Published: Tue, February 05, 2019
Research | By Raquel Erickson

President Trump Announces a New Interior Secretary

President Trump Announces a New Interior Secretary

President Donald Trump announced he would nominate acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to replace Ryan Zinke, who left the administration late a year ago.

If confirmed by the Senate, Bernhardt, the deputy secretary, would succeed Ryan Zinke at the helm of the Interior Department, an $11 billion agency that oversees drilling, grazing and other activities on public land.

"David has done a fantastic job from the day he arrived, and we look forward to having his nomination officially confirmed", Trump said on Twitter.

If confirmed by the Senate, Bernhardt will be in charge of an agency with an $11 billion budget and 70,000 employees.

In a statement, Bernhardt called it a "humbling privilege to be nominated to lead a department whose mission I love, to accomplish the balanced, commonsense vision of our president".

If Bernhardt ascends to secretary, it would mirror the change of guard at the Environmental Protection Agency where last July Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, replaced Scott Pruitt, who stepped down after a series of probes into his conduct.

Environmentalists were quick to criticize Trump's decision.

"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 flawless example of everything wrong with this administration". This will include confirmation hearings before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

After working as a top Interior Department official in the George W. Bush White House, Bernhardt went on to lobby for oil and gas companies as a partner with the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck before joining the Trump administration.

Bernhardt also worked as a lobbyist and lawyer for several oil and gas companies and other interests that sometimes have regulatory matters before the department.

Under leadership of Mr. Zinke and Mr. Bernhardt, the Interior Department has pushed to open more Alaskan wilderness and offshore waters to oil and gas development.

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