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Fast Path from Gov't into Oil and Gas Industry Ires NDP Critic

Ministry tight-lipped on why it cleared bureaucrat to work for EOG Resources.

By Sean Holman, 16 Sep 2010, TheTyee.ca

NDP critic John Horgan

NDP's John Horgan: 'Not how we should be operating.'

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Senior bureaucrats aren't supposed to work for any company they've recently had substantial involvement with for at least a year after leaving the provincial civil service.

But the Campbell administration decided those guidelines didn't conflict with the former head of the government's oil and gas division joining the Canadian subsidiary of EOG Resources Inc. -- a Houston, Texas-based firm developing natural gas reserves in northeastern British Columbia.

Gordon Goodman was put in charge of that government division more than two years ago.

In that position, he was responsible for administering programs that can, in certain circumstances, reduce the amount of money -- or royalties -- companies must pay the province when extracting oil and gas resources.

According to records obtained via a freedom of information request, two applications approved by Goodman in 2009 for such reductions came from EOG Resources Canada Inc.

An energy and mines ministry spokesperson stressed those applications, which had been reviewed and recommended by government staff, were among hundreds Goodman gave the green light to.

One of them will provide the company with a $3.84 million royalty credit to help EOG build a road to shale gas projects in the Horn River Basin.

The other will reduce the royalty rate for the first phase of development for those projects.

In a letter dated Jan. 4, 2010, Goodman notified EOG the government had finalized that rate reduction.

Three months later, on April 16, he left the civil service to work for the company.

Now a lobbyist for firm he granted breaks

It's unclear what Goodman's new responsibilities are with EOG.

When we called its Calgary office last Wednesday, an individual in the general manager's office told us Goodman's title was "government and regulatory affairs" manager.

A day later, the Calgary office's front desk described him as EOG's "health and safety" manager.

Meanwhile, the energy and mines spokesperson stated last Thursday that Goodman was the company's "health, safety and environment" manager.

But a citizens' services ministry spokesperson added this week he was also responsible for "regulatory affairs."

What is clear, though, is that, on June 23, Goodman registered as an in-house lobbyist for the company.

He signed up to lobby the government about its "oil and gas regulatory structure" to enhance EOG's "efficiency and cost effectiveness."

He's also registered to lobby for fiscal measures to help make a proposed liquified natural gas export terminal near the Port of Kitimat "economic."

EOG owns a 49 per cent stake in that terminal.

Government ruled 'no conflict'

According to government guidelines, senior bureaucrats must wait a year before they can be hired by a company they had "substantial involvement" with during the "year immediately preceding" the end of their employment.

Nor can they lobby for or give counsel to such a firm for that period.

But the energy and mines spokesperson stated the government assessed Goodman's case and determined that "there was no conflict in his moving directly to work for EOG after leaving government."

That assessment was made after Goodman contacted the province's public service agency "to ensure he was not in conflict regarding government's post-employment restrictions."

The citizens' services spokesperson declined to provide specifics on why the agency found Goodman wasn't in a conflict with those restrictions. But New Democrat energy, mines and petroleum resources critic John Horgan called the decision "outrageous."

Path into industry

"To have an internal review saying we've reviewed the matter and found no conflict is not how we should be operating," said Horgan, adding British Columbia needs a law, not just guidelines, barring such activity.

"How you can go from giving royalty breaks to a company to being in their employ to being the advocate on their behalf to government without anyone recognizing that is a problem demonstrates the tin ear that this government has when it comes to conflict of interest."

Goodman isn't the first senior energy and mines resources staffer to have recently joined the private sector. In May, the then minister responsible's top political aide Natalie Poole-Moffatt left to become a senior government affairs advisor for Apache Canada Ltd.

Apache owns the remaining 51 per cent stake of the proposed Kitimat liquified natural gas export terminal.

When she resigned, the government confirmed Poole-Moffatt reached an agreement to have no professional contact with ministry officials or the minister's office for a period of one year.

As a political staffer, the post-employment guidelines for senior bureaucrats didn't apply to Poole-Moffatt.

Goodman didn't return phone calls and an email from Public Eye. Nor did EOG vice-president and general manager Billy Helms respond to requests for comment.  [Tyee]

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