A Department of Interior official who oversaw last year’s drive to shrink two massive national monuments in Utah has left the department to join BP’s government affairs team, a spokesman for the energy giant confirmed Monday.
Former deputy chief of staff Downey Magallanes served as a top adviser to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke from the time he took over the department. Her portfolio included policy as well as operations, which encompassed a push to expand oil, gas and mining production on public lands.
“Downey was an incredible asset and I trusted her to carry out some of the administration’s highest priority projects,” the secretary said in a statement. “She will be missed in our office and I wish her all the best.”
Magallanes left Interior last week and will join BP just after Labor Day.
“I am grateful to Secretary Zinke and President Trump for giving me the chance to serve in the Department of the Interior,” she said in an email. “I look forward to this incredible new opportunity with BP.”
BP spokesman Jason Ryan echoed that sentiment but declined to elaborate on what Magallanes would do in her new job.
According to two individuals familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it involved a personnel issue, Magallanes, a former aide to Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., would work on congressional relations. Her father, Frederick Palmer, served as a lobbyist for Peabody Energy Corp. from 2001 to 2015.
Trump’s ethics pledge bars political appointees from lobbying their respective agencies for five years after leaving office, and from lobbying anyone in the executive branch for the rest of his administration.
But Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, an advocacy group, said in an email: “Her prior work on behalf of oil, gas and coal, her family’s ties to the coal industry, and the fact that she is headed to BP all point in one direction: that she came to Interior with an agenda to promote fossil fuel development over the interest of the American public.
“Magallanes was intimately involved in the lead-up to President Trump’s unlawful attack on the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, a decision that was immediately challenged by Native American tribes, conservationists and businesses,” he added. “We’ll be working to undo that mischief long after she’s gone.”
Trump’s decision in December to shrink the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase by 85 percent and 46 percent, respectively, is probably to open up parts of once-protected areas to oil and gas drilling, as well as mining claims.
Magallanes is the second high-ranking official to leave Interior within a week. Vincent DeVito, the department’s energy counselor, stepped down late last week and will return to private practice, a move first reported by E&E News.
DeVito, whom Zinke praised as helping “set the course for energy dominance in the first term of this administration,” has not announced where he is headed.