President Trump announced Monday on Twitter that he was moving acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt into the gig full-time. Zinke had been facing multiple investigations into potential ethics violations at the time of his departure.
Mr. Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and congressman, was nudged out amid a swirl of probes into high-priced travel on government planes and a land deal in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana, that involved the Zinke family and Halliburton Chairman David Lesar.
The Interior Department, which employs more than 70,000 people and oversees more than 20 per cent of the USA land surface, has played a large role in Trump's "energy dominance" policy of boosting energy production.
As Zinke's deputy, Bernhardt was part of efforts to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, ease Obama-era protections on a bird called the greater sage grouse to boost drilling and mining across the West, and open federal lands to leases for coal mining.
Bernhardt has headed the Department of the Interior since former secretary Ryan Zinke departed the post at the end of past year amid a number of ethics controversies.More news: Men's College Basketball: #12 Virginia Tech vs. #23 N.C
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Bernhardt, who is from Colorado, first served in interior as a political appointee under George W Bush, becoming the agency's top lawyer.
Bernhardt also worked as a lobbyist and lawyer for several oil and gas companies and other interests that sometimes have regulatory matters before the department. He represented Noble Energy Co, Rosemont Copper Co, Sempra Energy, and California's Westlands Water District, among others. If he is approved by the Senate, Bernhardt is expected to continue that work. Democrats and environmental groups say he's vulnerable to conflicts of interest.
Oil lobbyist David Bernhardt fits the trend.
According to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, an estimated 150 of 705 presidential appointments requiring Senate confirmation are working under acting status, temporarily filling a vacancy without going to the Senate for hearings.