Head of Oil Lobbying Powerhouse API to Step Down After Decade
(Bloomberg) -- The leader of the American Petroleum Institute will leave the industry’s top Washington lobbying group in August, after helping win new places to drill, expand markets for U.S. oil and defeat a Trump administration plan to subsidize coal-fired power plants.
Jack Gerard’s exit will come at the end of two five-year contracts with the trade group. API’s executive committee now will lead the search for a successor, with the expectation of having a new CEO in place by Sept. 1, Gerard said in a message to staff Wednesday.
“We have accomplished what few would have imagined: important public policy victories at all levels of government and a revitalized association that has expanded globally and added significant strength to its advocacy capabilities,” Gerard, 60, said in a news release.
Since joining the group in 2008, Gerard helped broaden API’s reach and visibility in the nation’s capital, sometimes by doing rhetorical battle with the Obama administration. Among his targets: a permitting slow down in the wake of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, policies designed to throttle greenhouse gas emissions and new mandates for drilling on public land.
In the past decade, the group has expanded its membership by 50 percent, built a grassroots network of 45 million Americans to advocate on energy policy and tripled global operations.
API also notched many policy successes, Gerard said in an interview, including the end of a ban on most crude exports, and a law opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain to drilling. The Trump administration also is moving to roll back or rewrite a host of regulations governing the industry.
"He has unified our industry, expanded our global reach, heightened our effectiveness and navigated a number of significant public policy challenges to a successful conclusion," Exxon Mobil Corp. Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods said in a news release.
Gerard’s tenure at API has not been without controversy. Even Gerard’s supporters dubbed him “Voldemort,” a reference to the villain in the Harry Potter series of books and movies, for the lobbyist’s willingness to do battle. With a salary of more than $5 million and $1.3 million in other compensation in 2015, according to the latest API tax filing available online, Gerard is among the highest paid trade association leaders in Washington, alongside the leaders of other energy, pharmaceutical and business groups. Before joining the American Petroleum Institute, he led the National Mining Association and the American Chemistry Council.
API’s decision to fight state and federal proposals to subsidize coal-fired power also has drawn controversy. Although some states have enacted policies meant to help keep coal power plants online amid competition from cheaper, cleaner burning natural gas, federal regulators rejected Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s plan to subsidize struggling coal and nuclear plants earlier this month.
Gerard defended API’s approach Wednesday.
"While some would seek to ask for government assistance, if you will, to reshape markets, we operate on the fundamental premise that the free market brings the most efficient, fair market to the American consumer," Gerard said. "We support all forms of energy. What we don’t support is government intervention and efforts to skew marketplaces favoring one energy over the other."
Gerard, a father of eight children, said he’s not sure what will come after he leaves API, but intends "to stay active in the public policy debate."
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