Longtime lobbyist David Bernhardt would carry on anti-conservation attack
UPDATE: David Bernhardt was confirmed as Interior secretary on April 11, 2019.
Learn more about his track record of doing favors for oil and gas interests.
Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has been nominated to take over for former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. But expect the Trump administration’s climate change-denying, drill-everywhere approach to continue.
A longtime special interest lobbyist and DC insider prior to joining the Trump administration, Bernhardt has continually undermined science and tried to shut the public out of decision-making while making it easier for energy companies to drill, mine and pollute.
Zinke was a remarkably destructive cabinet member, moving the nation backwards on public lands issues and responsible energy development while putting fossil fuel special interests in the driver’s seat and damaging the internal culture of the agency entrusted to him. After a year on the job, we were ready to call him the worst Interior secretary ever, and he has only cemented his claim to infamy since then.
But decisions to speed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, gut Bears Ears National Monument and reverse environmental protections didn’t originate with just one member of the Trump administration. The shortsighted “energy dominance” principles that guided Zinke’s actions – on behalf of friends in the oil, gas and mining industries – are still in full effect.
Indeed, it’s possible Bernhardt will be even worse, with deeper ties to polluters and special interests, a more advanced understanding of how to undermine the laws on the books and a longer track record of anti-conservation positions.
A longtime special interest lobbyist, David Bernhardt has continually undermined science and tried to shut the public out of decision-making while making it easier for energy companies to drill, mine and pollute.
Bernhardt, Zinke's second-in-command, is a former energy lobbyist with extensive ties to industry (famously, he carries a card in his wallet to help keep track of all his conflicts of interest). Per many media reports, Bernhardt has been the one steering the agency’s policy decisions at a granular level practically since the day he started.
What we know about David Bernhardt, longtime lobbyist:
A longtime special interest lobbyist and DC insider, Bernhardt has continually undermined science and tried to shut the public out of decision-making while making it easier for energy companies to drill, mine and pollute.
- As Zinke’s deputy, has personally overseen efforts to eliminate environmental protections and suggested the agency will aggressively cut protections under the Endangered Species Act.
- Exemplifies the Trump administration’s denial-and-delay approach to climate change, even as the body of scientific evidence grows showing it is a dire threat to public lands, America and the world at large. Bernhardt has suggested he doesn’t have any obligation to address climate change, and even gone so far as to erase internal memoranda and recommendations about preparing the U.S. for the threats.
- Was a catalyst behind the recent Trump administration decision to roll back key protections for the greater sage-grouse and push to allow drilling and mining in their wildlife-rich habitat. The sage-grouse plans are considered the product of one of the largest landscape conservation efforts in U.S. history, with broad and varied stakeholders, but they were fiercely opposed by oil and gas interests—including some of Bernhardt’s former clients.
- Has pushed intradepartmental rules some criticize as being designed to cherry-pick the science that goes into Interior policy and imposed arbitrary limits on environmental analysis and public input concerning how public lands and waters are managed.
- Both as a high-ranking Interior staffer under President George W. Bush and as an energy lobbyist, pushed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He once even presided over a federal report that misrepresented science to downplay threats to caribou herds.
- Has ethically problematic ties to oil and other corporate interests. For example, Bernhardt previously lobbied on behalf of a number of energy and mining companies to obstruct rules that cut air pollution and to increase oil and gas drilling.
Please stay tuned for how you can help us hold Bernhardt’s feet to the fire in the weeks and months ahead.