With Ryan Zinke gone at the Department of the Interior, his former Deputy Secretary is temporarily filling his shoes. David Bernhardt is the oil industry's dream for the role: His deep connections with the industry and eagerness to open federal lands to oil and gas exploration are great for business.
But they're bad for the environment, and for America. We don't want a man riddled with conflicts of interest heading up an agency that plays such a big role in deciding if and how our natural resources are used, and we don't want a man who just spent years lobbying for the oil industry in charge of deciding if and where we drill. Especially since he's shown himself to be hostile to conservation and disinterested in protecting public lands for all to enjoy.
That's just what Bernhardt can do for up to 210 days now that Zinke is gone. Trump has to nominate a replacement within that time frame, but that would essentially stop the clock, allowing Bernhardt to serve indefinitely if the Senate dragged confirmation hearings. That's undemocratic, and the president needs to know that we won't stand for it.
Trump needs to formally nominate a Secretary of the Interior so the Senate can hold hearings and the public can comment on this important cabinet position.
That person should be someone with the policy experience and skills needed to head a major federal agency, and that person shouldn't be burdened by so many conflicts of interest that it's impossible to perform job responsibilities without bias. If Trump won't do his duty, Congress must hold him accountable.
Photo credit: US Department of Agriculture