Senate Democrats target oil industry leaders

Democrats in the U.S. Senate are targeting oil industry leaders who have had contact with the federal government as it continues with oil and gas leasing on federal lands despite the partial government shutdown.

They have made a request of the Trump administration to supply the names of those in the oil industry who were in contact over the decision to move ahead with leasing.

“While the oil industry might view a delay in the approval of new offshore drilling as an emergency, the American people deserve regulators who prioritize safety and environmental protection over political expediency and the wishes of moneyed special interests,” read a letter signed by 11 Democratic senators, led by Senators Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Ed Markey, D-Mass. “The modification of BOEM’s contingency plan shows an unfailing commitment to carrying out the agenda of the oil industry at the expense of coastal communities.”

The Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management continued to approve new federal drilling projects. The Interior Department has mostly been closed including its national parks and there has been a suspension of wildlife research.

The Democratic Senators also are demanding the Interior Department explain the “legal basis for re-categorizing offshore drilling efforts as ‘essential’ under a partial government shutdown and where the Interior is finding the money to continue these efforts since funding for the department has not been appropriated.”

They asked Interior officials to respond by Feb. 1.

An Interior spokesman said the department would respond in “a timely manner,” but also noted the letter states the senators’ opposition to “any offshore oil and gas development in the United States, regardless of whether or not we are experiencing a partial government shutdown.”

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