Energy & Environment

Trump taps former Bush official for key Interior post


President Trump has nominated a former Bush administration official and natural resources lawyer to the No. 2 spot in the Interior Department. 

Trump on Friday announced the nomination of David Bernhardt to be deputy secretary of the Interior, which, pending confirmation, would return Bernhardt to a department he manned during all eight years of the George W. Bush administration. 

Bernhardt held several positions in Interior under Bush, including a tenure as solicitor from 2006 to 2009. The Senate unanimously confirmed him to that position, which made him the agency’s No. 3 official and its top legal officer.


Bernhardt is chairman of the natural resources law practice at Brownstein Hyatt Farber and Schreck, and he was briefly in charge of the Interior transition team for Trump after November’s election.

If confirmed, Bernhardt would serve under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who praised the nominee’s experience in a statement Friday. 

“Bernhardt’s extensive experience serving under Secretary [Gale] Norton and his legal career is exactly what is needed to help streamline government and make the Interior and our public lands work for the American economy,” Zinke said.

Greens have criticized Bernhardt as a high-powered lobbyist and Republican donor who presents conflict-of-interest concerns because of his firm’s work on Interior regulation issues. 

The Western Values Project on Wednesday sued the Interior Department seeking documents about Bernhardt’s tenure at the agency under Bush. 

“We will aggressively pursue this litigation until that information has been released to the public,” Chris Saeger, the group’s executive director, said then. 

“There shouldn’t be any secrets about Mr. Bernhardt if he stands a chance of becoming one of the most powerful figures at Interior.”

Tags David Bernhardt Interior Department Ryan Zinke Western Values Project

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