Oil and Gas Industry Rises on Trump's Washington

By Xyla Joelle L. Fernandez

Dec 15, 2016 06:17 AM EST

After eight years of being banished and sometimes vilified by the Obama administration, the fossil fuel industry is enjoying a remarkable resurgence as its executives and lobbyists shape President-elect Donald Trump's policy agenda and staff his administration.

The oil, gas and coal industries are amassing power throughout Washington - from Foggy Bottom, where ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson is Trump's nominee to be secretary of state, to domestic regulatory agencies including the departments of Energy and Interior as well as the Environmental Protection Agency.

The oil industry once claimed a president as its own: George H.W. Bush, who co-founded and ran Zapata Oil before becoming the nation's 41st commander in chief.

But the industry's breathtaking power grab during the first month of Trump's transition is palpably different - and has alarmed environmentalists, who fear the new administration will undo what they see as a decade of progress in combating climate change.

Trump vowed to "eliminate all wasteful job-killing regulations. On energy, we will cancel the restrictions on the production of American energy, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean beautiful coal."

Oil and gas favorites have been nominated to lead the Cabinet agencies that regulate the industry: former Texas governor Rick Perry as energy secretary, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator and Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) as interior secretary.

Energy executives are advising Trump in more informal ways, including Harold Hamm, a billionaire who heads the major oil producer Continental Resources, and Carl Icahn, a billionaire investor who owns a pair of oil refineries.

Other industry officials and allies, who have been sidelined and stigmatized during the Obama years, are working on Trump's transition team to shape the next administration's agenda and look to enjoy ready access to the Republican White House.

In the final months of Obama's presidency, his administration has finalized several rules designed to bolster and protect his environmental legacy. They include an Interior Department restriction on the flaring of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, during oil and gas operations on federal land. The department also issued a five-year leasing plan that bars drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off Alaska, as well as in waters off the southeast Atlantic coast.

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