Friday, March 22, 2019

ACTION ALERT - Senate committee scheduled for hearing on Interior nominee - McSally is on that committee

Here is another instance of Trump’s approach to governance - another instance of X/AntiX. He nominated David Bernhardt as Interior Department secretary. In brief, “Bernhardt has a long history of working to weaken protections for public lands and endangered species. He mastered his behind-the-scenes skills as a lobbyist and high-level official in the Interior Department.”

Please contact member Sen. Martha McSally and Chairwoman Sen. Lisa Murkowski of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that is scheduled for a March 28th hearing. The full membership is appended below.

Contact information
McSally, Martha - (R - AZ)
B40D Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
202–224–2235
Contact: www.mcsally.senate.gov/contact_martha

Murkowski, Lisa - (R - AK)
522 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224–6665
Contact: www.murkowski.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact

You can cull talking points from the following two opinion pieces.

The Center for Biological Diversity shares a letter from 29 Retirees, With 737 Years of Service, who Oppose Confirmation of Trump’s Interior nominee: Retired Interior Department Employees Urge Senators to Block Bernhardt.

WASHINGTON— Retired employees with a combined 737 years of service at the U.S. Department of the Interior today urged senators Lisa Murkowski and Joe Manchin to oppose President Trump’s nominee David Bernhardt as Interior Department secretary. The senators are chairwoman and ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, respectively.

Bernhardt will face the committee in a confirmation hearing on March 28. In their letter the 29 retirees write that Bernhardt, in his current position as the agency’s deputy secretary, “has been at the center of a culture of corruption that has been the Interior Department’s hallmark under the Trump administration.”

“Confirming Bernhardt as Interior secretary would be like dropping a bomb on America’s national parks and imperiled wildlife,” said Chris Nagano, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity who spent 27 years at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protecting endangered species. “He’s already twisted the law so powerful corporations can pollute our environment and suck up water from our rivers for agribusiness. The Senate shouldn’t endorse this guy’s appalling efforts to wreck America’s beautiful public lands.”

The former Interior employees who signed the letter worked at positions as high-ranking as national park superintendent. They spent their careers at the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey and the Office of the Solicitor.

Bernhardt has a long history of working to weaken protections for public lands and endangered species. He mastered his behind-the-scenes skills as a lobbyist and high-level official in the Interior Department.

As a longtime lobbyist for the Westlands Water District in California, he fought hard to block wildlife safeguards. After moving to Interior, he recused himself from working on Westlands issues. But just days after the recusal expired, in the summer of 2018, he began work on a controversial plan to roll back environmental protections and send more water to Central Valley farmers, including those in the Westlands Water District. This plan, if executed, would decimate threatened Delta smelt, Sacramento River salmon runs and the entire Bay Delta ecosystem.

While Bernhardt was Interior’s top lawyer under George W. Bush, he authored policies that sharply limited protections for endangered species. Just last year, with Bernhardt as its deputy secretary, the Interior Department proposed sweeping regulatory changes that would severely undermine the Endangered Species Act. The Act is credited with successfully keeping 99 percent of listed species from going extinct, including grizzly bears, California condors and Florida panthers.

Bernhardt oversaw the assault on a previously approved plan to protect tens of millions of acres in the Great Basin that are critical for imperiled sage grouse. The new plan will strip protection from more than 30 million acres of the bird’s sagebrush habitat, while significantly expanding oil and gas drilling and other harmful activities.

One Bernhardt policy precluded species like polar bears from protection against greenhouse gases, the primary threat to their survival. Another of his directives resulted in a rushed environmental review to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.

“The American people want an Interior secretary who will stand up for them, not big corporations representing the 1 percent,” said Gail Kobetich, who was one of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s first endangered species biologists during a 31-year career with the Interior Department. “The Senate should vote against the confirmation of Bernhardt and send a message to Donald Trump that he must protect our public lands, wildlife and endangered species, not exploit and kill them.”

Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) published this opinion piece, Trump’s choice for Interior Secretary is fox at hen house. Here it is in full.

From our deepest canyons to our distinctive rock formations and mountain ranges, Arizonans love their public lands and outdoor spaces. According to the 2019 Conservation in the West poll, nearly 70 percent of Arizona voters want more emphasis on protecting sources of clean water, air quality and wildlife habitat while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on our national public lands. Only 20 percent preferred that Congress place more emphasis on producing more domestic energy by maximizing the amount of national public lands available.

That is why the prospect of David Bernhardt – whose Senate confirmation hearing approaches on March 28 – as Secretary of the Interior should be cause for great alarm in the Grand Canyon State.

The record shows that Mr. Bernhardt could not be farther away from the balance Arizonans want, where wildlife protections, clean waterways and appropriate energy development work in concert. His record as a former lobbyist for fossil fuel companies and now a leader at the Interior Department driving policies to expand drilling and strip wildlife protections, reveals so many conflicts of interest that Bernhardt admits he carries around a card to remind him of what they are. Nevertheless, since Bernhardt rejoined the Interior Department in 2017, it has made at least 15 policy changes, decisions or proposals that would directly benefit Bernhardt’s former clients.

In Arizona, from 2011 to 2015, Bernhardt lobbied on behalf of Rosemont Copper Co. for a proposed open-pit copper mine 30 miles southeast of Tucson. The EPA warns that the mine will pollute surrounding air and water supplies with toxic metals, which would severely impact local economies dependent on outdoor recreation and tourism. The mine has faced more than 11 years of legal battles from understandably concerned environmentalists and tribal nations.

Regionally, in his role as Deputy and now Acting Secretary of Interior, he has among other things taken aim at weakening the Endangered Species Act, reversing protections for the imperiled sage grouse; offered oil and gas leases next to national parks, national monuments, and national historical sites; and played an important role in the reduction of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. In his tenure as DOI Solicitor in the Bush administration, he spearheaded the campaign for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Veterans, who often find that the great outdoors is a medicine that helps to heal the after effects of battle, have taken particular notice of the threat posed to the quality of outdoor experiences. In nature, veterans experience a sanctuary, free of stresses and uncertainties, a place with no worries where they can relax. Many returning from military duty to their favorite outdoor places find a release they haven’t known for a long time. It’s often a transformative experience and the first page in a new beginning.

With David Bernhardt defending energy interests for decades, it’s highly unlikely he will suddenly change his views overnight to become equally interested in land conservation and wildlife protection, let alone transformative experiences. The evidence shows he is far too skewed to lead Interior with any kind of balanced decision-making.

Arizonans across generations, faiths and political affiliations make it clear in numerous bipartisan polls they want their precious public lands and outdoor recreation access protected. We remember Interior Secretaries Stewart Udall and Bruce Babbitt, Arizona voices who genuinely cared about the lands they were charged with administering. With David Bernhardt leading Interior we will be confronted with the opposite: an appalling imbalance of energy development policy over sensible conservation. We ask members of the Senate to carefully examine his record of long-standing energy industry ties and seriously consider whether David Bernhardt is at all capable of fulfilling Interior’s mission: to conserve and manage the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people.

Kate Hoit is the California State Director for the Vet Voice Foundation.

Dan Shilling is former executive director of the Arizona Humanities Council, a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran and Arizona resident since 1980.

Here is the membership of the Senate committee scheduled for a hearing on the 28th.

Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
http://www.energy.senate.gov/
Total Members: 20

Majority Members (11)
Murkowski, Lisa (AK), Chairman; Barrasso, John (WY); Risch, James E. (ID); Lee, Mike (UT); Daines, Steve (MT); Cassidy, Bill (LA); Gardner, Cory (CO); Hyde-Smith, Cindy (MS); McSally, Martha (AZ); Alexander, Lamar (TN); Hoeven, John (ND)

Minority Members (9)
Manchin, Joe (WV), Ranking Member; Wyden, Ron (OR); Cantwell, Maria (WA); Sanders, Bernard (VT); Stabenow, Debbie (MI); Heinrich, Martin (NM); Hirono, Mazie K. (HI); King, Angus S. (ME); Cortez Masto, Catherine (NV)

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