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.