Monday, November 28, 2016

The Big Oil Allies and Beltway Insiders Leading Trump’s Department of the Interior — and How to Resist Them

By Jimmy Tobias

If Washington, D.C., is a swamp, as Donald Trump likes to say, then Doug Domenech and David Bernhardt are some of the swamp’s most-seasoned serpents. Consummate Republican operatives with close ties to Big Oil and other extractive industries, both Domenech and Bernhardt are leading players in the Trump team’s Department of the Interior transition. They’re the guys helping the president-elect staff a bureaucracy that manages 500 million acres of federal land, implements the Endangered Species Act, runs the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and controls key oil and gas leasing programs, among other duties. And their ascension is an ugly omen for this country’s public lands and wildlife. Bernhardt, for his part, has a long history as a right-wing influence peddler. Before sidling up to Trump, he spent eight years as a lawyer and lobbyist at the powerhouse firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. During his time there, according to federal disclosure forms, Bernhardt represented Samson Resources, an oil and gas developer in the American West. He lobbied on behalf of Rosemont Copper, a proposed open pit mine on national forest land in Arizona. And he represented wind developers, Vail Resorts, and California’s Westlands Water District, which is a determined foe of the Endangered Species Act. In the George W. Bush era, Bernhardt was a high-level official in the Interior, where he had a mixed record. On one hand, he presided over the federal protection of the polar bear, flawed though it was. And on the other, he helped craft rules that exempted carbon emissions from regulatory authority. Bernhardt was brought in first to lead Trump’s Interior transition. Recently, though, as the incoming administration tried to distance itself from lobbyists, it was announced that Domenech had taken over. It is unclear what role, if any, Bernhardt still has. The Trump team did not provide comment. Like Bernhardt, Domenech served in the Bush administration. Like Bernhardt, he was part of an Interior leadership team that was cozy with fossil fuel interests and plagued by ethics scandals. Domenech was even tangentially involved in the Jack Abramoff corruption affair, as the Denver Post has reported. More recently, he became the director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s “Fueling Freedom” project, which seeks to explain “the forgotten moral case for fossil fuels.”...more

 In my upcoming column I report on how unhappy the enviros are.

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