Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke Resigns
Ryan Zinke has resigned. President Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior slumps from office under the weight of fifteen investigations, and the looming clout of a Democratically-controlled House willing to conduct oversight investigations the current majority shunned.
For a while, the former Navy SEAL seemed prepared to tough his way through his troubles. He all but dashed that option when, in a senseless Twitter snit, he said of Arizona Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva, the incoming chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, “It’s hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle.” Grijalva had called on the ethically-challenged Zinke to resign. Zinke’s tweet-lashing proved to even die-hard friends his exit was nigh.
Zinke always seemed too arrogant to last. He flaunted a cowboy-hatted persona and a professed love of the Western open spaces, while simultaneously flaunting extravagant promises to the petroleum industry. Within his first year at Interior he moved to open vast swaths of public lands to oil and gas exploration, as described in a biting editorial from Saturday’s New York Times :
On his first day in office, Mr. Zinke rode a horse to work, in plain imitation of Teddy Roosevelt. As president, Mr. Roosevelt protected 230 million acres of American wilderness, including 18 national monuments. Ten months into his tenure as Interior Secretary, Mr. Zinke recommended the withdrawal of some two million acres from two national monuments in Utah established by Mr. Obama and Bill Clinton, the largest shrinkage of public land protection in history.
As we have written, the environmental team of Zinke and the now disgraced, former EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, appeared doomed from the outset. Their vigorous anti-environmental agendas were not their undoing – President Trump made clear his support – but the attention generated by their naked ambition, and disregard for the law became a liability that wearied even the president.
Like Pruitt’s immediate successor, acting EPA Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, Zinke’s expected successor is an industry operative as well. A move by David Bernhardt to the head Interior seat has been the subject of speculation for months. In October, Politico quoted an Interior source as saying:
For the last month, if not longer, it has been a common reference, even from the secretary, that David needs to be ready . . . Not anything actionable [was said], but Bernhardt could be in charge in the future and the implication was sooner rather than later.
In its editorial, the Times described Bernhardt as an “oil and gas man to the core.”
And lest we forget, the policy is synonymous with Trump himself: His appointees in the environmental arena were chosen for their fealty to the America First energy strategy contained in a series of executive orders early in his presidency aimed at rolling back just about every useful thing President Obama had done to combat global warming and protect priceless public lands from commercial intrusion.
As has Wheeler, Bernhardt is expected to move with a stealthy efficiency his predecessor lacked. And environmentalists are concerned. More on why in Jeff Turrentine’s article here on EarthDesk.