U.S. President Donald Trump and acting U.S. Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt arrive to place a wreath at the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Published February 5, 2019
WASHINGTON — Earlier Monday, President Donald Trump announced he would nominate David Bernhardt to serve as Secretary of the Interior. By Monday evening, concerns were expressed over the pending Bernhardt nomination.
The U.S. Department of the Interior houses Indian Affairs, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education.
Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs released this statement late Monday afternoon:
“I have serious concerns regarding Mr. Bernhardt’s record of working almost exclusively for corporations to profit off of America’s natural resources at the high cost of polluting our environment – concerns I also had when he was nominated to serve as deputy secretary. There are many reasons to be skeptical that, as Interior Secretary, Mr. Bernhardt will faithfully pursue the mission of this critical agency to protect and manage our threatened public lands, waters, environment, and wildlife for future generations. We do not need another secretary with a polluters over people agenda—who opens the door to corporate lobbyists and donors while shutting out Native voices, the scientific community, and the American people. On many of the most critical matters facing the Interior Department – from Tribal sovereignty, to conservation and protection of public land, to the fate of endangered wildlife and ecosystems – I fear things could go from bad to worse under new leadership.
“I hope Mr. Bernhardt will surprise us and make a case for changing direction at the Department of Interior. At a minimum he must present – with full transparency before the Senate— his many serious potential conflicts of interest so Congress can properly vet him and carry-out a confirmation process that protects our public lands, natural resources, and the American people.”
Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee were quick to offer resistance to Bernhardt’s nomination. Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) released the following statement:
“David Bernhardt spent much of his career lobbying for fossil fuel and agricultural interests, and the president putting him in charge of regulating his former clients is a perfect example of everything wrong with this administration. We intend to conduct vigorous oversight of Mr. Bernhardt’s industry ties and how they may influence his policy decisions. This administration has lost the benefit of the doubt, thanks in no small part to Ryan Zinke’s failed tenure at the Interior Department. We expect Mr. Bernhardt to right the ship and will act in his absence if he doesn’t
The executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League released this statement:
“Acting Secretary Bernhardt is a strong oil and gas ally with a long pattern of putting fossil fuel interests first and the sound stewardship of our natural resources a distant second. Nowhere is this pattern more alarming than with Alaska’s public lands and waters. It was Mr. Bernhardt’s decision to keep oil and gas lease sales and permitting moving in Alaska and across the country during the government shutdown, even as national parks were shuddered and vital services were being ignored.
During his time in the George W. Bush administration, Bernhardt notoriously altered or omitted data to distort Interior Department conclusions about the Arctic Refuge in a bid to advance drilling. As a lawyer in private practice, he represented the State of Alaska in its quest to push through seismic testing in the Arctic Refuge. And as Deputy and now Acting Secretary, he is pushing a rushed, inadequate review of the impacts of oil and gas development in Arctic wilderness in order to hold a lease sale twice as fast as Congress stipulated in its 2017 tax bill. Under his direction, BLM is allowing outdated and incomplete science to make the critical decision about whether and how oil and gas development will occur in one of the world’s most iconic landscapes.
Notwithstanding his conflicts, Mr. Bernhardt has refused to recuse himself the Arctic Refuge decision-making process. In considering whether to confirm him as steward of our nation’s millions of acres of public lands and waters, Senators should consider that he has shown no indication that he will put the broad interests of the American people or our future generations ahead of those seeking short term profit or personal gain.”