Friday, December 16, 2016

First-term congressman offered Interior cabinet post

The X-antiX formula continues to apply, this time to Trump’s choice of Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Montana) to head the Department of Interior. Politico.com reports in Trump selects Zinke as interior secretary.

President-elect Donald Trump has offered the interior secretary position to Montana’s freshman Rep. Ryan Zinke, an ex-Navy SEAL commander, according to two transition officials and someone familiar with the offer.

The sources said Zinke has yet to accept and has given no indication as to which way he is leaning. But Zinke is also being discussed by prominent Washington Republicans as a possible 2018 candidate for the Montana Senate seat now held by Democrat Sen. Jon Tester.

Despite Zinke’s positive record on conservation issues, he is friendly to the fossil fuel industry.

As secretary, Zinke would oversee about one-fifth of the nation’s land, including national parks, wildlife refuges, tribal lands and areas ripe for drilling, mining, wind and solar development, and oil and gas pipelines. Zinke’s targets could include ending limits on offshore drilling, lifting Interior’s freeze on new coal leases and abandoning federal fracking regulations, such as a rule that a judge struck down in June.

Zinke could also help Trump unravel the department’s recently finished five-year road map for offshore oil and gas drilling, which took two areas in the Arctic out of contention, although doing so could take several years.

On climate change, Zinke has called for a “prudent” approach to the issue that does not do too much damage to the coal industry. Montana is the sixth-largest coal-producing state in the nation, according to the Energy Information Administration.

“You know, if you go up to Glacier Park and you have your lunch on one of the glaciers, you will see the glacier recede while you eat lunch. So you know I have seen the change in my lifetime,” Zinke told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle last year, although he questioned the extent to which carbon emissions were to blame.

"So something’s going on, and so I think you need to be prudent. It doesn’t mean I think you need to be destructive on fossil fuels, but I think you need to be prudent and you need to invest in all-the-above energy,” he added. Zinke touted natural gas as the “easiest path forward,” but also boasted that Montana coal was cleaner than varieties mined in other countries and promoted coal exports.

The Washington Post has a similar report on Zinke’s mixed track record.

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership President Whit Fosburgh, whose hunters and anglers group has worked with Zinke, said in an interview that it would be “very supportive of Ryan Zinke” as a Cabinet nominee.

“He’s shown courage and commitment to public lands and conservation and [is] someone we think would be an excellent secretary of interior,” Fosburgh said.

However, …

Zinke recently criticized an Interior Department rule aimed at curbing inadvertent releases of methane from oil and gas operations on federal land as “duplicative and unnecessary.”

“Clean air and clean water are absolute top priorities when we talk about responsible energy development, however the final rule issued by the Obama administration does nothing to further protect our resources,” he said in a statement. “This rule is a stark reminder that we need to invest in infrastructure projects like the Keystone pipeline, so we don’t need to flare excess gas.”

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