Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Environmental groups seek to block Bernhardt's confirmation at Interior

More than 100 environmental groups began an eleventh-hour push Wednesday to block President Trump's pick for Interior Department deputy secretary, an agency veteran from the George W. Bush administration. The groups sent a letter to all senators asking that they not support the nomination of David Bernhardt ahead of Thursday's confirmation hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The groups are playing up Bernhardt's representation of oil, coal and mining companies during his career in private legal practice as a major conflict of interest that will jeopardize the nation's federal lands. "Mr. Bernhardt was one of the Bush administration's point people in the push to promote oil drilling from the Arctic to Wyoming," the letter said. "As [Interior's] solicitor he authored several controversial legal opinions, including one that stated the department could not use the Endangered Species Act to address the threats of climate change to polar bears even if the species was protected under the act." The groups want senators to press him on his recusal promises, adding that "he should not seek, accept or be granted any exemptions from issues that he may have a conflict," the letter read. "The Senate, at a minimum, must make this clear." Democrats used the issue of recusal in an attempt to block Scott Pruitt's nomination to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. And they continue to prod the EPA administrator over his past role as attorney general of Oklahoma...more

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