Inhofe Aide Who Wrote E-Mail Criticizing Energy Lobbyists Leaves Committee Staff

A senior Republican staffer who scolded oil and gas lobbyists in the spring for working too closely with the White House is leaving his post as deputy staff director for Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member James Inhofe, R-Okla., who disavowed some of the wording in his aide's e-mail after it was reported in National Journal.

“It’s been a privilege serving under Senator Inhofe, who all of you know is a champion of protecting the national interest and guarding against EPA overreach,” writes the staffer, George David Banks, in an e-mail to friends and colleagues on Monday.

Banks, who has been working for Inhofe since June 2011, writes in the more-than-500-word e-mail that “over the past several months, it’s become quite obvious to me that we are losing the war against politicized environmentalism.” He goes on to criticize the Environmental Protection Agency for becoming a “bully vis-à-vis our states and local governments.”

Banks, who lobbied for Constellation Energy (now merged with Exelon) and the Nuclear Energy Institute after working at the White House Council on Environmental Quality under President George W. Bush, said in the e-mail that he has not determined his next steps yet.

Katie Brown, press secretary for Inhofe, said in an e-mailed statement to National Journal: “We wish Dave the very best as he moves forward and thank him for his work on the committee over the past year.”

Banks’s tenure with Inhofe began and ended with controversy. Banks ruffled some feathers—including Inhofe's—when he sent an e-mail in April to two dozen lobbyists criticizing them for working too closely with the White House on a strategy for regulating natural gas production and for describing them as “partners” with the GOP. Inhofe distanced himself from the e-mail shortly after National Journal reported on it in May.

“I was unaware of the memo that my staff sent out,” Inhofe told National Journal. “I wouldn’t have used those words.” As for Banks's use of the word “partners” to describe the relationship between oil and gas lobbyists and Senate Republicans, Inhofe added: “All that does is give people a target to shoot at, and I don’t need any more targets right now.”

The decision last year by Inhofe—Washington’s most outspoken skeptic of global warming—to hire Banks raised eyebrows because of Banks’s work on climate-change issues while in the George W. Bush administration.

In fact, in 2009 Banks won a Climate Protection Award from EPA for his work on climate diplomacy, specifically for his work strengthening the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty adopted in 1987 to protect the Earth’s ozone layer.

John Coequyt, who directs the Sierra Club’s climate-change program and has praised Banks’s work on climate diplomacy in the past, said at the time of Banks’s hire last year: “We clearly maintain an open mind with Dave because we know him, but it certainly changes your view, with him going to work for Inhofe. It’s unlikely we’ll be able to work with him in this new position,” according to a Washington Post article on June 9, 2011.