David Bernhardt confirmed as Interior Secretary

Wheeler on biggest environmental threat

The U.S. Senate confirmed David Bernhardt as the new Secretary of the Interior on Thursday, amid concerns about his conduct when he was a lobbyist for oil, mining and extractive industries. Democrats have called for Bernhardt to be investigated and questioned whether a former lobbyist for industries harmful to the environment should oversee public lands.

Bernhardt was confirmed largely along party lines in a 56-to-41 vote. Bernhardt was confirmed as Deputy Secretary of the Interior in 2017, where he has helped guide much of the Trump administration’s deregulatory policies that has increased fossil fuel production on public lands. He became Acting Secretary of the Interior in January, after Ryan Zinke stepped down amid ethics concerns.

In March, Politico reported that executives from Independent Petroleum Association of America, an oil industry lobbying group, had bragged about their access to Bernhardt. In February, The New York Times reported that Bernhardt had weakened endangered species protections on a California fish while in office, a move that benefited his former clients. Bernhardt denied wrongdoing.

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Democrats have also alleged that Bernhardt continued his lobbying activities even after he filed paperwork ending his time as a lobbyist. In his Senate confirmation testimony last month, Bernhardt said that he takes pride in acting ethically.

“I believe public trust is a public responsibility, and maintaining ethical culture is critical,” he said.

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