Senate advances more Interior appointees with questionable pasts

Top officials would add to team at Interior loaded with former lobbyists and Trump campaign operatives

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to advance several nominees to serve in the departments of Energy and the Interior. Those nominees include Susan Combs, a fellow from a Koch-funded think tank, Brenda Burman who has worked to weaken conservation standards and Doug Domenech, an oil and gas lobbyist.

“This is another example of Secretary Zinke handing over control to special interests and political cronies that will jeopardize access to public lands and the outdoor economy,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project. “These appointees will join a host of other political operatives at Interior who have long histories of doing the bidding of companies that Interior is supposed to hold accountable.”

The Western Values Project recently launched its Department of Influence website, which aims to track the relationships between Trump administration appointees at the Department of Interior and corporate special interests.  The site show only a handful of appointees come from conservation or outdoor recreation backgrounds, while the vast majority have ties to the resource extraction industry Interior is supposed to hold accountable.

The site shows more background on CombsDomench and Burman including the following:

Susan Combs, nominee for Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget

Susan Combs is a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an organization that is heavily funded by Koch Industries and big oil companies.

Susan Combs is a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. [“About Susan,” Susan Combs Website, accessed 03/02/17]

The Texas Public Policy Foundation has received at least $10,000 from ExxonMobil, $5,000 from ConocoPhillips, and $5,000 from Devon Energy, as well as funding from Koch Industries. [Forrest Wilder, “Revealed: The Corporations and Billionaires that Fund the Texas Public Policy Foundation,” Texas Observer, 08/24/12]

Doug Domenech, nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Insular Affairs

Immediately after leaving the federal government, he started to lobby for oil and energy companies. In 2010, Domenech became Virginia’s Secretary of Natural Resources, where he was a vocal supporter of drilling off the Virginia coastline. Before returning to work for the federal government, Domenech was the director an initiative to trumpet the “‘forgotten moral case for fossil fuels’” founded by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which is heavily funded by big oil, including ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy, and Koch Industries. He wrote that the BLM conducted “an outright assault on constitutional principles” when the department sought to oversee federal land that an Oklahoma judge ruled belonged to the public 30 years ago.

Brenda Burman, nominee for Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation

When she worked for the Metropolitan Water District, Brenda Burman was a “major player” in proposals to weaken Endangered Species Act protections in bills regulating how California’s water was managed.

Brenda Burman was a “major player” in negotiations between Metropolitan Water District, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Jim Costa. The Metropolitan Water District was working with the lawmakers’ offices on “proposals for managing [California’s] water that made it into bills” that passed both the House and Senate in 2014.

The proposals “focused on tweaking the way Endangered Species Act protections are applied in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.” Emails obtained through a public records request revealed that “urban water districts” played an “influential” role in the negotiations.

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