WASHINGTON, DC – Following a Senate confirmation hearing today for David Bernhardt, a former big oil lobbyist who President Donald Trump nominated to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior, a coalitionof 15 U.S. Senators, including Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, announced their intent to vote “no” on Bernhardt’s nomination due, at least in part, to his role in expanding offshore drilling that threatens their states’ coastal economies.
In declaring their opposition, Reed and Whitehouse were joined by Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
“Today’s hearing made one thing absolutely clear: A vote for Bernhardt is a vote for offshore drilling. Acting Secretary Bernhardt is committed to following the administration’s directive to open our nation’s coastal waters to reckless offshore drilling, which directly threatens the health of our beaches and the strength of our coastal economies,” said the senators in a joint statement. “The Interior Department’s mission is to protect our nation’s public lands and natural resources. Acting Secretary Bernhardt has proven he is not up to the task, and we oppose his nomination.”
Acting Secretary Bernhardt, who previously served as Deputy Secretary, has overseen the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) development of an oil and gas leasing plan that dramatically expands risky offshore drilling and that has prompted bipartisan criticism at all levels of government throughout each coast. The Interior Department, under Bernhardt’s leadership, has simultaneously been working to weaken offshore drilling safety standards put in place after to the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill and at the recommendation of a bipartisan commission that investigated the disaster.
During today’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Bernhardt did not commit to protecting our coastal communities from the threat of offshore oil and gas drilling by removing the Atlantic, Pacific, Eastern Gulf of Mexico and other areas from Interior’s risky offshore drilling plan. Additionally, Bernhardt failed to respond to last week’s letter demanding answers about his plan to expand offshore drilling.
While several senators have expressed additional concerns with Bernhardt’s record on ethics, numerous conflicts of interest, transparency, and other policy issues, the coalition today cited Bernhardt’s unacceptable position on offshore drilling for prompting them to join in announcing their opposition to his nomination.
In addition to opposition from the Senators, a coalition of over 160 conservation groups have also called on the U.S. Senate to reject Bernhardt’s nomination.