Interior Official Joins BP After Shrinking National Parks For Oil Production

Valley of the Gods in Bears Ears National Monument.John Fowler/CC BY 2.0/Flickr

Downey Magallanes left the Interior Department last week to work with BP's government affairs team.

The official who headed the Interior Department’s effort to reduce two massive national monuments in Utah last year has now left her post to join BP’s government affairs team, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Former deputy chief of staff Downey Magallanes served as a top adviser to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke from the time he took over the department. Her portfolio included policy as well as operations, which encompassed a push to expand oil, gas and mining production on public lands and in federal waters.

“Downey was an incredible asset and I trusted her to carry out some of the Administration’s highest priority projects,” the secretary said in a statement. “She will be missed in our office and I wish her all the best.”

Magallanes said in a statement that she is “grateful to Secretary Zinke and President Trump” for the opportunity to serve in the administration and that she looks “forward to this incredible new opportunity with BP.”

BP spokesman Jason Ryan would not disclose the details of Magallanes new job, but two people familiar with the situation told the Post that she will work on congressional relations.

Her father, Frederick Palmer, served as a lobbyist for Peabody Energy from 2001 to 2015.

Trump’s ethics pledge bars political appointees from lobbying their respective agencies for five years after leaving office, and from lobbying anyone in the executive branch for the rest of his administration.

Stephen Bloch, legal director for advocacy group the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said he believes Magallanes has been working to further industry interests all along.

“Her prior work on behalf of oil, gas and coal, her family’s ties to the coal industry, and the fact that she is headed to BP all point in one direction: that she came to Interior with an agenda to promote fossil fuel development over the interest of the American public.”

He added: “Magallanes was intimately involved in the lead up to President Trump’s unlawful attack on the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, a decision that was immediately challenged by Native American tribes, conservationists, and businesses. We’ll be working to undo that mischief long after she’s gone.”

The Trump administration moved to shrink both national monuments last December — Bears Ears by 85 percent and Grand Staircase by 46 percent — which will likely subject the previously protected areas to mining and oil and gas drilling.

Magallanes — who worked on offshore drilling plans and regulatory reform, among other issues — met with BP officials three times between Jan. 30 and Aug. 31, 2017, according to official calendars released under the Freedom of Information Act. Those sessions included a March 16, 2017, meeting with top officials from BP’s government and regulatory affairs division and an April 25, 2017, meeting with BP Exploration (Alaska), along with a Western Energy Alliance gathering on April 25 whose attendees included Sam Knaizer, a BP government affairs official based in Colorado.

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