Trump's pick to lead Interior blocked study on endangered species: report

David Bernhardt, President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE’s nominee to lead the Interior Department, helped block the release of a study at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service examining the impact of pesticides on endangered species, according to a new report from The New York Times.

Bernhardt, a former oil and gas industry lobbyist, was working as a deputy Interior secretary at the time the study was blocked in October and November 2017. 

The report detailed the impact two pesticides had on more than 1,200 endangered bird, fish and other wildlife, saying the chemicals were so toxic they “jeopardize the continued existence” of the species, according to documents reviewed by the Times.

Before the intervention, the Times reported that the study was to have led to tighter restrictions on the use of the pesticides malathion and chlorpyrifos.

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After the intervention by Interior political appointees, including Bernhardt, a more narrow standard was imposed to determine the potential risks of the chemicals. 

The approach that the political appointees directed Fish and Wildlife Service to take was one that the pesticide industry had pushed for, according to the Times. 

The Times disclosed Bernhardt's role in the decision after reviewing more than 84,000 pages of documents from the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. A separate request was also made by the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group. 

According to those records reviewed by the Times, Bernhardt had nine meetings or calls with Fish and Wildlife staff over the course of two months in 2017. He also helped write the letter saying the endangered species report would not be released.

A spokesperson with the Interior Department told the Times Bernhardt’s actions were “governed solely by legitimate concerns regarding the legal sufficiency and policy.”

The two pesticides, malathion and chlorpyrifos, were made by prominent manufacturers FMC Corporation and Dow AgroSciences, respectively. Both chemicals are used on a variety of crops to fend off insects.