Some new reporting by Jimmy Tobias gives us more insight into the Boundary Waters reversal, which I’ve discussed in previous posts (1, 2, 3). Through a records request, Tobias obtained the calendar of Kathleen Benedetto, Special Assistant to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
Described as “a fixer for the mining companies,” Benedetto now helps oversee the Bureau of Land Management. She has publicly taken the position that conservation of public lands is a barrier to “progress.”
Tobias identifies at least six meetings or communications with mining interests on Benedetto’s calendar regarding the Twin Metals project in Superior National Forest, including the July 25th all-hands-on-deck meeting between high-ranking Interior officials and representatives of Antofagasta Plc. The calendar gives us a much fuller chronology and more detail than we previously had. Putting it together with the Jorjani calendar results in this timeline:
- Thu Apr 6, 2017. Benedetto: Ext. Meeting Boundary Waters [with?].
- Tue Apr 18, 2017 2:30pm Benedetto: Ext. Mtg. Twin Metals [with? Cf. Friday 16 June].
- Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:30pm Benedetto: Twin Metals. On the calendar of Karen Hawbecker, Associate Solicitor, Dept. of Interior.
- Fri Apr 28, 2017 11am Benedetto Meeting with Rob Lehman, WilmerHale re: Twin Metals Minnesota. On the calendar of Gareth Rees, Executive Assistant at US Department of the Interior.
- Fri Apr 28 2017 4pm Benedetto: Twin Metals briefing. On the calendar of Briana Collier. U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Solicitor.
- Wed May 3, 2017 11am Meet and Greet with Representatives of Save the Boundary Waters.
- Friday, May 26, 2017: Jorjani call with Rachel Jacobson of WilmerHale, regarding a “DC Bar Event.”
- Fri Jun 9, 2017 10:30am Benedetto: Chat w/Timothy Martin from Wilmerhale, re: Twin Metals – Minnesota. On the calendar of Katharine MacGregor, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management.
- June 14, 2017, Daniel Jorjani meets with Raya Treiser and Andy Spielman of WilmerHale.
- Fri Jun 16, 2017 4pm Benedetto Ext. Mtg. Twin Metals – Bob McFarlin [at that time, Vice President of Public and Government Affairs, Twin Metals Minnesota].
- Mon Jun 19, 2017, 11am Meeting w/ USDA and DOI on Twin Metals Superior National Forest. On the calendar of Katharine MacGregor.
- Tue Jul 25, 2017 1pm All Hands on Deck for meeting with Antofagasta Plc re: Twin Metals Minnesota Project. On the calendar of Gareth Rees.
- Thursday, Sept 7th, 2017 internal meeting on Twin Metals: Daniel Jorjani with Jack Haugrud.
- Friday, Dec 22, 2017 Principal Deputy Solicitor Jordan releases Memo M-37049, allowing Twin Metals to renew its leases of Superior National Forest lands.
We now know that Interior was meeting with Twin Metals representatives and holding internal meetings about Twin Metals as early as mid April of 2017. (This would have been a little over a month before Rachel Jacobson of WilmerHale contacted Deputy Solicitor Daniel Jorjani regarding “a DC Bar Event” — which, in a previous post, I speculated might have teed up the lobbying effort.) An offsite or “ext.” meeting with Twin Metals representatives on April 18 seems to kick things off — though who attended an earlier meeting on April 6th about the Boundary Waters is unclear. The entry for another offsite meeting, on Friday June 16th, suggests that Benedetto’s counterpart at Twin Metals was Bob McFarlin, who was at that time Twin Metals Vice President of Public and Government Affairs.
There were five meetings about the Twin Metals project before Benedetto hosted a “meet and greet” with a Boundary Waters conservation group on May 3rd, 2017.
It’s also worth noting on whose calendar some of Benedetto’s meetings are scheduled, and where possible I’ve added that detail to the timeline. It helps us get a sense of who is in the room with Benedetto, and just how many people in the upper ranks at the Department of Interior were involved in reversing the Obama-era protections.
For example, after Benedetto’s first external meeting with Twin Metals, she meets the very next day with Karen Hawbecker, who works for Deputy Solicitor Daniel Jorjani. This puts the matter in the Office of the Solicitor right away. Benedetto’s first meeting with lobbyists from WilmerHale on behalf of Twin Metals originates from the calendar of Gareth Rees, Executive Assistant at US Department of the Interior. WilmerHale is working at the highest levels of the Department. Another meeting with WilmerHale involves Benedetto and Katharine MacGregor, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. According to the Western Values Project, MacGregor is a known “ally of the oil and gas industry” and an advocate for allowing oil pipelines to pass through national parks.