Tag Archives: Ryan Zinke

In Ruling on Coal Mining, Federal Judge Issues Latest Rebuke of Trump’s Attack on Public Lands

About 40 federal rulings have now blocked the president from rolling back environmental and public health regulations

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-20-2019

 

“This is a victory for communities whose land, water, and way of life is threatened by new coal mining,” Earthjustice said of a federal ruling against the president’s attempt to open up coal mining on public lands. (Photo: Maria Gunnoe Flight, courtesy of southwings.org)

Green groups on Saturday celebrated the latest federal ruling aimed at preventing President Donald Trump from rolling back environmental regulations that were put in place by his predecessor.

Judge Brian Morris issued a ruling late Friday stating that the Interior Department broke federal law when it lifted former President Barack Obama’s moratorium on coal mining in public lands. Continue reading

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New Interior Chief Bernhardt Reportedly Held Secret Meeting Linked to One of His Predecessor’s Many Scandals

Newly revealed meeting “absolutely epitomizes the ‘swamp’ that Donald Trump promised to drain but is in fact flooding,” one critic said

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-17-2019

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt has a long history of lobbying for Big Oil and Big Ag. (Photo: Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck)

It’s only been a week, but newly-confirmed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s conflicts of interests are already raising questions about his involvement in the very same scandals for which his predecessor is now under investigation.

The Guardian reported Wednesday that Bernhardt, who was confirmed last week over the objections of climate action and conservation groups, met in 2018 with a lawyer for the Schaghticoke tribal nation of Connecticut, which opposed the operation of a new casino in the state by two other tribes. Continue reading

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Senate Urged to Reject ‘Walking, Talking Conflict of Interest’ David Bernhardt to Run Interior

“A dream come true for fossil fuel companies, but a nightmare for the American people.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-27-2019

David Bernhardt during his confirmation hearing for deputy secretary 2018. Photo: Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Environmental activists are calling on senators to reject the nomination of former fossil fuel lobbyist David Bernhardt to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The calls come ahead of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Thursday morning hearing to consider his nomination.

“David Bernhardt is a walking, talking conflict of interest,” said Alissa Weinman, a senior organizer for the nonprofit Corporate Accountability. “Between his Big Polluter ties and corporate lobbying connections, it’s clear Bernhardt will continue to serve the corporate interests to whom he owes his career, not the people or our public lands.” Continue reading

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Under Cover of Shutdown, Trump Admin Quietly Moves to Deprive ‘American People of Their Right to Know What Government Is Doing’

Critics warn proposed changes to how the Interior Department handles FOIA requests “are designed to facilitate more official stonewalling and delays in producing public records.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-31-2018

Outgoing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2016, when he served as a congressman for Montana. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/cc)

Amid the chaos of the ongoing government shutdown and winter holidays, critics on Monday are calling out the Trump administration for quietly moving to make it harder for the public to find out what goes on behind closed doors at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

proposed new rule (pdf) filed to the Federal Register on Friday would enable the department—which, along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been responsible for pushing through President Donald Trump’s widely condemned regulatory rollbacks—to ignore public records requests that officials deem too “unreasonably burdensome.” Continue reading

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‘Disaster Waiting to Happen’ as Trump Quietly Approves Massive Oil Drilling Project in Arctic Waters Off Alaska Coast

“This project sets us down a dangerous path of destroying the Arctic. We’ll keep fighting this project and any new ones that follow.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-25-2018

“As the Arctic warms twice as fast as the rest of the planet, it is irresponsible to permit new oil development that will only exacerbate the problem of climate change,” said Dan Ritzman, director of the Sierra Club’s Lands, Water, Wildlife Campaign. Photo: BSEE/flickr

Ignoring once more the existential necessity of keeping fossil fuels in the ground and transitioning to a global energy system powered by renewable sources, the Trump administration on Wednesday delivered another major victory for Big Oil by quietly approving a Texas company’s plan to drill in federal Arctic waters six miles off the coast of Alaska.

Kristen Monsell, ocean legal director with the Center for Biological Diversity, denounced the plan developed by Hilcorp Energy as a “disaster waiting to happen” and vowed to do everything possible to ensure that the project doesn’t move forward. Continue reading

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These Trump Staffers — Including an ex-NRA Lobbyist — Left Their Financial Disclosure Forms Blank

The Interior Department acknowledges that many of its employees’ forms “were not reviewed and certified properly.”

By Gabriel Sandoval. Published 6-28-2018 by ProPublica

Before accepting a position at the U.S. Department of the Interior last October, Benjamin Cassidy championed gun rights for nearly seven years as a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, collecting a peak annual salary of $288,333 for his work on Capitol Hill.

The public wouldn’t know that by looking at Cassidy’s government financial disclosure report. The form, which he filed soon after taking a job as senior deputy director of the office of intergovernmental and external affairs, doesn’t list his old job at the NRA — or any past job, for that matter. Cassidy’s form was nearly blank, save for his name, title and some bank holdings and investments. In the space allotted to show his income, it incorrectly stated “None.” Continue reading

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In ‘Tremendous Victory for Taxpayers, Public Health, and Planet,’ Federal Court Rejects Trump Admin.’s Attempt to Suspend Methane Rule

The late Thursday ruling “once again sends a message to this administration that it will not get away with illegal handouts to industry”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-23-2018

A fracking well flare in Scott Township, Pennsylvania. (Photo: WCN 24/7/flickr/cc)

A court has once again rejected the Trump administration’s effort to suspend an Obama-era rule aimed at reducing releases of methane from oil and gas operations on federal and tribal land.

“The decision,” writes Meleah Geertsma, a senior attorney with NRDC, “once again sends a message to this administration that it will not get away with illegal handouts to industry, at the expense of Americans’ health and the environment.” Continue reading

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With Oceans Under Greatest Threat Ever, Trump Administration Urges Even Less Protection for Marine Life

“It shouldn’t be too much to ask to protect two percent of the U.S.’s exclusive economic zone off the Atlantic coast for future generations.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-2-2018

President Trump’s Interior Department has recommended shrinking the protected area of the Pacific Remote Islands marine monument, the largest protected area of the world’s oceans. (Photo: NOAA Photo Library/Flickr/cc)

With the world’s oceans more severely threatened than ever before, President Donald Trump’s Interior Department is recommending even less protection for the fraction of ocean life the U.S. has guarded from commercial fishing and other activities in recent years.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has proposed that three ocean monuments in the Pacific and Atlantic be opened up to commercial fishing, shrinking the protected areas to undetermined sizes. Critics see no reason to give less protection to underwater life, with Jane Lubchenco, former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), arguing, “There are plenty of other places in the ocean to fish.” Continue reading

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‘Can You Say Corruption?’ Puerto Rico Contract for Trump-Connected Raises Concerns

Tiny company financed by a major donor to the Trump campaign and the Republican Party awarded no-bid contract to rebuild energy grid

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-24-2017

Puerto Rico’s electricity utility, PREPA, offered a $300 million contract to a small private firm to repair its power grid. Whitefish Energy is funded by a major Trump donor. (Photo: Whitefish Energy/Twitter)

Critics raised suspicions on Tuesday over a $300 million no-bid contract that was awarded to a small, two-year-old private energy company to restore Puerto Rico’s electrical grid. The company is financed by a major donor to the Trump campaign and the Republican Party, and also has connections to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Whitefish Energy, based in Whitefish, Montana, had only two full-time employees when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico over a month ago, leaving about 75 percent of the island still without power.

State utilities on the U.S. mainland have helped power authorities like Puerto Rico’s recover quickly from disasters like Maria in the past through mutual aid agreements, leaving many to wonder why Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) would rely on a company that has no experience with extensive restoration projects.

“The fact that there are so many utilities with experience in this and a huge track record of helping each other out, it is at least odd why PREPA would go to Whitefish,” said Susan F. Tierney, a former Energy Department official, in an interview with the Washington Post.

As the Daily Beast reported, Federal Election Commission filings show that the founder of the private equity firm that finances Whitefish Energy donated $20,000 to a pro-Trump PAC during the 2016 election as well as more than $30,000 to the Republican National Committee.

The company is also run by a contact of Zinke’s—Andy Techmanski—who once hired the Interior Secretary’s son for a summer job. Zinke is from Whitefish, but his office told the Post that he only knows Techmanski because “everybody knows everybody” in the small town.

Whitefish has hired nearly 300 workers from across the country so far to help repair the infrastructure. According to Aaron C. Davis, investigative reporter for the Post, the company is charging PREPA hundreds of dollars per hour for their subcontractors’ work, far more than average rates.

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