Rep. Ryan Zinke’s “mixed record” makes Senate hearings critical

Wisconsin State Farmer

A commentary by Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp.

Environmental Defense Fund

Washington, D.C. — “President-elect Trump's nomination of Rep. Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior adds to the troubling imbalance of a Cabinet that is skewed toward fossil fuel interests. My colleagues and I are concerned about several aspects of Rep. Zinke's record, particularly his support for aggressive oil, gas and coal extraction on federal lands and his opposition to a sensible rule to reduce natural gas waste.

“America’s next Interior Secretary will be entrusted with our public lands and natural resources, which provide critical habitat for wildlife, support energy and agricultural economies, and create outdoor recreational opportunities for all to enjoy. The Department includes the Bureau of Land Management, which recently finalized a rule to reduce the unchecked waste of natural gas that is leaked or vented from operations on federal and tribal lands — squandering some $330 million per year in lost resource that, once in the atmosphere, is an extremely potent climate pollutant. Stopping this needless pollution and energy waste is in the best interest of all Americans, yet Rep. Zinke has opposed this commonsense step. He has also made conflicting statements that appear to question the validity of climate science. The next Interior Secretary needs to understand that our public lands are at risk from unchecked climate change and that fossil fuel extraction on these lands contributes to the problem. We call on him to clarify his stance on climate change and reverse course on the natural gas waste issue.

“We appreciate the constructive steps Rep. Zinke has taken on behalf of stewardship and conservation in his home state of Montana and across America. For example, he has shown independence from anti-environmental Republicans in Congress, pushing back on a number of damaging policies and declaring the sale of our public lands ‘a non-starter’ — a crucially important stance. He also provided welcome support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which preserves irreplaceable lands across the U.S.

“Rep. Zinke has promised to ‘faithfully uphold’ President Theodore Roosevelt's vision of public lands managed for the benefit and enjoyment of all Americans as well as generations to come. Given his mixed record overall, we expect the Senate to explore the scope and nature of that commitment during Rep. Zinke’s confirmation hearings.”