Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt Is Big Oil’s Lapdog

Ding-dong, Ryan Zinke’s gone – and his temporary replacement is … a former oil lobbyist! David Bernhardt, who formerly occupied the number two position at the Department of the Interior, will be filling Zinke’s shoes until Trump nominates a replacement and that person is confirmed.

If you’re getting a whiff of deja vu, Bernhardt isn’t the only former lobbyist heading up an agency temporarily; Andrew Wheeler at the EPA used to shill for the coal industry. And like Bernhardt, Wheeler is in a position to enrich his former employers with favorable regulatory treatment and deals.

That’s something Bernhardt is very familiar with, as he’s already been caught red-handed trying to sell federal lands the Interior Department said it definitely wasn’t going to sell.

Bernhardt has government experience; he worked for President George W. Bush and was part of Trump’s transition team. One of his claims to fame from the Bush era is authorship of a document that made it more difficult to designate endangered species. He’s been eager to extend his record on stripping protections for wildlife to make it easier to exploit natural resources on federal lands.

In the private sector, he’s represented the oil and gas industry, as well as agribusiness and what environmentalists describe as “water profiteers.” Advocates say that Bernhardt has failed to fully disclose and account for his lobbying activities, which is an especially big concern when former clients are approaching the department for permits, regulatory guidance and other needs.

Like other Trump officials, Bernhardt’s connections raise concerns about conflicts of interest and whether he can truly serve the best interests of the American public. He’s been involved in several decisions that favored former connections, which isn’t a great precedent.

Take action: Tell Trump he needs to announce a nominee!

At the Department of the Interior, officials make important decisions about how public lands are used and who gets to use them. This is a position of tremendous power, especially because the potential profits from oil and gas exploration and resource extraction on federal lands are considerable. The Interior can decide whether to open land up for leasing, grant permits and establish guidance for use of federal land.

Someone with a background in resource extraction and ties to companies that want to use federal lands may not be unbiased, particularly since Bernhardt likely wants to return to the private sector when he leaves the government.

Bernhardt has been through a Senate confirmation process, thanks to his prior role as deputy secretary. That doesn’t mean he gets a pass, however; Trump must formally nominate someone to fill the role within 210 days, and the Senate must consider that candidate. That also gives members of the public an opportunity to contribute to the discussion by contacting their senators with questions and concerns.

With the high turnover in Trump’s cabinet, the Senate could have a busy year with hearings for replacements. And that’s especially true if Trump complies with long-established procedure and nominates personnel instead of leaving those roles officially vacant — or nominating token replacements who never actually undergo confirmation hearings, allowing deputies to serve indefinitely in leadership roles.

Take Action!

Join Care2 activists calling on the president to nominate a new Interior secretary, not try to run out the clock with Bernhardt!

Creating a Care2 petition is easy. If you have an issue you care deeply about, why not start your own petition? Here are some guidelines to help you get started and soon the Care2 community will be signing up to support you.


Photo Credit: Bureau of Land Management/Flickr


Mia B
Past Member 5 months ago

thanks very much

Jessica C
Jessica C6 months ago


Fran F
Fran F6 months ago

Petition previously signed and shared.

Paul Carter, American voters preferred Hillary Clinton to Trump by about 3 million popular votes, which did not include an official count of the 70,000 votes "misplaced" in the Detroit area, or the votes robbed by Kris Kobach's various insidious voter suppression scams, such as disallowing voting by people with the same or similar common names to felons in other states. I doubt that very few people are surprised that he's selling out the U.S. to big business but agree with you that "The problem is we don't know what deals he made to get into power, but I doubt they were for the benefit of anyone he doesn't know personally."

Lorraine A
Lorraine A6 months ago

thanks for sharing

Paul Carter
Paul Carter6 months ago

Apparently the USA wanted a businessman for POTUS and got a businessman. Why is anyone surprised he wants to sell the USA to big business? Deals are what he does, the fact many of his business ventures have failed should have been a warning, but wasn't heeded. That he is trying to fulfill his promises (and make a mil or two on the side) should also not come as a surprise. The problem is we don't know what deals he made to get into power, but I doubt they were for the benefit of anyone he doesn't know personally.

Greta L
Past Member 6 months ago

Thank you

Debbi W
Debbi W6 months ago

David Bernhardt is another creature from trump's vile swamp. We Don't Want An Oil Lobbyist Heading the Interior Department! Every person trump has chosen for a position had been placed to destroy the department. trump believes if he destroys all of the departments he can declare himself dicktator, the fool.

He didn't plan on having to deal with a Dem. House. Dealing with a spoiled, pig-headed dementia patient isn't easy.

Petition signed.

Chad A
Chad Anderson6 months ago

Thank you.

Christine Stewart
Christine Stewart6 months ago

petition signed

Alea C
Alea C6 months ago

Dear Dave is no different from all the other creatures residing in Trump's swamp. Too bad it's now everybody's swamp with no relief in sight. DON'T VOTE REPUBLICAN!