Rejecting Bernhardt Should Be Easy

April 4, 2019

Rejecting Bernhardt Should Be Easy

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

Note: Today, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is voting on the nomination of Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to run the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Oil industry executives literally are laughing out loud about the influence they have in the Trump administration thanks to people like David Bernhardt, a former oil and gas lobbyist and now President Donald Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Interior. We know with absolute certainty that Bernhardt, if confirmed, will be a horrible secretary, because he already has been a catastrophic deputy secretary.

Even by the standards of Trump’s Washington, D.C., Bernhardt has so many conflicts of interest that he carries around a card listing his former clients to remind himself which companies he should not be dealing with. It’s not really clear why Bernhardt bothers carrying around the conflicts card, because there’s no sign that it has stopped him from carrying water for his former clients. He has intervened in numerous decisions on oil drilling and endangered species protection to advance the interests of the oil, gas and other companies for whom he previously lobbied.

In one case, he worked inside the Department of Interior to strip away endangered species protections that have blocked California agribusiness’s ability to tap San Francisco Bay Delta waters. He had advocated the same position prior to joining the department, when he was representing those agriculture interests. (Public Citizen filed an ethics complaint over this matter.)

Rejecting Bernhardt should be one of the easiest votes a senator will ever have to take. Will any Republicans choose to side with protecting our nation’s lands and public health over satisfying the demands of Big Oil?