BLM’s new HQ moves them right into bed with big oil and gas

  • Published on April 13th, 2020

Yesterday, we noticed WUWT had a post up on the Bureau of Land Management’s move from DC to ColoradoThe Government Accountability Office strongly criticized BLM for failing to account for the costs of the move, among other issues, and the move comes as the agency is heavily tilting interests in favor of polluters over the public.

Tome Toles zinke national monuments oil drilling

By Climate Denier Roundup

The WUWT post featured an excerpt from the Koch-partnered and funded RealClear website, with a headline about “taming federal bureaucrats.” Looking at the byline, however, we were pleasantly surprised! Turns out its author, Vince Bielski, is a former Bloomberg reporter with MotherJones bylines, and he wrote a similar piece for the Sierra Club back in February.

Reading the two side-by-side offers some perspective into how RealClear’s editors insert a conservative bias into the story. The RealClear story had a general framing that’s a little more favorable of the move and less critical of BLM head William Pendley’s long career at odds with the department, and it heavily favored quotes from energy industry spokespeople over environmentalists.

But there’s still some pertinent info in there, including that only about half of the employees, 80 of 174, have agreed to make the move. Instead, “a lot of good people are fleeing the agency” because “this administration does not respect career employees,” a former BLM manager wrote in February. Another former staffer described the move to Bielski as “a dismantling of the organization and turning major decisions on public lands over to political people who have agendas.”

And indeed, Bielski describes how, across the Interior Department, agency chief and former lobbyist David Berhnardt “has already put political appointees in charge of major BLM land-use decisions… with little or no scientific training.” These appointees have been busy pushing to open more and more pristine and protected wilderness to oil and gas drilling.

One person who isn’t concerned, however, is Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, who’s happy to hire people already living in the west to staff BLM. He’s convinced that the move thousands of miles from where political decisions are made will be for the best. Gardner told Bielski it’s “offensive and elitist” to think that BLM staff wouldn’t want to uproot their lives and families to “live on the land they regulate,” as though they’ll be in cabins in national parks and not an office building in Colorado.

Speaking of office buildings – the new BLM headquarters will be in the same building as oil and gas companies like Chevron, Laramie Energy, and the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

Sen. Gardner likely knows that fact quite well, given that just a couple weeks before he called himself a “national leader” on climate change last March, he was at the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association. According to for-profit fossil fuel PR man Alex Epstein, Sen Gardner gave “a high energy” speech at an event the Association was holding, giving the audience of oil and gas employees “the thanks and encouragement they deserve.” This was after Epstein gave the keynote, where he spoke about how great the industry is and the threat that Sen. Gardner’s electoral opponent poses to it, according to an email Epstein sent to subscribers bragging about the speech.

This isn’t the first time Epstein’s need to self-congratulate has revealed his unsavory influence on political figures. (Remember when Rick Perry said that fossil fuels could prevent sexual assault after talking with Epstein?) And it appears Epstein still hasn’t learned, as a recent email he sent bragged about how Meg Hansen, a candidate for Lt. Gov in Vermont “has clearly been influenced by our messaging” and indicated that he will “be reaching out to different pro-freedom campaigns with some messaging on climate issues.”

Epstein also notes he’s now discounting virtual speeches to just $2,500, which means if he does target “pro-freedom” campaigns, and sends them free advice he would usually charges thousands of dollars for, they’ll need to disclose that campaign contribution in their election filings or risk running afoul of campaign finance laws.

And considering the company Epstein has kept in the past, we’re willing to bet that’s not an association many campaigns would welcome.

(Crossposted with DailyKos. Cartoon by Tom Toles at the Washington Post; get his book on climate change co-written with Michael Mann, The Madhouse Effect.)

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