This Thursday, Senator Martha McSally’s powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on former big-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt’s nomination to lead the Department of Interior.
Ahead of the hearing, Western Values Project called on McSally to stand up for Arizona and Westerners and hold Bernhardt accountable for his most controversial policy decisions while serving as Deputy Secretary of Interior for the last two years.
“To date, Senator McSally has failed to stand up to the Trump Administration and their anti-public lands agenda,” said Western Values Project Deputy Director Jayson O’Neill. “It’s time for Senator McSally to do her job and hold Bernhardt accountable, and that starts with asking him the tough questions.”
A recent poll released by Western Values Project shows that Arizonans disapprove of the Interior Department’s agenda and have concerns about confirming Bernhardt to lead the agency. After hearing a series of messages from opponents of Bernhardt’s confirmation, a clear majority statewide oppose confirming him (31% support/54% oppose, including 45% who strongly oppose his confirmation). Arizonans also have mixed feelings about Senator Martha McSally, and messages from opponents of Bernhardt’s confirmation move Arizonans to oppose both Bernhardt’s confirmation and McSally’s re-election should she vote to confirm him. Such a vote by McSally would exacerbate her existing vulnerabilities, including constituents’ beliefs that she is too quick to side with President Trump (53% say this describes her well) and weak on environmental issues (only 30% believe she’s doing a good job on the environment).
Below please find key questions Senator McSally should ask Bernhardt about his decisions that affect the lives and access to public lands of millions of Arizona residents:
Protecting the Grand Canyon
Background: The Trump Administration may lift the Grand Canyon Area Mineral Withdrawal, which could contaminate the Grand Canyon’s watershed. Bernhardt and the Interior Department have not taken a clear public position on uranium mining around the Grand Canyon.
Question: Will you commit to opposing uranium mineral extraction on public lands that could contaminate the Grand Canyon’s watershed and harm the Havasupai people that live there?
Lobbied on Behalf of Company Behind Controversial Open-Pit Mine in Arizona
Background: David Bernhardt lobbied for the Rosemont Copper Company and its Canadian owner, Hudbay Minerals, from 2012 to 2015 and worked on Rosemont’s behalf as a consultant until late 2016. Under the Trump Administration, the mine received a favorable decision moving it closer to production. The controversial copper mine could devastate water, wildlife habitat, and Native American cultural resources in Southern Arizona. Senator Martha Mcsally, who owns land near the mine, has criticized the mine and even returned a campaign contribution from one of its executives.
Hudbay Minerals, the Canadian company which owns Rosemont, received a favorable record of decision from Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in June 2017.
Question: What is Interior’s involvement in providing analysis on impacts of the Rosemont Copper mine? Have you directed or discussed with staff any decisions pertaining to the permitting or analysis of the development of this open-pit mine? A story as late as November 2016 indicated you were still a consultant for the mine, yet your ethics recusal indicates that you are only subject to a recusal until August 1, 2018: How did you meet the requirements of the President’s two-year ethics order?
Special Access Special Interests and Conflicts of Interest
Background: Recent investigative reporting detailed 15 times your former clients received favorable decisions by the Department, including loosening restrictions on sage-grouse protection at the request of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.
Of the 27 former clients and employers with potential conflicts of interest that disclosed on Bernhardt’s ethics forms, lobbying disclosure data revealed that 20 have actively lobbied the Department of the Interior since the beginning of 2017. This appears to be the most conflicts of interest of any of President Trump’s cabinet-level nominees by a significant amount.
Question: Will you commit to sharing all of the documents related to your recusals and any ethics waivers provided? Also, will you commit to providing information on who you are meeting with, so the American taxpayers are aware of who is meeting with Department officials tasked with managing all of our public lands?