellor, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s calendar also showed a meeting with White Stallion Energy. But it is not clear whether Chancellor personally attended that meeting, Politico reported.
Earlier in March, Zinke named Chancellor to the Department of the Interior’s new International Wildlife Conservation Council, which will provide advice to Zinke on “the benefits that result from United States citizens traveling to foreign nations to engage in hunting.”
Records show @EPAScottPruitt met with a GOP fundraiser/coal exec who had a petition on a pollution rule before EPA. They offer few details on a pricey trip to Italy and also redact where he eats lunch/what D.C.-area airport he uses. W/@alexcguillen https://t.co/bNUC11DKIS
— Emily Holden (@emilyhholden) March 16, 2018
In August 2016, Chancellor, a long-time major Republican Party donor, hosted a $10,000-per-couple fundraiser for Donald Trump that reportedly raised “north of a million” dollars, Politico reported. During the 2000 presidential campaign, Chancellor also hosted a Republican Party fundraiser that was headlined by former President George H.W. Bush. Meanwhile, White Stallion Energy donated $175,000 to Trump’s inauguration committee to help for the day’s activities.
Journalists and organizations who are seeking to learn more about Pruitt’s meetings, however, have been struggling to get information from the EPA.
“It’s like pulling teeth to get Pruitt to reveal the details of his schedule, because they make even clearer that he is doing everything in his power to protect polluters instead of public health and the environment,” Sierra Club senior attorney Elena Saxonhouse said about the release of Pruitt’s May-June calendar. “It took us nine months and a lawsuit just to get this one month of internal calendars.”
The EPA and Interior Department had not responded to requests for comment at the time this article was published.
Trump’s nominee for deputy administrator at the EPA also has ties to a major coal company. Andrew Wheeler, who has yet to be confirmed to the No. 2 position at the EPA, admitted he viewed a plan developed by Murray Energy to roll back environmental regulations at the agency and attended meetings on Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear plants. Murray Energy was one of Wheeler’s lobbying clients while working at the law firm Faegre Baker Daniels.
Meanwhile, this week the oil and gas industry’s top lobbying group, the American Petroleum Institute, reportedly held a board meeting at Trump’s hotel in Washington. The meeting came before the group’s executive board attended a White House meeting to express concerns about new tariffs on steel imports.
According to Politico, as many as 200 people from the oil industry could be paying to stay at one of the properties owned by Trump’s private business, the Trump Organization.
API president Jack Gerard and 13 executives from leading oil companies who sit on the association’s board met with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday to present their trade policy priorities.
Earlier this month, oil and gas officials from another powerful lobbying group, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, met at Trump’s hotel in Washington for its annual “Congressional Call-Up” where the officials get the opportunity to discuss top policy issues with members of Congress and the Trump administration.