Overnight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down

Overnight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down
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TRUMP TAPS BERNHARDT TO BE INTERIOR SECRETARY: President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' MORE is picking David Bernhardt, a former energy lobbyist, to be the Interior Department's next secretary.

"I am pleased to announce that David Bernhardt, Acting Secretary of the Interior, will be nominated as Secretary of the Interior," Trump tweeted Monday. "David has done a fantastic job from the day he arrived, and we look forward to having his nomination officially confirmed!"

Bernhardt, whose past clients include oil companies and others with business before the Interior Department, will lead an agency that oversees about 500 million acres as well as the energy production on that land.

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He became the agency's deputy secretary in 2017 and has led the department on an interim basis since former Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog | Ag secretary orders environmental rollbacks for Forest Service | Senate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog Overnight Energy: Trump officials may pursue offshore drilling after election, report says | Energy regulators to delay projects pending appeals | EPA union calls for 'moratorium' on reopening plans MORE resigned amid ethics scandals in January. In the weeks since Zinke's departure, Bernhardt has risen to the top of the list as the most likely candidate Trump would choose for the post.

Trump will have to send Bernhardt's nomination to the Senate, where a majority of senators will have to approved him.

"It's a humbling privilege to be nominated to lead a department whose mission I love, to accomplish the balanced, common sense vision of our President," Bernhardt said in a statement Monday.

The department has 70,000 employees in various agencies overseeing federal land, offshore drilling, endangered species and American Indian affairs, among other duties.

As deputy secretary, Bernhardt, a Colorado native, worked hand in hand with Zinke on his oil and gas leasing agenda and took the lead on many others, including the administration's push to drill in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the rollback of a number of Endangered Species Act regulations.

Green groups criticize pick: Environmental groups immediately denounced Bernhardt's nomination Monday.

"The ethical questions surrounding David Bernhardt and his commitment to pandering to oil, coal, and gas executives make former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke look like a tree-hugging environmentalist in comparison. And Ryan Zinke was a disaster," Vicky Wyatt, lead climate campaigner for Greenpeace USA, said in a statement.

"We already let Bernhardt do enough damage to our federal lands and waters as deputy secretary --  we have to stop him before he destroys some of this country's best ideas including the Endangered Species Act."

Industry praises pick: The industries Interior regulates have largely been supportive of Bernhardt.

"Bernhardt possesses an impressive depth of experience at the Department and knowledge of Interior issues. His selection as secretary will assure that important energy and conservation policies will not miss a beat in the transition," said Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, which represents offshore oil and wind companies.

"Bernhardt understands that conservation and enhancement of natural resources can and does occur in conjunction with development of natural resources for energy -- both on and offshore."

What's next: At some point soon, Trump will have to formally send Bernhardt's nomination and accompanying paperwork to the Senate, where the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing and an initial vote.

That panel's leaders, Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenators will have access to intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators push to limit transfer of military-grade equipment to police MORE (R-Alaska) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' report | Climate change erases millennia of cooling: study | Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget McConnell on filibuster talk: Democrats want to 'vandalize' Senate rules MORE (D-W.Va.), both voted to confirm him to the deputy secretary position in 2017. Only three other Democrats -- Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHouse Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 'The Senate could certainly use a pastor': Georgia Democrat seeks to seize 'moral moment' Some realistic solutions for income inequality MORE (Colo.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE (N.D.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEx-Sen. Joe Donnelly endorses Biden Lobbying world 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents MORE (Ind.) -- voted for him, and Heitkamp and Donnelly lost reelection last year.

Republicans hold 53 of the Senate's 100 seats, so Bernhardt's confirmation is likely to go through.

More on Trump's Interior pick here.

 

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BERNHARDT SLAMS OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ON ETHICS: Days before Trump's announcement, Bernhardt blamed the agency's ethical pitfalls on a "mess" inherited by the Obama administration, according to an internal letter obtained by The Hill.

In an internal letter sent to Interior staff Friday, David Bernhardt blamed Obama's former National Park Service director and others for "an avalanche of ethical misconduct" and vowed to turn the agency around by strengthening its ethics program.

Bernhardt does not reference Zinke in the memo.

"Sadly, our organization's ethics challenges were part of a mess that we inherited. The last decade of the Inspector General's reports read like an avalanche of ethical misconduct. No bureau is exempt from criticism," Bernhardt wrote in his letter.

"I personally devoted a tremendous amount of effort to transforming and enhancing the ethics infrastructure throughout our organization," Bernhardt wrote of his time as deputy secretary at Interior.

"It has been badly neglected for far too long."

In the staff memo Bernhardt singles out Jon Jarvis, President Obama's NPS director, who was found to have violated ethics rules according to the Interior's Office of Inspector General in 2016.

Jarvis wrote a book about the national parks and promised to donate any proceeds to the National Park Foundation -- the official non-profit fundraising arm of NPS. However, he failed to seek ethics advice on the matter before promising the donations. He later acknowledged he should have.

"When leaders are not seeking ethics counsel, why should anyone else?" Bernhardt wrote.

Read more on Bernhardt's letter here.

 

GREEN GROUP LEADER STEPPING DOWN: The head of one of the nation's largest environmental groups is resigning after four years at its helm.

The Natural Resources Defense Council said Monday that Rhea Suh, its president since 2015, will leave at the end of June. The group will start looking for a replacement soon.

"It has been an honor to lead NRDC over the past four incredible years," Suh said in a statement.

"Working with colleagues who are dedicated to the organization's mission and to protecting our planet has been deeply inspiring. NRDC's staff, members, online activists, and partners are all focused on the mission of safeguarding the earth so that our children inherit a planet that sustains them in the future."

Alan Horn, chairman of the group's board of trustees, said she's been a very valuable asset.

"Rhea's strategic vision and savvy has been an enormous asset not only to NRDC, but to the global environmental movement," he said. "Under her leadership, NRDC has made its voice heard during critical moments in our country's fight to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment."

Read more.

 

ON TAP TUESDAY:

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will meet to vote on Andrew Wheeler's nomination to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, among other matters.

NASEO will kick off its annual Energy Policy Outlook Conference. Speakers will include Rep. Scott PetersScott H. PetersThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The American Investment Council - Trump, Pence tested, in more ways than one House Democrats press Pelosi for automatic unemployment insurance and food stamp extensions Issa advances in bid to fill Hunter's vacant House seat MORE (D-Calif.) and Dan Simmons, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Tesla Inc. is buying Maxwell Technologies, a battery technology company, for $218 million, Reuters reports.

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More than a third of the Himalayan ice cap is on track to melt by 2100 due to climate change, the Guardian reports.

Oil prices briefly hit their highest level of the year Monday before settling lower, MarketWatch reports.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION SECTION: Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of American Public Health Association, labels EPA nominee Andrew Wheeler a public health risk:

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out stories from Monday and the weekend ...

- New Interior chief nominee calls agency's 'ethics challenges' an 'inherited' mess

- Head of major environmental lobby steps down

- Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary

- Oregon bottle recycling rate hits record-high

- Kids in climate lawsuit haven't shown government is responsible, Trump admin says

- NYC lawmaker cites animal cruelty in proposal to ban sale of foie gras

- National Parks struggle with up to $11 million in revenue loss from shutdown