A pro-energy development group is calling for Congress to investigate possible illegal coordination between an arm of the Interior Department and lobbyists for environmental groups.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, announced last week that Interior's inspector general is already conducting its own probe into whether environmental lobbyists improperly coordinated with officials at Interior's National Landscape Conservation System.
But Americans for American Energy President Greg Schnacke said Wednesday that "the congressional oversight process must be brought into play as well."
He added, "The Wilderness Society and the National Wildlife Federation spend millions of dollars pursuing an anti-American energy political agenda. The question we have is how far does this extend and is it more extensive than simply the NLCS?"
Bishop, ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, last week called for those NLCS employees being reviewed by the inspector general investigation to relinquish duties until the probe is completed.
Federal law generally prohibits federal employees from using appropriated funds or their official positions to lobby Congress. Americans for American Energy worries that some NLCS officials may have met at Wilderness Society offices to coordinate lobbying strategy and messages with environmental groups.
"You can't tell me this is an isolated incident," Schnacke said. "The political agenda of the NWF and the Wilderness Society is too broad and touches more in the Interior Department than just the NLCS."
He added, "If the (congressional) committees refuse to conduct such oversight (and look into the matter), it will be sending a message to the American people that it intends to turn a blind eye to such activities."
The NLCS was created in 2000 to protect nationally significant landscapes recognized for their cultural, ecological or scientific values, including several national monuments given to the Bureau of Land Management to manage. Among lands it oversees is Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Americans for American Energy is a Denver-based group that says it is dedicated to promoting greater energy independence for America. Its web site says Utah Rep. Aaron Tilton, R-Springville, is its vice president.
Tilton was defeated at the GOP convention this year. He is an energy consultant looking into building a nuclear power plant in Utah, and was on a House committee that oversees nuclear power. He was criticized for not declaring a conflict of interest until his ties were later publicized by the media.
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