The last President Trump-appointed Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, stepped down late last year amid ethics probes. Now there might be some concerns surrounding Trump’s nominee to replace him, too.
David Bernhardt reportedly played a role in blocking the release of a report on the risks pesticides pose to endangered species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report found that two of the pesticides were so toxic that they “jeopardize the continued existence” of thousands of endangered animals and plants, according to The New York Times.
The study would have led to tighter restrictions on the two pesticides—not their complete ban. But Bernhardt, who was serving as a deputy interior secretary at the time, reportedly led an intervention that blocked the public release of the report in November 2017. He then promoted a new process that would “apply a much narrower standard to determine the risks from the pesticides.” This approach was reportedly one that pesticide producers had lobbied to promote.
Prior to serving in the Department of the Interior, Bernhardt had worked as an oil and gas industry lobbyist and was “frequently paid to challenged endangered species-related matters,” according to the Times. Despite this, a department spokesperson told the Times that Bernhardt’s actions vis-a-vis the report were “governed solely by legitimate concerns regarding the legal sufficiency and policy.”
The Senate is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing on Bernhardt’s nomination to head the department on Thursday.