J. Steven Griles
- 1 Controversies
- 2 Testimony: Abramoff-Reed Indian Gambling Scandal
- 3 Profiles
- 4 Griles returns to Interior
- 5 SourceWatch Resources
- 6 External links
Griles, "who oversaw the Bush administration's push to open more public land to energy development," announced December 7, 2004, that "he was stepping down," Associated Press writer Matthew Daly reported January 31, 2005. "Griles, who earned a reputation as a go-to broker in Bush's program to lease out vast oil, gas and coal reserves below federally owned land in the West, said [January 31, 2005,] he was excited to be joining Nethercutt and Lundquist."
"During nearly half his four-year tenure at [the Department of the] Interior, Griles was investigated by the department's inspector general. Inspector General Earl Devaney concluded Griles didn't appear to violate ethics rules by arranging meetings between Interior officials and former clients and partners, or in the award of $1.6 million in contracts to a former client.
"But Devaney described Griles' behavior as an example of 'an institutional failure' among Interior officials who potentially eroded public trust by failing to consider the perceived impropriety of their actions.
"Griles continued to receive $284,000 a year, in addition to his Interior salary, as part of a four-year severance package from his former lobbying and consulting firm," Daly wrote.
- "During his tenure at the Interior Department, Griles came under fire for contacts with his former clients. He received nearly $1.1 million from his former lobbying firm while employed with the federal government." 
In a December 2004 interview, "Griles called the charges against him 'a political gambit' made by people opposed to the Bush administration," Daly wrote.
Testimony: Abramoff-Reed Indian Gambling Scandal
Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) "has called on the former No. 2 official at the Interior Department to testify [on November 2, 2005,] before a Senate panel investigating lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his involvement with Indian gambling tribes," The Hill's Josephine Hearn reported. This "marks the fourth and final [hearing] in the Indian Affairs Committee’s investigation of Abramoff." McCain is now chairman of the panel.
Griles "was involved in efforts to help two of Abramoff’s clients — the Louisiana Coushatta tribe and the Saginaw Chippewa tribe of Michigan — fend off casino proposals from rival tribes and may have done so while engaged in employment negotiations with Abramoff, recent news reports have said. Griles has said through spokespeople that he did not play a major role in endeavors to aid the tribes," Hearn wrote.
"The development marks the first time McCain has taken direct aim at the administration during the Indian Affairs Committee’s year-and-a-half-long investigation of Abramoff, his associate Michael Scanlon and their efforts to extract more than $80 million in lobbying and public-relations fees from Indian tribes," Hearn said.
"Griles is expected to appear alongside Italia Federici at the hearing ... Federici, who was an aide to Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton during her 1996 Senate bid, reportedly served as a go-between linking Griles and Abramoff. Federici is president of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, a group founded by Norton and anti-tax activist Grover Norquist."
- "DOI investigates contacts with group started by Norton," Indianz.com, March 3, 2005. Includes links to related stories.
- Susan Schmidt, "Casino Bid Prompted High-Stakes Lobbying. Probe Scrutinizes Efforts Against Tribe," Washington Post, March 13, 2005. See page 5.
- "Griles fought casino opposed by Abramoff's clients," Indianz.com, March 14, 2005.
- "Lobbyist Had Close W. House Ties," Associated Press (CBS News), May 6, 2005. See page 2.
- "Bush had close ties with lobbyist being investigated," Associated Press, May 7, 2005.
- "Abramoff Scandal Burns Conrad, But Can't Keep Cheney Away," Democratic National Committee (US Newswire), August 15, 2005.
- Susan Schmidt, "Abramoff Cited Aid Of Interior Official: Conflict-of-Interest Probe Is Underway," Washington Post, August 28, 2005.
- "Feds probe Abramoff ties to official," UPI, August 28, 2005.
- "Abramoff tried to hire Griles at lobbying firm," Indianz.com, August 29, 2005.
- "Tribal leader wants probe of Griles-Abramoff links," Indianz.com, August 31, 2005.
- Peter Overby, "Ring of Chagrin Expands Around Arrested Lobbyist," NPR, September 1, 2005.
- Gale Courey Toensing, "Interior official implicated in Abramoff dealings," Indian Country Today, September 2, 2005.
Previously, Griles, who became Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) on July 12, 2001, announced his resignation December 7, 2004. The Department administers more than 500 million acres of federal land, is responsible for endangered species protections, and oversees the conservation and development of the nation's water and mineral resources. 
The official spin
The glowing biography of Griles on the Department of the Interior's website strives to portray him as a strong environmental advocate in his role as Deputy Secretary:
- "[As Deputy Assistant Secretary during the Reagan administration he] developed infrastructure to ensure a balance between public accessibility and resource protection with the Virginia state park system. During his tenure, educational facilities, nature centers, additional trails, qualified staff and other resources were enhanced. Steve expanded and strengthened environmental controls of coal mines and worked to strengthen Virginia environmental laws and enact tough new environmental standards to protect Virginia's streams and rivers from mining activities through enactment of the Virginia Surface Mining and Reclamation Act… As Deputy Director [of the Office of Surface Mining] he installed performance-based standards to assure greater environmental protection and higher compliance. " 
These complimentary phrases belie his actual record. Described as "an arrogant booster of the very energy cartel he was meant to regulate" and "a congressional investigation waiting to happen" by Jeffrey St. Clair in Counterpunch, Griles is a well-known coal, oil and energy industry lobbyist who has engaged in significant conflicts of interest in maintaining his strong lobbying ties as Deputy Secretary. 
Griles' first stint at Interior
Griles has moved between government and industry more than once in his career. In 1970 he was the executive director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Economic Development. During the Reagan administration he joined the Department of the Interior for the first time, where he served under Secretary James Gaius Watt.
While at the Interior Department, Griles was the deputy director for the Office of Surface Mining (1981-1983), deputy assistant secretary for Land and Water (1983-1984) and the assistant secretary of Land and Minerals Management (1984-1989).
During this period Griles was responsible for a number of damaging policies that benefited industry to the detriment of the environment. In particular he:
- was heavily involved in efforts to downplay the risk of oil spills associated with proposed drilling off the California coast (this included attempting to cover up a damaging Fish and Wildlife memo that stated the risks of drilling off the coast of California) 
- reduced the amount corporations have to pay in royalty rates charged for extracting underground coal from 8 percent to 5 percent
- sold titles to federal oil and shale tracts for $2.50 an acre (far below their market value). A private company bought a 17,000-acre claim for $42,000, which it sold months later for $37 million. 
- exhibited an extemely combative attitude toward congressional oversight. He even tried to use the Freedom of Information Act to find out how much money and time the GAO used to investigate his actions related to some coal leases in western Colorado.
Griles moved into lobbying
After leaving the Interior Department, Griles held a number of industry lobbying positions:
- Senior vice president of public environmental and marketing activities for the United Company. 1989-1995 (coal, oil and gas, cogeneration, gold mining and manufacturing)
- Principal with National Environmental Strategies (NES), 1995 (energy and mining)
- Founder of J. Steven Griles and Associates, his own lobbying firm, which represented over 40 coal, oil, gas and electric companies and trade associations, including: Arch Coal, American Gas Association, National Mining Association, and Occidental Petroleum Corporation
Griles returns to Interior
Returning to the Interior Department as second in command in July 2001, Griles continued to work closely with former industry clients in clear violation of two separate recusal agreements. Numerous phone calls and dinner dates with former industry clients were revealed in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
Griles met with a number of his former clients and top White House officials on "the 'definition of fill' rulemaking, the new source review component of the Clean Air Act and the development of thousands of coal bed methane wells in the West." According to Environmental Media Services, Griles calls these meetings "social and informational." He also attempted to pressure the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) into changing its analysis criticizing a coal bed methane project in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana.  
Friends of the Earth, which exposed the story, noted that before his appointment to the Interior Department, Griles had worked as a lobbyist on behalf of several coal bed methane companies involved in drilling gas wells on public lands in the basin.
Additional ties to industry include the receipt of $284,000.00 a year as part of a $1.1 million payment for his client base from National Environmental Strategies (NES), the oil and gas lobbying firm Griles worked for. As deputy secretary of the Interior, Griles is charged with overseeing and revamping environmental regulations that affect the profits of his former clients and NES's current clients.  Since assuming office Griles has:
- pushed rollbacks in environmental standards for air and water;
- advocated increased oil and gas drilling on public lands
- tried to exempt the oil industry from royalty payments
- sought to create new loopholes in regulations governing stripmining.
Griles also sat on the President's senior policy group for the "Clear Skies" initiative (a misleading euphemistic name for a policy that is notorious for easing restrictions on corporate polluters), participating in at least 11 of its meetings. Edison Electric Institute, a former Griles client, was reported to have been present at one of those meetings.
In Griles' headlong rush to implement industry's agenda, the true purpose of his position, that of a protector of the environment, has been lost. Kristen Sykes, the Griles watchdog at Friends of the Earth noted that "[there are] over ten pages of energy meetings that he has had since he's been at the Interior Department…You don't see meetings on what are we gonna do about our visitor centers that are crumbling in our national parks. You see meetings with Alaska officials about drilling in the arctic. You see meetings about oil and gas development in Wyoming. This is not an agency that is created just to implement the President's energy plan. It's to protect our lands for future generations." 
Far from protecting our lands, Griles has used his position to exploit them to benefit his former industry clients. Griles' repeated meetings with past clients in spite of his recusal agreements finally prompted an investigation by the Inspector General of the Department of Interior in 2003. 
But this is nothing unusual for the current Interior Department, where former lobbyists are the rule and environmentalists are an endangered species. As Bill Moyers noted in a special investigative report on Griles: "[W]hen it comes to representing the interests of industry inside the department, J. Steven Griles has lots of company. To be sure, you can grow dizzy just thinking about Interior's revolving door."
Griles leaves interior again
On December 7, 2004, Griles announced his resignation from DOI. Noting his controversial tenure, the Washington Post noted, "An 18-month investigation by the department's inspector general found that [Griles] had dealings with energy and mining industry clients of National Environmental Strategies Inc. even as he continued to receive payments from his former firm. The report did not accuse Griles of violating any laws or federal ethics rules." 
Griles took aim at his critics as he prepared to leave, saying that those who "came after me with a political agenda opposed this president at the very beginning. ... In 22 years of service, I have assured that the environment is healthier, the air is clearer, the water is safer and the land is being reclaimed. At the same time, there is a tremendous need for energy in this county." 
Griles' superior, Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, wrote in response to his resignation, "Yours is the letter I hoped would never come." David Hirsch of the environmental group Friends of the Earth said of Griles' plans to take a private sector job, "That's the whole problem: He never left private life. He spent four years working for his former clients at the Department of Interior. ... He's the Energizer Bunny of conflict of interest." 
According to 'Mother Jones':
So how did a process mandated by a federal judge "to minimize, to the maximum extent practicable, the adverse environmental effects" from mountaintop removal become a vehicle for industry?
Two words: Steven Griles. Never heard of him? You're not supposed to. Steven Griles is one of industry's moles within the Bush administration. Before coming to work as deputy secretary of the Interior, Griles was one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington, with a long list of energy-industry clients, including the National Mining Association and several of the country's largest coal companies.
On August 1, 2001, Griles signed a "statement of disqualification," promising to stay clear of issues involving his former clients. Despite that promise, according to his own appointment calendar (obtained by environmental groups through the Freedom of Information Act), Griles met repeatedly with coal companies while the administration worked on the mountaintop-removal issue.
Griles has denied discussing the "fill rule" in any of those meetings. But on August 4, 2001 -- three days after signing his recusal letter -- he gave a speech beforethe West Virginia Coal Association, reassuring members that "we will fix the federal rules very soon on water and spoil placement."
Two months later, Griles sent a letter to the EPA and other agencies drafting the EIS, complaining that they were not doing enough to safeguard the future of mountaintop removal and instructing them to "focus on centralizing and streamlining coal mine permitting."
- Bush regime environmental record
- Government-industry revolving door
- Italia Federici
- Regulatory lapdogs
- Department of the Interior biography on James Steven Griles.
- Wikipedia background information on Steven Griles.
- "J. Steven Griles--Deputy Secretary," Earthjustice Whitehouse Watch Administration Profile.
- "The Case Against Griles," a campaign to remove Griles from office; led by a coalition of environmental groups including Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Citizens Coal Council, Friends of the Earth and Common Assets Defense Council.
- "The Case against J. Steven Griles, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior," Friends of the Earth, undated.
- 2003 League of Conservation Voters Presidential Scorecard (PDF file), with special notation on Griles titled "Industry Lobbyist Turned Interior Official Accused of Helping Former Clients."
- M.E. Sprengelmeyer, Bush chooses energy lobbyist for No. 2 at Interior," Albuquerque Tribune, March 08, 2001.
- "J. Steven Griles: Coal Lobbyist Nominated for Interior Second in Command," CLEAR project's backgound on Griles, March 9, 2001.
- Jake Tapper, "Greens red with rage: The man known as the Mike Tyson of the coal and oil industries is on his way to an Interior post with little opposition from the Democrats," Salon.com, May 23, 2001.
- "No Greens Need Apply," New York Times Editorial, August 19, 2001.
- Letter to EPA from Griles; Subject: Proposed EPA Region 8 Letter on Coalbed Methane - EIS's Prepared by the Department of the Interior - Wyoming and Montana, (reprinted by Friends of the Earth), April 12, 2002.
- "Deputy Secretary of the Interior Commits Flagrant Ethics Violation: J. Steven Griles Caught Lobbying EPA on Behalf of Former Clients, Flouting Formal Recusal Agreements," Press Release, May 25, 2002.
- Sasha Polakow-Suransky, "The West's Griles virus: industry's man in interior," American Prospect, September 9, 2002.
- "Groups Demand That Bush Oust #2 At Interior Over Ethics Violations: Release Documents Revealing J. Steven Griles Involved in Decisions Benefiting Energy Companies That Were His Clients," Press Release, September 25, 2002.
- Ken Ward Jr., "Interior Official Maintains Coal Ties," Charleston Gazette, September 29, 2002.
- "Steven Griles Accused of Blurring Lobbying and Government Jobs," Environmental Media Services, March 5, 2003.
- "Lieberman Seeks Probe of Deputy Secretary Griles' Adherence to Ethics Agreements: Interior Official Met with former Clients With Interests Before the Department, News Reports Say," Media Release, April 7, 2003.
- H. Josef Hebert, "Inspector general examines ethics enforcement program at Interior Department," Environmental News Network, May 13, 2003.
- Who is J. Steven Griles, and why should you care?" Transcript of Bill Moyers NOW investigation on conflicts of interest in the Interior Department, May 30, 2003.
- Jeffrey St. Clair, "Meet Steven Griles: Big Oil's Inside Man," CounterPunch, June 28, 2003.
- Eyal Press, "Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch," The Nation, September 23, 2004.
- Juliet Eilperin, "Interior Department's No. 2 Resigns After Controversial Tenure," Washington Post, December 8, 2004.
- Matthew Daly, "Nethercutt joins firm led by ex-Cheney energy adviser," Asssociated Press (Spokesman-Review), January 31, 2005.
- Andy Sullivan, "Ex-official denies link to lobbyist Abramoff," Reuters (Boston Globe), November 2, 2005.
- Andy Sullivan, "Ex-U.S. official pleads guilty in Abramoff probe," Reuters, March 23, 2007.
- Richard B. Schmitt, "Former Interior deputy guilty in Abramoff case. J. Steven Griles, whom the lobbyist once called 'our guy' in the department, also admitted to lying about a relationship with an Abramoff employee," Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2007.
- Jerry Seper, "Ex-Interior No. 2 lied in lobbyist case," Washington Times, March 24, 2007.
- Susan Schmidt, "Prison Time Is Urged for Griles. Ex-Interior Official Admitted Lying About Ties to Abramoff," Washington Post, June 16, 2007.
- Paul Kiel, "Prosecutors Detail Favor Trail between Abramoff, DoI Official," TPMmuckraker, June 16, 2007.
- Bill Berkowitz, "J. Steven Griles did the crime but doesn't want to do the time", Media Transparency, June 19, 2007.