Former Oil Lobbyist Now Secretary of Interior, Giving Incentives to Big Oil

by Vins
Published: Updated:

While the corporate media was mainly reporting on the Trump impeachment inquiry, his Secretary of Interior attempted a policy shift to give oil companies a discounted rate to drill in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt has been in bed with the oil industry for many years and is now offering benefits to companies that he used to work with for offshore drilling.

Bernhardt took the cabinet position in April 2019, and only four days after he was confirmed he was hit with an ethics investigation. Before Bernhardt became head of Interior, he worked for the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck as a lobbyist for big oil. This law firm has earned tens of millions of dollars lobbying for the oil industry. Bernhardt is using his position in government to bring favors to his former client in the oil and gas industry, National Ocean Industries Association, over the interests of the American people.

An article written by Halle Parker for Houma Today in Louisiana reports, “The companies are given a discount on the fees they pay the government to drill in the Gulf of Mexico’s shallow waters.” The co-author of the policy report, Scott Angelle, also has links to the fossil fuel industry. During the government shutdown, he allowed 53 permits to pass through for offshore drilling for companies that are on the board of the National Ocean Industries Association. The environmental group Healthy Gulf calls this a “recipe for disaster” and noted that leasing this land with incentive attracts “smaller oil companies who don’t have the resources to handle spills, blow outs or leaks.”

This subject is one that has many issues. Bernhardt is not the first lobbyist to end up working in a president’s cabinet, he even previously worked for the Bush administration. But it still is important to note that a former lobbyist within the oil industry is now making decisions for the Department of the Interior, which is responsible for the management and conservation of federal land and natural resources. The top earning oil companies have spent millions lobbying to block climate change policies, and this is currently influencing government officials to promote big oils needs over well-documented environmental concerns. Bernhardt is attempting to give perks to former clients, which generally leads to more money given by lobbyists from these businesses for the politicians that serve their interests.

It is no surprise that this story has not been covered by any corporate media outlets. Big Oil has a great influence on the media as they pay media outlets millions in advertising and have industry experts on call to put forth a more favorable narratives for them on air, in turn convincing the public that fossil fuel are not an issue. In reality, the corporate media and government are being incentivized by the fossil fuel industry and with people like Bernhardt in high government positions, the earth and its inhabitants are in danger.  As of late 2019, none of the corporate media giants covered this story, it was only covered by independent media sources.


Andrea Germanos, “As Nation Transfixed by Impeachment, Trump Quietly Provides Offshore Drilling Industry ‘Sweetheart Giveaway,’” Common Dreams, December 3, 2019,

Sharon Lerner, “How the Media Launders Fossil Fuel Industry Propaganda Through Branded Content,” The Intercept, April 3, 2019,

Halle Parker, “Feds Seek to Boost Shallow Drilling,” Houma Today, November 19, 2019,

Wes Siler, “The David Bernhardt Scandal Tracker,” Outside Online, April 2019,

Student Researcher: Veronica Vasquez (Diablo Valley College)

Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)