Critics Say Trump Is Giving Oil Industry a Bye in Shutdown

No one has been prosecuted under the law, Gray said, but it’s a “real threat” for agency budget officers. “From the perspective of the framers, it has a desirable chilling effect on freelancing by the executive branch,” Gray said. “Even if you don’t end up in front of a jury or in a courtroom, it’s not something you want to run afoul of.”

The nature of the law leads to clashes about what work can continue. For instance, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has postponed public meetings over developer Vineyard Wind’s bid to build a large-scale wind energy project off the Massachusetts coast 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.

The public meetings held in Alaska last weekend were conducted by the Bureau of Land Management, even though its state office is closed, with workers furloughed and generally unable to field inquiries from the press and public. At issue is an agency rewrite of a management plan that walled off oil and gas development in roughly half of the 22.1-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, including near Teshekpuk Lake, an area that provides habitat for caribou and many species of birds.

By holding the meetings amid the shutdown -- when the bureau website is frozen with outdated information -- the Trump administration is undermining public consultation, said David Krause, an Arctic lands conservation specialist with The Wilderness Society.

“This administration is certainly willing to shirk a meaningful public process so it can sell off the globally significant Teshekpuk Lake special area to oil companies,” Krause said.

The Interior Department’s focus on energy development comes even as other activities grind to a halt.

“Can you imagine a fire department in a local community running out of money and then deciding it is only going to serve wealthy houses because it doesn’t have money to cover everybody?” said Lee-Ashley, a senior director of environmental strategy at the Center for American Progress. “That’s kind of what’s going on here. The oil industry is still able to get the services they want from the federal government, but nobody else does.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Washington at To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at John Harney.


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