President Trump is populating the White House and federal agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who in many cases are helping to craft new policies for the same industries in which they recently earned a paycheck.The potential conflicts are arising across the executive branch, according to an analysis of recently released financial disclosures, lobbying records and interviews with current and former ethics officials by The New York Times in collaboration with ProPublica.
One such case involves Michael Catanzaro, who serves as the top White House energy adviser. Until late last year, he was working as a lobbyist for major industry clients such as Devon Energy of Oklahoma, an oil and gas company, and Talen Energy of Pennsylvania, a coal-burning electric utility, as they fought Obama-era environmental regulations, including the landmark Clean Power Plan. Now, he is handling some of the same matters on behalf of the federal government. [...]Mr. Catanzaro was registered for Talen Energy on the Clean Power Plan in 2015, yet he has worked in recent months as a senior member of the White House's National Economic Council trying to roll back that rule, adopted by the Obama administration.Mr. Catanzaro's former clients, such as Talen and Devon Energy, have an enormous amount at stake in the regulations the White House is preparing to reverse — with his help. Talen, for example, helps operate the Colstrip power plant in Montana, the second-largest coal-burning plant west of the Mississippi. Federal officials have estimated that the plant could face a $1.2 billion bill as it makes updates to meet the new environmental standards, assuming it is not just closed.Three industry lobbyists interviewed by The Times said that they recently had confidential conversations with Mr. Catanzaro about some of the same regulatory matters on which he was lobbying the federal government. And Mr. Catanzaro gave a briefing to reporters in March at the White House in which he discussed energy topics at length, including the details related to the executive order Mr. Trump signed on March 28 to weaken the Clean Power Plan.