Swamp Monster Video Sends Message to Interior Secretary Bernhardt: Stop Doing Polluters’ Dirty Work

Industry Ties to Trump Administration Highlighted With Video on Truck Parked Outside Public Forum

Bernhardt Swamp

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A video running on a loop for eight hours today outside the U.S. Department of the Interior has a clear message: Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is too close to the fossil fuel industry to oversee public lands.

The showing of the video on a giant TV screen parked outside the department, coincides with a public forum about the Trump administration’s efforts to unravel a key law that mandates thorough environmental impact reviews.

Public Citizen created the video and organized its showing.

The video, accompanied by ominous music, shows that it’s difficult to distinguish between Bernhardt – a former oil and gas lobbyist – and a creature of the Washington, D.C., “swamp” of lobbyists and corporate cronies that President Donald Trump derided as a candidate but now embraces wholeheartedly.

Public Citizen is one of numerous environmental groups participating today in the “Rally to Protect Your Voice” protest of the Trump administration’s effort to gut the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by dramatically scaling back environmental review requirements for new energy plants, oil and gas wells and pipelines, and other major projects.

Under NEPA, the public must have a voice on proposed projects in their communities. But gutting this crucial environmental protection is a top priority of industry groups with close ties to the Trump administration, especially the Interior Department.

A Public Citizen analysis released last month found that former lobbying and legal clients of Bernhardt have spent nearly $30 million lobbying the federal government since the start of the Trump administration. The report found that 17 former lobbying and legal clients who were on Bernhardt’s recusal list have lobbied the federal government since the start of the Trump administration.

“The extremely close ties between private-sector lobbying interests and the Trump administration are bearing fruit for those industries that want to exploit public lands,” said Alan Zibel, research director of Public Citizen’s Corporate Presidency Project. “Industry groups that came into the Trump administration with a lengthy wish list can now check off just about everything they desired.”

Trump’s proposal to gut NEPA would allow fossil fuel projects to proceed untrammeled, ignoring the true long-term environmental costs to the climate and to the planet. Doing so would let fossil fuel corporations off the hook, allowing them to ignore the harmful impacts of resource extraction and focus only on short-term profits. Under Trump’s proposal, fossil fuel corporations would have the ability to conduct their own environmental reviews – a blatant conflict of interest.

“Why bother checking about projects’ impact on the environment if you don’t care about protecting the environment anyway?” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Putting corporate bad actors and polluters before people might as well be the official motto of Trump and Bernhardt.”

Bernhardt was the deputy secretary then acting secretary of the department before being confirmed as secretary in April 2019. He is perhaps best known for carrying an index card listing all the corporations he lobbied for before going to the department. The list was so extensive that he needed a handy reference.

An activist dressed as a swamp monster attended Bernhardt’s confirmation hearing, sitting several rows behind Bernhardt, to reinforce his industry connections.

Learn more about Public Citizen’s work to expose Bernhardt’s corporate ties.