Rifle’s David Bernhardt Bellyflops Into The Swamp

David Bernhardt (left).

As the New York Times reports–not that there was ever much doubt, but another Colorado Republican oil and gas attorney has won the job of Secretary of the Interior after David Bernhardt of Rifle was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a mostly party-line vote:

The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for the oil and agribusiness industries, as secretary of the interior. The confirmation of Mr. Bernhardt to his new post coincided with calls from more than a dozen Democrats and government watchdogs for formal investigations into his past conduct.

Senators voted 56-41, largely along party lines, in favor of Mr. Bernhardt’s confirmation. Two Democrats, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee, and Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, crossed party lines to vote in favor of Mr. Bernhardt.

As interior secretary, Mr. Bernhardt, who has already played a central role in designing many of Mr. Trump’s policies for expanding drilling and mining, will now serve as the nation’s senior steward of its 500 million acres of public land and vast coastal waters.

Colorado’s U.S. Senate split on the confirmation of Bernhardt, with Sen. Cory Gardner voting as pledged for Bernhardt’s confirmation and Michael Bennet voting against. Conservation Colorado’s Kelly Nordini issued this response to the vote:

“Being a Colorado native does not give David Bernhardt special qualifications for running the Department of the Interior, and shame on Senator Gardner for letting the fox guard the henhouse simply because he’s from the same neighborhood. Senator Gardner made a huge mistake with his vote today, given Bernhardt’s troubling record and spiraling conflicts of interest. Westerners love their public lands and the environment and Bernhardt cannot be entrusted to protect them on our behalf.

“Senator Gardner likes to talk about protecting public lands for future generations, but today’s vote to confirm a former oil lobbyist puts the public lands we love at risk. [Pols emphasis] This is yet another instance of Senator Gardner telling Coloradans one thing and then doing the opposite.”

Confirmation of Bernhardt by the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate will not end questions about his ethical record both at the Interior Department going back to the bad old Jack Abramoff days, as well as his private practice as an attorney representing big energy producers and other polluters creating major conflicts of interest. Colorado has been fortunate to have more than our share of locally grown Secretaries of the Interior in the last two decades, but we’re obliged to note that the last Republican Interior Secretary from our state Gale Norton left office under a cloud–soon after her departure waltzing through the revolving door to work for Royal Dutch Shell.

Bernhardt will take office under a cloud, so at least the worst case scenario won’t come as a surprise.


2 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Diogenesdemar says:

    What’s a swamp without scum? . . .

    As a partner in the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Mr. Bernhardt lobbied for the oil companies Cobalt International Energy and Samson Resources. His legal clients included the Independent Petroleum Association of America, which represents dozens of oil companies, and Halliburton Energy Services, the oil and gas extraction firm that was led by Dick Cheney before he became vice president.  

    As deputy secretary of the Interior Department, Mr. Bernhardt was the lead author of a revision of a program to protect tens of millions of acres of habitat of the imperiled sage grouse, a puffy-chested, chicken-like bird found in 10 oil-rich Western states. His final sage grouse plan, issued this month, would strip away protections from about nine million acres of the bird’s habitat, a move that, in a stroke, opened up more land to oil and gas drilling than any other single policy action by the Trump administration.

    Mr. Bernhardt is also the chief author of a major plan, expected to be finalized and made public in the days or weeks after his Senate confirmation, that would allow the federal government to lease almost any part of the United States coastline to oil and gas companies for offshore drilling.

    . . . 

    Other opponents of Mr. Bernhardt are focused on highlighting accusations of ethical violations, some of which stem from a February New York Times investigation that revealed that Mr. Bernhardt had personally directed a policy to weaken endangered species protections on a California fish, a change that could directly benefit one of his former lobbying clients, the Westlands Water District.


  2. gertie97 says:

    The scum also rises.

    (With apologies to Hemingway)

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