Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Trump’s Fossil Fuel Connections

CAP Action
6 min readMar 25, 2019


It’s no secret that President Trump has filled his cabinet and staff with lobbyists and former oil, gas, coal and chemical industry allies. These dirty deputies are now in charge of overseeing decisions that benefit the companies they were working for just months earlier.

President Trump himself has close ties to oil, gas, and coal companies and their CEOs. He has accepted millions in donations from fossil fuel companies, and notably, he keeps a very close relationship with infamous coal baron Bob Murray of Murray Energy, consistently delivering on many of Murray’s personal policy priorities. But while this culture of corruption starts at the top, the influence of the fossil fuel industry goes far beyond the White House and runs through every agency in charge of protecting America’s air, water, land, and health.

Here’s everything you need to know about Trump’s Dirty Deputies:

Department of the Interior (DOI)

Leading Trump’s Department of the Interior is Secretary David Bernhardt. Bernhardt is a former oil and gas lobbyist and according to a CAP analysis, has the dubious distinction of being the “most conflicted” of all 31 of Trump’s cabinet-level nominees. The acting secretary has become a central figure in Interior’s carefully constructed system for dispensing political favors, including to many of Bernhardt’s former clients and employers.

Bernhardt’s team includes:

William Perry Pendley, Deputy Director, Policy and Programs and Acting Director, Bureau of Land Management: The former president of the anti-conservation Mountain States Legal Foundation, which frequently sued federal agencies to challenge conservation policies, Pendley has spent his career fighting against the existence of public lands.

Scott Angelle, Director, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement: After serving as Louisiana’s Secretary of Natural Resources where he advocated for an end to the moratorium on Gulf Coast drilling that was put in place after the devastating BP spill, Angelle made more than $1 million from his seat on the board of an oil and gas pipeline company before heading to Interior.

Kathy Benedetto, Senior Advisor, Bureau of Land Management: Benedetto co-founded the “Women’s Mining Coalition” nonprofit, and worked for close to 20 years in the mining industry. Benedetto was criticized in March 2018 for meeting with far more mining and fossil fuel representatives than environmentalists.

Doug Domenech, Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Insular Areas: In addition to lobbying for the oil and gas industry, before joining the Trump administration Domenech directed a program at the Koch-funded Texas Public Policy Foundation to promote the “moral case for fossil fuels.”

James Cason, Associate Deputy Secretary of the Interior: Cason has been described as a “100 percent corporation man” and is a former oil and gas lobbyist.

Scott Cameron, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget: Cameron is a former lobbyist and congressional staffer who has worked at firms that represent Shell Oil, Marcellus Shale Coalition and more.

Daniel Jorjani, Acting Solicitor/Solicitor nominee: Jorjani was previously one of the “highest paid employees” in the Koch network. Despite his significant conflicts and legal opinions that have been rejected by courts, he has been formally nominated for the Interior Solicitor position.

Susan Combs, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget: Combs, who is overseeing an agency-wide reorganization plan supported by the oil and gas industry, received possibly as much as $2.1 million in recent years from oil companies that stand to benefit.

Karen Budd-Falen, Deputy Solicitor for Parks and Wildlife: Budd-Falen previously worked alongside Pendley at the Mountain States League Foundation, where she aligned with anti-government ranchers, including the Bundy family.Wheeler’s team includes:

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

In February 2019, Andrew Wheeler was confirmed to lead of the Environmental Protection Agency after serving as Deputy under disgraced former administrator Scott Pruitt. As a former lobbyist, Wheeler’s highest-paying client was major coal company Murray Energy. Now, as head of EPA, Wheeler has followed directly in Pruitt’s footsteps by undoing protections for our health to instead benefit fossil fuel companies, and has “almost completed” coal magnate and Trump donor Bob Murray’s wishlist.

Wheeler’s team includes:

David Fischer, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention: Fischer is an industry lawyer who most recently worked at public affairs firm IBEX Partners LLC; before that he spent a decade as a senior director at the American Chemistry Council, which represents the majority of U.S. chemical companies.

Alexandra Dunn, Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention: Dunn formerly worked for the American Chemistry Council, which includes industry groups that she is now tasked with regulating.

Susan Bodine, Assistant Administrator, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance: Bodine, who oversees enforcement for the EPA, previously litigated on behalf of many polluting companies responsible for Superfund sites.

Peter Wright, Assistant Administrator, Office of Land and Emergency Management: Wright oversees the nation’s toxic waste sites clean-up program, even though his former employer — chemical company DowDuPont — is responsible or partially responsible for 14% of those sites.

David Dunlap, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Research and Development: Dunlap, a former chemical engineer for Koch Industries, has a potential conflict of interest when it comes to regulating formaldehyde — which the EPA suppressed a report about in 2018 — given that one of the largest producers of formaldehyde in the country, Georgia-Pacific Chemicals LLC, is a Koch Industries subsidiary that lobbied against the study being released.

Resigned after investigation announced: Bill Wehrum, Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation. While as an attorney and lobbyist at the firm Hunton & Williams, Wehrum represented polluting clients in over 31 lawsuits against the EPA. Wehrum also previously served in the EPA during the last Bush administration, where he took similarly square aim at various air and climate protections; under the Trump administration he worked to carry out the rollbacks he put in place over a decade ago. Wehrum resigned at the end of June 2019, after the EPA announced its weak rule to repeal and replace the Clean Power Plan, in the face of an investigation from the House Energy and Commerce Committee into his conflicts of interest.

Department of Energy (DOE)

While he was Governor of Texas and as a 2012 presidential candidate, Energy Secretary Rick Perry proposed eliminating the Department of Energy. Before being confirmed as DOE secretary, Perry was on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, whose clients included the Dakota Access Pipeline. He was also on the board of Sunoco Logistics Partners, another fossil fuel industry-linked group.

Perry’s team includes:

Brian McCormack, Chief of Staff: Prior to his role as DOE’s Chief of Staff, McCormack worked at Edison Electric Institute, where he lobbied against rooftop solar power.

Mark Menezes, Under Secretary of Energy: Menezes previously lobbied for several different electric utility companies and trade groups, including American Electric Power, Duke Energy, Edison Electric Institute, Southern Company, and Koch Mineral Services.

Mark Maddox, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy: Maddox previously worked in DOE’s Fossil Energy office during the George W. Bush administration, before spending several years as a lobbyist for a variety of petroleum, coal, and utility companies.

Paul Dabbar, Under Secretary for Science: Dabbar has advised myriad fossil fuel companies and electric utilities in the past, including TransCanada, Allete, AES, and Dynegy.

Douglas Matheney, Assistant to the Secretary: Matheny worked in the coal industry for nearly 20 years, before lobbying for two different coal trade associations and the Koch-founded group Americans for Prosperity.

Steven Winberg, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy: Winberg has spent his career working for the coal and natural gas industry, most recently as Vice President for CONSOL Energy. In May 2019, Winberg referred to natural gas as “molecules of U.S. freedom” in an official DOE press release.

Alex Fitzsimmons, Senior Advisor and Deputy Assistant Secretary, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: Fitzsimmons previously worked for two Koch-funded organizations: the Institute for Energy Research, and Fueling U.S. Forward, a campaign that promoted fossil fuel use.

Suzanne Jaworowski, Senior Advisor, Nuclear Energy: Now an assistant to Secretary Perry, Jaworowski previously worked as a consultant for a coal company and energy utility.



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