The Department of the Interior has hired former coal association president and right-wing energy commentator Christian Palich as a senior adviser. Palich previously appeared in the media to praise President Donald Trump for rolling back environmental protections and has tweeted that climate change is “junk science” and the Sierra Club wants to “kill jobs & destroy families for a phony cause.”
Under the Trump administration, the Department of the Interior has been rolling back environmental protections and pursuing actions to benefit the oil and gas industry. A recent analysis by the Center for Western Priorities found that the department “has completed or taken action on at least 53 policy changes requested or supported by energy companies and associations as of June 2019.”
In 2018, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report documenting that senior political officials at Interior “have unleashed constant—and ongoing—attacks on science, from sidelining the work of the agency's own scientists to systematically refusing to acknowledge or act on climate change.” The House recently held a hearing in which former Interior employees said that the department had suppressed its work on climate change.
Palich’s hiring continues the department’s anti-environmental trend. Palich, who states on his LinkedIn page that he started working at Interior last month, was previously the president of the pro-Trump Ohio Coal Association from 2013 to 2017. From April 2017 to February 2019, he worked as the deputy associate administrator for congressional and intergovernmental affairs at the Environmental Protection Agency -- an appointment that drew criticism from environmentalists because of his coal industry connections.
In the first half of 2019, he briefly worked as the vice president of government and public affairs at the lobbying firm Siekman, Siekman & Associates. In his now-removed biography for the firm, Palich touted his role as a commentator in the media, describing himself as a “leading, national voice” on energy issues and noting that he has “appeared multiple times on Fox & Friends, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Fox Business, and NBC” and been “published in the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and across Ohio media.”
Palich praised Trump in the media for undoing environmental protections. He appeared on the March 29, 2017, edition of one of the president’s favorite programs, Fox & Friends, and hailed Trump for signing an order rolling back President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, calling it a “great day” and saying that “we have a president of the United States that stands with” the coal industry. He also praised Trump in a November 25, 2016, op-ed in The Columbus Dispatch, writing: “Just as he recognized an untapped potential in the American electorate, Trump recognizes similar potential in American coal. Making America Great Again will create a huge demand for energy -- and coal, with all of its technological advancements, will be there to meet it.”
Palich has frequently attacked climate science and environmentalists on his Twitter account. Here are some examples:
- In response to President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union speech, he wrote: “I walked to work in -7 temps this morning same day #POTUS says the debate on global warming is settled. Seems legit... #SOTU.”
- He wrote of the Clean Power Plan in August 2015: “Even if you buy #EPA's bad science (which I don't), #CPP is still bad policy for America.”
- In November 2015, he wrote that the Sierra Club wants to “kill jobs & destroy families for a phony cause.”
- In February 2016, he tweeted in response to Obama’s criticism of Republicans for not wanting to act on climate change: “Not destroying our economy over junk science & a radical enviro agenda. Sign me up. #GOP #CoalCountry.”
- After Trump’s election, he tweeted: “Time to push fight back on all the radical enviro regs that have been illegally been brought on America over last 8 yrs. @realDonaldTrump.” He also tweeted: “Really enjoying the radical enviro panic right now. Americans flat out rejected this agenda yesterday by a large margin. #CoalCountry.”
- In January 2017, he celebrated the news that the new Trump White House had deleted references to climate change from its website, tweeting: “Looks like there is a new sheriff in town. #MAGA.”
He also attacked his future employers and colleagues while working for the Ohio Coal Association. In a February 2016 tweet, he promoted a FoxNews.com op-ed by right-wing lawyers John Yoo and Dean Reuter, who claimed that the federal government bureaucracy is unaccountable. Palich wrote: “All great points & being in the #coal industry we see everyday just how unaccountable @EPA, @OSMRE, & @Interior are.”
Media Matters previously documented that William Perry Pendley, who has just been made acting chief of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, is also a climate denier. Pendley has additionally argued that the federal government should sell its public lands, that environmentalists want to “destroy” civilization, and that diversity is killing people. Pendley’s appointment comes as two former directors of the bureau “say plans to move the agency’s headquarters to Colorado are an early step toward abolishing the entire agency and transferring millions of acres of federal land to the states,” as Bloomberg reported.