President Trump said Monday that he's nominating David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for oil and gas companies and other industries, to head the Interior Department despite objections from environmental groups that Bernhardt already was making regulatory decisions on the country's natural resources to benefit industries. Trump tweeted his intention to nominate Bernhardt, now the Interior Department's acting head, to replace former Secretary Ryan Zinke. Zinke resigned in December amid ethics investigations, per the AP. "David has done a fantastic job from the day he arrived," Trump tweeted. In a statement, Bernhardt called it a "humbling privilege to be nominated to lead a department whose mission I love, to accomplish the balanced, commonsense vision of our president."
Bernhardt's reputation as a technocrat working efficiently behind the scenes stands as a 180-degree turn from that of his flamboyant predecessor, who grabbed attention when he rode a horse to his first day at Interior and soon garnered headlines over allegations involving travel and allegations of possible conflicts of interest. As acting secretary, Bernhardt drew criticism in recent weeks from environmental groups, tribes, and others for continuing to process paperwork for oil and gas projects while other agencies were closed for routine work during this winter's partial government shutdown. Bernhardt first served in Interior as a political appointee under President George W. Bush, becoming the agency's top lawyer. After his first round at Interior, Bernhardt worked at a DC law and lobbying firm on behalf of mining companies, oil and gas giants, a politically powerful Western water agency, and other groups that have business before the Interior Department.
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