Trump to tap ex-energy lobbyist David Bernhardt to head Interior

Mindy Sparks
February 5, 2019

No sooner had President Donald Trump named Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt Monday as his choice for permanent head of the department than speculation started over whether he would now do the same for other acting officials in his Administration.

Bernhardt, now the acting secretary at the Interior Department, is widely expected to continue pushing the Trump administration's plan to boost domestic fossil fuels production by opening more US public lands to drilling and mining.

The president now has an acting defense secretary, acting attorney general, acting chief of staff, acting ambassador to the United Nations and acting Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

The interior department called its effort important to bolstering U.S. energy independence. This will include confirmation hearings before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Mr. Bernhardt, who is from Colorado, first served in Interior as a political appointee under President George W. Bush, becoming the agency's top lawyer.

Despite their letter calling him a "walking conflict of interest", the Senate confirmed Bernhardt 53-43, on a mostly party-line vote, and with strong support from Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and other lawmakers who have large areas of US lands in their states.

Republicans say Bernhardt's revolving-door experience makes him an informed regulator in matters before the agency.

"Bernhardt got this nomination as a reward for months of work cramming America's natural heritage into a wood chipper", said Kieran Suckling, the executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity advocacy group, one of many environmental organizations condemning Trump's intended nomination.

After working under Bush, Bernhardt became a lawyer and lobbyist at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck for water and oil interests.

Zinke resigned as secretary in December as he faced pressure stemming from several investigations regarding real estate dealings and conduct.

Bernhardt would also oversee the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's (ANWR) coastal plain to oil and gas exploration.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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