Trump Pick for White House Environmental Council Profited from Oil Drilling, Energy Industry Speaking Fees

Kathleen Hartnett White (left) and Donald Trump (right)

Kathleen Hartnett White, President Trump’s nominee to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), has recently made money from both leases on oil drilling and speaking fees at conferences sponsored by the fossil fuel industry. These new details come from Hartnett White’s financial disclosure, obtained by DeSmog.

If her nomination is confirmed, Hartnett White will be charged with interagency coordination of science, energy, and environmental policy and with overseeing crucial environmental review processes for new energy and infrastructure projects. The CEQ, a division of the Executive Office of the President, was established in 1969 as part of the landmark National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

A longtime vocal climate change science denier, Hartnett White directs the Center for Energy and the Environment at the conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation. The foundation’s funders include several major oil and gas companies and climate-denying organizations such as ExxonMobil, the Heartland Institute, and Koch Industries.

Her writings online and elsewhere indicate she categorically denies the science of climate change, calling climatologists “warmists” and lambasting the “green media crusade.” Last week, DeSmog extensively detailed her history of climate denial and pro-industry regulatory positions as former head of the Texas Council on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

Oil Drilling and Industry Speeches

However, Hartnett White’s income in the past two years has not come only from the right-wing think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation.

According to her financial disclosure, she received fees for speaking at the 2015 International Association of Drilling Contractor’s conference, the Energy Conference Network’s Internet of Things in the Oil & Gas Industry conference in 2016, and earlier this year at the 4C Health, Safety & Environmental conference, which brings together compliance professionals from oil and gas, petrochemicals, and other industries.

Hartnett White also enjoyed income from an interest in four oil leases — two in Texas and two in Kansas. These rigs were operated by Central Crude, Linn Operating, CHS Operating, and CVR Refining. Hartnett White indicated in her disclosure that she recently gifted these interests to her nephew. 

Additionally, she reported royalties from her co-authored book Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy, a text that copiously celebrates fossil fuels as the “lifeblood of the modern world.”

Other sources of reported income include a dog breeding business, co-owned with her husband, Beau Brite White.

Derek Seidman, a research analyst at the Public Accountability Initiative, a nonpartisan watchdog research group focused on corporate and government accountability, says that Hartnett-White's recent earnings from fossil fuel interests is cause for concern.

“It’s unsettling to learn about the close ties that White has to the very interests and entities that she’s been tasked to oversee at the CEQ,” says Seidman, who has reviewed the financial disclosure. “Her cozy relationship with the oil and gas drilling industry is particularly troubling. These types of conflicts undermine public trust in regulatory institutions and open the door to all kinds of potential problems and abuses.”

Kathleen Hartnett-White did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for the Texas Public Policy Foundation said that she is not available for interviews.

Main image: Kathleen Hartnett White and Donald Trump. Credit: Derivative of “Donald Trump” by Gage Skidmore, used under CC BY-SA 2.0. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 by DeSmog

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