An Interior Department (DOI) official may have been serving her former employer’s interests when carrying out a plan to halt oil and gas leasing in northern Alaska, according to an ethics complaint filed by Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT), a watchdog group.
PPT alleges that the DOI Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary For Land and Minerals Management Laura Daniel-Davisviolated federal ethics pledges when implementing the DOI’s move to halt oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), according to the complaint. Daniel-Davis’ previous role may present a conflict of interest as she was chief of policy and advocacy for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), a large environmentalist nonprofit that opposes oil and gas exploration.
“ANWR has been one of the most high-profile issues at the Department, with that profile even heightened in light of the current debate over the role of oil and gas leasing in the nation’s energy policy in general,” PPT Director Michael Chamberlain told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Yet, rather than avoiding further controversy on this matter, the Department has taken a ‘damn the torpedoes’ approach by handing the reins to a clearly conflicted official.”
The NWF joined an August 2020 lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s decision to auction ANWR leases while Daniel-Davis was still chief of policy, according to court filings.
On June 1, 2021, the DOI suspended all federally issued oil and gas leases throughout ANWR to review the leases’ impact on the environment, according to a press release. The order that halted leases in the wildlife refuge gave authority to the assistant secretary for land and minerals management, Daniel-Davis’ current position, to administer the pause.
Daniel-Davis then wrote letters on June 1 ordering oil and gas companies to halt drilling operations on leased properties.
“Her participation could constitute violations of federal ethics laws and the Biden Ethics Pledge,” Chamberlain stated.
Davis worked as the NWF’s chief of policy and advocacy from January 2020 to January 2021, according to her LinkedIn profile. She also worked as the NWF’s vice president for conservation strategy for two years before becoming chief of policy and advocacy.
“At worst, it [the complaint] suggests that Ms. Daniel-Davis may have participated personally and substantially in a particular matter in which her former employer was an interested party,” the PPT complaint states.