Senators on Thursday voted to approve former gas and oil and water lobbyist David Bernhardt as the interior department secretary, The Guardian reports.
The 56-41 vote confirmed Bernhardt's nomination to lead the organization that manages over 500 million acres of public lands, including monuments, national parks, and wildlife refuges.
In July 2017, Bernhardt was confirmed as deputy secretary, but he has been serving as acting secretary since the scandal-plagued Ryan Zinke resigned in December. Environmental activists and progressives have criticized the former fossil fuel lobbyist for using his political power to help industry giants—his former clients.
Prior to starting his political career, Bernhardt worked for a law and lobbying firm in Washington to represent the interests of mining, oil, and gas giants and other corporations whose business procedures are largely influenced by the interior department.
“David Bernhardt is a walking conflict of interest who is selling out our public lands to his former clients in the fossil fuel industry,” said Michael Brune, executive director of environmental organization the Sierra Club.
“Like Ryan Zinke before him, Bernhardt is clearly more interested in doing favors for his corporate polluting friends than in responsibly managing our shared public spaces. We will not back down in our efforts to hold Bernhardt accountable for his abuse of ethical norms and his dangerous, pro-polluter agenda.”