Dec 15, 2018

Meet the Department of Interior's new acting director David Bernhardt

Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt

Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Department of Interior's Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt will take over as acting Secretary in Ryan Zinke's absence after his departure at the end of the year.

Why it matters: There won't be much change in policy for the department during Bernhardt's tenure, but the department will begin its recovery from a tumultuous run by Zinke marred with scandal and controversy. However, Bernhardt has seen his share of controversy in Washington as well.

Details: Bernhardt is an oil and gas lobbyist and a member of former President George W. Bush's administration. Environmentalists are not pleased with the decision.

The backdrop: He replaced independent government analysis in congressional testimony with reports from oil companies, according to climate communications and advocacy group, Climate Nexus.

  • Bernhardt also served as counselor to the secretary when J. Steven Giles was involved in a corruption scandal.

There are also questions about various conflicts of interest he has, including ties between oil and gas companies he has as a former lobbyist.

  • In October 2017, the Bureau of Land Management announced a change in opinion, allowing a controversial water project from a former Bernhardt client, Cadiz Inc., to move forward.
  • The Interior Department also refused to make a decision allowing the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Native American tribes to open a new casino project in Connecticut, benefitting MGM Resorts International.

Go deeper: Smoother, but same track expected at Interior following Zinke's departure

Go deeper