Interior Secretary Debra Haaland has been added to Protect the Public’s Trust watchlist of executive branch leaders with ethical questions to answer, the organization said May 19.
“Despite a dearth of executive experience and a number of issues with previous financial disclosure documents” Haaland was named to lead the 70,000-employee agency with a complex budget that could run to more than $17 billion, the nonprofit organization said in a press release, noting Haaland “has also appointed top lieutenants and advisors whose numerous potential conflicts of interest could seriously hamper their abilities to perform their duties.”
Michael Chamberlain, director of Protect the Public’s Trust, described the way Haaland “appears to have handled her required financial disclosures” as “haphazard.” He also questioned whether she had taken transparency seriously.
The transparency Chamberlain referred to is laid out in 5 C.F.R. §2635.502. Its purpose is to ensure the public interest is protected, requiring all federal officials, including senior political appointees, to comply with several ethics laws, regulations and commitments that ensure the government is working for all Americans in an objective, impartial and transparent manner. Those obligations “may restrict a high-ranking government official with a robust former employment history from participating in a number of particular matters in the first year on the job - and even two, when factoring in the standard administration ethics pledge,” the organization said.
Like many U.S. presidents before him, President Joe Biden issued an ethics pledge on the first day of his administration. His restrictions go beyond the law and existing regulations and bind all the president’s appointees.
Some of his more notable provisions address the ability of former lobbyists to serve in the Biden administration (President Donald Trump appointed several lobbyists), the period required before officials can participate matters involving former employers, and post-employment lobbying restrictions.
A few of the questions posed by Protect the Public’s Trust:
* “Why has it been so difficult for Secretary Haaland to correctly file a simple financial disclosure document, and when will we see the final and correct version?”
* Was Secretary Haaland aware that the two individuals ordered to carry out the directives of SO 3399 both have vast potential conflicts of interests that may preclude them from performing those duties without violating their ethics obligations? (Haaland issued Secretarial Order 3399 on April 16, establishing a climate task force to coordinate across the department, prioritizing climate change and addressing environmental justice in agency decisions.)
* What systems have been put in place to ensure Secretary Haaland’s senior advisors are complying with their ethics obligations while still fulfilling their assigned duties?
One of the senior advisers the organization referred to was obviously Elizabeth Klein, who was a Biden nominee for Deputy Secretary, the No. 2 position in DOI.
But congressional objections were raised because of Klein’s advocacy to curb fossil fuels. She still serves as an adviser to Haaland.
Protect the Public’s Trust’s May 19 press release said the purpose of the organization was to educate the public about potential misconduct to ensure the integrity of public office.
- KAY CASHMAN
Sullivan blasts Biden’s energy policiesAs reported by The Alaska Watchman, Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, took to the U.S. Senate floor on May 13 to call out the Biden administration for its “cavalier and condescending attitude” towards oil and gas development.
In particular, the Alaska Watchman wrote, Sullivan blasted Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm’s recent comments regarding the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline in the wake of a ransomware attack. (Colonial is the largest pipeline system for refined oil products in the United States, capable of moving 3 million barrels of fuel per day between Texas and New York, supplying 45% of the fuel consumed on the Eastern Seaboard between the Gulf Coast and the New York metro area.)
“If you drive an electric car, (fuel shortages) would not be affecting you, clearly,” Granholm said during a White House briefing with reporters about the shutdown and ensuing gasoline shortage and resultant price hikes.
“Of course, the media just let her go. They didn’t ask her if she knew that, just as meat doesn’t come from a grocery store, energy just doesn’t come from a wall,” Sullivan said of the comment. “It just doesn’t appear like magic when you plug into it … it comes from many sources, including natural gas, including oil.”
Sullivan pointed out that all energy, “including alternative energy requires transmission lines. Lines that are also subject to being attacked like the Colonial Pipeline.”
He also noted that the average price of an electric car was “more than $55,000 dollars.”
“Maybe that’s a bargain for her, but for the people the Biden administration is putting out of work that is a huge price tag,” Sullivan said.
He said the Colonial Pipeline should serve as a “warning for America.”
Energy disruptions will become common place if we “don’t change the Biden administrations energy policies for America,” Sullivan said.
- KAY CASHMAN
Yergin receives Dewhurst AwardPulitzer-prize winner, respected author, and energy expert Dr. Daniel Yergin is the 2021 recipient of the prestigious Dewhurst Award from the World Petroleum Council. Yergin, is being recognized for his “exceptional contribution to the oil, gas and energy industry” - the WPC’s highest honor.
The lifetime achievement award celebrates his role as a global authority on energy, international politics and economics.
Yergin is only the eleventh recipient of the Dewhurst Award in the nearly 90-year history of the WPC, with previous winners including Rex Tillerson (USA), Abdulla Bin Hamad Al Attiyah (Qatar) and Ali Al-Naimi (Saudi Arabia).
Yergin will receive the award during the Dewhurst Ceremony at the 23rd World Petroleum Congress in Houston, Dec. 5-9.
Yergin is currently vice chairman of IHS Markit, a leading information and advisory firm with 16,000 employees worldwide, and chairman of IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference
Author of several books, including the Pulitzer Prize winning The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil Money and Power, Yergin’s new book, The New Map: Energy, Climate and the Clash of Nation, is described by The Washington Post as “a tour de force for geopolitical understanding” and by NPR as “a master class on how the world works.” USA Today said, “At a time when solid facts and reasoned arguments are in full retreat, Daniel Yergin rides to the rescue.”
Yergin has served on the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board under four presidents. He is a member of the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, a senior trustee of the Brookings Institution, and a member of the Energy Think Tank of the government of India and of the Energy Governors of the World Economic Forum. He holds a BA from Yale University and a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, where he was a Marshall Scholar.
- KAY CASHMAN
Sean Parnell named UAA chancellorFormer Alaska Republican Gov. Sean Parnell has been selected as the next chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage, per an article in Suzanne Downing’s Must Read Alaska newsletter.
His first day will be June 12, according to a letter from University of Alaska Interim President Pat Pitney to the UAA community.
“I believe Sean to be uniquely positioned to lead UAA in providing the programs that support Anchorage and Alaska’s workforce needs and economic growth, including innovative research to drive the state forward,” she said.
Parnell was governor of Alaska from 2009 to 2014, taking up the role after being lieutenant governor for former Republican Gov. Sarah Palin before she resigned. Prior to that, he worked for national law firm Patton Boggs, was deputy director of the state Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil and Gas, worked as an attorney for ConocoPhillips and was elected to the Alaska Legislature as both a representative and a senator.
Since 2018 Parnell has worked as a corporate attorney at Holland & Hart LLP in Anchorage.
Pitney said Parnell “understands the range of issues facing UAA and has proven skills in diversifying and generating revenue.”
“He will help stabilize our budget through building UAA’s reputation and expanding enrollment and fundraising.”
A search committee that included UAA faculty, staff and students, along with Anchorage community members, led the recruitment process. Finalists were interviewed by Pitney, participated in forums in April to engage with community members from UAA and Anchorage and were invited to visit the main campus in Anchorage.
Parnell said in a phone interview with Must Read Alaska that he thinks his time as governor provides him with the right management experience to lead UAA. The UA system has been hit by years of budget cuts that have been compounded by financial challenges related to the pandemic.
“I think my experience as governor will allow me to build bridges and bring a steadiness and calm across some lines of uncertainty and perhaps be able to heal from some division,” he said. “My hope really is to join the great people who are already at the university and make it an even more magnificent institution than it already is.”
- KAY CASHMAN