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Through FOIA Request, GAP Obtains Interior Secretary’s Pro-Oil Agenda

Zack Kopplin, October 04, 2017

In a speech to the National Petroleum Council, an oil industry group, Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior accused one-third of his staff of disloyalty. "I got 30 percent of the crew that's not loyal to the flag," he said on September 25, according to the New York Times.

The Government Accountability Project obtained the Department of Interior’s talking points written for that speech through a Freedom of Information Act request. They tout Zinke’s “accomplishments,” including deregulation. “More onshore oil/gas leases first 6 months of 2017 than all of 2016,” one section said. The talking points also outlined his five-year plan to open the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA) and the 1002 (Northern coastal) section of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) to oil exploration, something opposed by environmentalists and Native American tribes in the area.

Nothing in the talking points mentions the disloyalty of Interior Department staff, which raises questions about whether that part of the speech was planned beforehand and how much input Department of Interior staff had on that section. It’s unclear why disloyalty was on Zinke’s mind while he was talking to this oil industry group.

But the president and administration officials have regularly complained that they are being sabotaged by career civil servants who are part of a deep state left behind by the Obama Administration. In the case of the Interior Department, this means employees who try to regulate things like oil drilling or worry about climate change.

Zinke has already taken steps to get rid of employees who he believes are a problem. This summer, Joel Clement, the former director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the Interior Department was demoted to become an accountant. Clement alleged in a Washington Post editorial that this was because he had spoken out publicly, and within the administration, about climate change. He believed this and similar demotions of his coworkers are attempts to make them to quit.

Zinke’s unprompted focus on loyalty suggests these attacks on civil servants doing their jobs are only going to get worse.

Read Zinke’s talking points here