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Ethics investigations have been opened into the conduct of senior Trump appointees at the nation's top environmental agencies.
The two investigations focus on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler and six high-ranking officials in the Department of Interior (DOI), The Hill reported Tuesday. Both of them involve the officials' former clients or employers.
"This is demonstrative of the failures at the very top of this administration to set an ethical tone," Campaign Legal Center Ethics Counsel Delaney Marsco told The Washington Post of the DOI investigation. "When people come to work for government, they're supposed to work on behalf of the public. It's a betrayal of the public trust when senior political appointees seem to give privileged access to their former employers or former clients."
By Julia Conley
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.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jessica Corbett
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 Justice Department is looking into whether former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lied to investigators at the Department of Interior, The Washington Post reports. Anonymous sources tell the Post that investigators at the Interior's inspector general's office raised the issue with the DOJ after suspecting Zinke may have lied during questioning over his real estate deals in Montana and his review of a Native American casino project in Connecticut.
By Emilie Karrick Surrusco
As 2019 begins, it's out with the old and in with the same old, same old. Scandal-ridden Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke released a brief farewell letter Wednesday in red marker. With Zinke's successor not yet named, David Bernhardt becomes acting secretary. The move swaps out one political insider closely aligned with deep-pocketed special interests for another.
Bernhardt, who became deputy secretary of the Department of Interior in August 2017, is "a walking conflict of interest" who served as the Interior Department's top lawyer under George W. Bush—and went on to a lucrative career as a legal adviser for timber companies, mining companies and oil and gas interests. Since returning to the Interior Department under Trump, he has quietly implemented policy decisions that benefit his former corporate polluter clients.
The U.S. government just smashed its own records when an auction on Friday to lease thousands of acres off the Massachusetts coast for offshore wind development brought in a whopping $405.1 million, signaling that this particular renewable energy sector is finally taking off at high speeds, Utility Drive reported.
The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management published proposals on Thursday designed to roll back critical measures that protect the imperiled greater sage grouse on public lands in order to boost fossil fuel development and mining in the American West.
The spectacular bird once numbered 16 million and roamed across 13 Western U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. But rampant oil and gas development and other factors have cut its habitat in half. Its population has significantly plunged to an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 individuals across 11 western states and southern Alberta.
In an interview with Breitbart News on Sunday, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke blamed "radical environmentalists" for the wildfires that have devastated California in recent weeks, The Huffington Post reported.
"I will lay this on the foot of those environmental radicals that have prevented us from managing the forests for years. And you know what? This is on them," he said in the interview.
You can listen to the whole thing here:
The remarks come as California has suffered the deadliest blaze in the state's history. The death toll from the Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise in Northern California, has now risen to 79. Around 1,000 people are still listed as missing, and the fire is now 70 percent contained, according to an Associated Press report Monday.
"Managing all the forests everywhere we can does not stop climate change, and those who deny that definitely are contributing to the tragedies that we are witnessing and will continue to witness," Brown said.
Regardless, Zinke has remained consistent in pointing the finger at forest management. His current criticisms echo his remarks following other fires this August, in which he said the increasingly frequent and violent blazes were the result of inadequate forest management, and not climate change. He continued in that vein during Sunday's interview:
"In many cases, it's these radical environmentalists who want nature to take its course. We have dead and dying timber. We can manage it using best science, best practices. But to let this devastation go on year after year after year is unacceptable, it's not going to happen. The president is absolutely engaged."
President Donald Trump has indeed vehemently blamed forest mismanagement ever since the recent batch of fires broke out, even threatening at one point to withhold federal funding if the forests weren't managed properly. During a visit to California Saturday to survey damage, Trump brought up forest management again, suggesting that the problem in California was that the forests were not raked enough.
"You look at other countries where they do it differently, and it's a whole different story," he said, as CNN reported. "I was with the president of Finland, and he said: 'We have a much different [sic] ..., we're a forest nation.' And they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don't have any problem," he added.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, however, told a Finnish newspaper he did not recall suggesting raking to Trump.
"I mentioned [to] him that Finland is a land covered by forests and we also have a good monitoring system and network," he said.
Finnish people have taken to Twitter to poke fun at the U.S. President's statement using the hashtag "Raking America Great Again."
Despite Trump and Zinke's criticisms, the fact remains that the federal government controls almost 60 percent of the forests in California while the state controls only three percent. Paradise was surrounded by federal, not state, forests. Further, the fires in Southern California spread in suburban and urban areas, The Huffington Post reported.
Some think the emphasis put by Zinke and Trump on forest management is not about preventing fires at all but rather an attempt to justify opening more public forests to private logging interests.
U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks with land managers, private landowners, university staff, and the media about federal forestry and land management at Boise State University on June 2, 2017. USDA photo by Lance Cheung
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