Ryan Zinke to resign as Interior Secretary, leaving behind a legacy of corruption

Dec 15, 2018

December 15, 2018

Secretary Zinke attacked America’s public lands every step of the way

DENVER—After serving nearly two years as Interior Secretary, President Trump announced that Ryan Zinke is resigning at the end of the year. Zinke has attracted unprecedented scrutiny from government investigators, accumulating at least 18 opened or requested investigations into his ethical conduct. One of these investigations has been referred to the Department of Justice.

The secretary’s departure leaves behind a lamentable legacy defined by opening large swaths of public lands to oil and gas development, cutting out the public from decision-making, and eliminating large portions of two national monuments in Utah.

Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is expected to take over the Interior Department until a new secretary is confirmed by the Senate. In response to Ryan Zinke’s resignation as Interior secretary, the Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala:

“Ryan Zinke will go down as the most anti-conservation Interior secretary in our nation’s history. By following President Trump’s marching orders to attack our public lands, Secretary Zinke oversaw an unprecedented and likely illegal attack on America’s national monuments.

“Surrounding himself with former lobbyists, it quickly became clear that Ryan Zinke was a pawn for the oil and gas industry. We can expect more of the same from Acting Secretary David Bernhardt, but without the laughable Teddy Roosevelt comparisons.”

During his tenure at the Interior Department, Zinke eliminated national monument protections from more than 2 million acres of public lands, opening the lands to mining and oil development. This action is still being challenged in federal court in Washington D.C.

Since President Trump took office, the Bureau of Land Management has offered up more than 13 million acres of public lands for oil and gas drilling as part of Zinke’s ‘energy dominance’ agenda—an area nearly the size of West Virginia. Under Zinke’s management, the Interior Department acted upon dozens of oil and mining industry wishes, including: lifting a moratorium on coal leasing, eliminating the BLM’s methane waste rule, eliminating a rule to ensure taxpayers get a fair share for resources extracted on public lands, cutting out the public from providing input on land management decisions, and overhauling management plans for sage-grouse habitat.

Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s past lobbying client list includes more than a dozen companies that have regular business before the Interior Department, including Halliburton, Noble Energy, Cadiz Inc., and the Independent Petroleum Association trade group. Bernhardt also has a long track record lobbying for anti-wildlife clients and has repeatedly attempted to weaken endangered species protections.

Recently, Ryan Zinke tried to replace Interior’s acting Inspector General shortly after she referred an investigation into Secretary Zinke to the Department of Justice. Known, open investigations into Ryan Zinke include:

  • Zinke’s decision to ignore the advice of career Interior Department experts and block two Connecticut tribes.

  • Zinke’s involvement in a land deal in Whitefish, Montana with the chairman of Halliburton

The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General already determined that Ryan Zinke could have avoided spending $12,000 on a chartered flight to give a speech to a campaign donor, spent $25,000 to send a security detail along on a two-week vacation, and falsely claimed his wife was an ombudsman for the department to avoid paying for her travel.

Learn More

Analysis finds 18 government investigations into Zinke’s actions at Interior — more than the last four secretaries combined [Westwise]

Inquiry into Ryan Zinke’s land deal with Halliburton chairman escalates [New York Times]

Zinke seeks to explain meeting with Halliburton chairman [Politico]

The Trump administration granted energy industry wishes at a breakneck pace [Center for Western Priorities]

Oil was central in decision to shrink Bears Ears National Monument, emails show [New York Times]

“The guy doing the dirty work” at Trump’s Interior Department is an ex-oil lobbyist [Mother Jones]

David Bernhardt’s conflict-of-interest list keeps getting longer [Westwise]