AWI Opposes Nomination of Oil Lobbyist to Lead Department of the Interior

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Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) strongly opposes President Trump’s nomination of former oil and gas lobbyist David Bernhardt to be the next secretary of the interior.

Bernhardt spent years as a lobbyist on the payroll of the oil and gas industries, and brings deeply troubling conflicts of interest to his role at the Department of the Interior (DOI). Already, as deputy secretary, Bernhardt has openly flouted his ethics pledge by overseeing the rollback of Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the delta smelt, a threatened fish. Eliminating protections for the fish would enable California farmers, his former clients, to reroute river water for the purposes of irrigation, degrading the environment for fish, water birds and orcas in the San Francisco Bay Delta region.

Furthermore, Bernhardt has overseen the creation of three sweeping proposed rules that would undermine vital sections of the ESA. The rules would weaken protections for threatened species and critical habitat and undermine the consultation process between federal agencies. More recently, under Bernhardt’s direction, the DOI released a proposal to delist gray wolves across the contiguous 48 states.

In response to Bernhardt’s nomination, Cathy Liss, president of AWI, stated:

“Former secretary Zinke was disastrous during his tenure, prioritizing handouts to industry over the preservation of our nation’s beloved land and wildlife. But it’s possible that David Bernhardt could be far worse. He has shown himself to be firmly in the pocket of the agriculture and fossil fuel industries that have paid him to undermine our most important—and overwhelmingly popular—environmental laws.”

“We are in the midst of an extinction crisis and Bernhardt’s confirmation would be catastrophic for vulnerable wildlife who need our help now more than ever,” Liss added. “We demand leaders who will prioritize our planet over profit—not sell off our future to the highest bidder.”


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