Trump energy aide Catanzaro heads back to lobbying firm

By Timothy Gardner

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's top aide on domestic energy issues, including biofuels quotas and scrapping Obama-era rules on car and power plant carbon emissions, is stepping down to return to the lobbying practice he left last year, a White House official said on Tuesday.

Mike Catanzaro, who has worked in the Washington energy and politics arena for at least 15 years, became special assistant to President Donald Trump for domestic energy and environmental policy in February 2017, a role within the National Economic Council.

He will be replaced by Francis Brooke, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, who will start on April 30, the official said.

Catanzaro previously served in the U.S. Senate, the Environmental Protection Agency, and in the White House under President George W. Bush. Under Trump, he worked at the White House with George David Banks, who handled international energy and environmental issues such as the president's plan to leave the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Catanzaro, whose move was first reported by E&E News, joins other economics officials who have recently left the White House after a chaotic year. Banks resigned in February because of difficulties getting security clearance. Gary Cohn, who was Trump's top economic adviser, resigned last month.

Larry Kudlow, Cohn's replacement, said in a release that Catanzaro's dedication to Trump's energy priorities was "greatly valued and he will be missed."

Catanzaro will return to CGCN Group, an advocacy and public relations company, as a consultant and adviser. Previously he worked at CGCN for clients who pushed Washington to lift a 40-year-old ban on oil exports as shale drilling led to explosive growth in crude output. Congress killed the ban in late 2015 after President Barack Obama's administration had allowed exports of some light oil.

CGCN managing partner Steve Clark said in a statement that Catanzaro's White House experience "will be an invaluable resource" to clients and that the firm will make sure he complies with all relevant ethics guidelines.

Days after taking office in 2017, Trump, who promised to "drain the swamp" in Washington, signed an executive order that said his appointees would refrain from lobbying their own agency for five years after leaving, although there is no criminal penalty for doing so.

The White House aide also said Catanzaro will abide by all ethics rules that apply to lobbying the administration.

Under Pence, Brooke has had a low profile. Last year he moderated a panel at U.N. climate talks on how fossil fuels and nuclear power will be part of the energy future.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; editing by Susan Thomas and Tom Brown)