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Former EPA staff chief gets busy lobbying for mining industry

Records show Ryan Jackson has lobbied on three fiscal 2021 spending bills, stimulus legislation related to the coronavirus pandemic and a host of other bills

Ryan Jackson, seated at left behind EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, departed the agency in February to lobby for mining companies.
Ryan Jackson, seated at left behind EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, departed the agency in February to lobby for mining companies. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Ryan Jackson, who was chief of staff for two EPA administrators before leaving in February to lobby for mining companies, has been busy in his private sector life.

Jackson left the agency to join the National Mining Association, an industry advocacy group for coal and hard-rock mining companies, after three years in government.

Federal records show Jackson has lobbied on three spending bills for fiscal 2021 and stimulus legislation in response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as legislation about minerals, endangered species, permits, forests, coal leasing, uranium, the Pentagon and a swath of separate mining, energy and animal topics.

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The record Jackson filed this week was the NMA’s first in-house lobbying disclosure since he joined the organization. NMA spent $313,000 on federal lobbying in the first quarter of 2020, down from $255,000 the previous quarter but roughly on par with the same period from 2019, when it spent $330,000.

“We do not typically provide further detail on lobbying activities beyond what is contained in our filing,” NMA spokeswoman Ashley Burke said in an email. She added of Jackson: “He is not lobbying EPA or the administration and his sole focus is on congressional advocacy.”

As coal companies have filed for bankruptcy in recent years, lobbying has declined as well, and the latest figures are far less than NMA spent in 2015 and earlier, when it shelled out more than $1 million or more quarterly.

Under a federal ethics agreement, Jackson is barred from “lobbying activities” related to EPA for five years, and it does not appear Jackson has directly lobbied his former agency. That definition of “lobbying activities” does not extend to court cases or the agency rule-making process, according to an executive order President Donald Trump signed in January 2017.

EPA has unveiled a host of key policies to weaken environmental regulation during the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought daily life to a standstill. 

Citing the virus, EPA unveiled in March a sweeping policy to relax environmental enforcement laws and oversight. Since then, it has also moved to weaken fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles, decided not to strengthen pollution standards for soot and made it easier for oil- and coal-fired power plants to release toxic pollutants, including mercury, which is linked to brain damage.

Jackson comes from the political tree of Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., who used to chair the Environment and Public Works Committee. Before he was EPA chief of staff under former Administrator Scott Pruitt and current Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Jackson, an Oklahoma native, was an Inhofe staffer. He worked on the EPW committee and in Inhofe’s congressional office, jobs Wheeler also held.

Mandy Gunasekara was sworn in as EPA chief of staff on March 17. She is another staff alumnus of Inhofe’s tenure as chairman of EPW.

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