Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) opposed the nomination of Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) to be the Secretary of the Interior.
Explaining her opposition, Sen. Cantwell said: “Unfortunately, I'm not convinced that Congressman Zinke will be able to moderate the Trump administration's extreme views on exploiting our public lands. I'm not sure he will be able to stand up to the president and protect the public interest … required to manage our public lands for the benefit of all Americans—not just the oil, gas and mining companies and their commercial interests.”
Specifically, Sen. Cantwell took issue with Rep. Zinke’s potential support of transferring federal management responsibilities of public lands to the states. She is opposed to Rep. Zinke’s openness to weaken or repeal recently designated monuments through the use of the Antiquities Act. She is opposed to lifting the federal coal leasing moratorium, as well as the Trump administration’s decision to greenlight the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline without adequate consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux, Cheyenne River and other affected tribes.
The Trump administration has made it clear that it intends to pursue an aggressive energy development agenda, undoing reasonable protections put in place on environmentally sensitive federal lands and waters, and that it will renew efforts to reverse protections both onshore and offshore in the Arctic.
“It is clear to me the [Trump] administration will do everything it can to reverse responsible management of our public lands and instead pursue an aggressive energy development agenda without regard to the environmental and public health consequences,” Sen. Cantwell said. “We have a nominee who has been all over the map as it relates to public lands. And he has certainly [gone] on the record that he will implement the president’s strategy.”
The Secretary of the Interior has one of the most important jobs in the federal government—responsible for managing our nation’s public lands, national parks and national wildlife refuses; overseeing mineral and energy development on public lands and in federal waters; managing water resources in Western states; and discharging the nation’s trust obligations to Indian tribes and insular areas.
On the issue of tribal responsibilities, Sen. Cantwell noted: “The Secretary of the Interior must be committed to upholding our trust and treaty obligations for our country’s 567 federally recognized tribes. That secretary must be committed to recognizing tribal sovereignty and self-determination; to protecting tribal lands, waters and mineral resources; and to supporting adequate resources for tribal education, social services and infrastructure.”
The Interior Secretary must balance not only the interests of extractive industries seeking to access the nation’s mineral wealth, but also the needs of the public for outdoor recreation and conservation. Sen. Cantwell said, “The [Interior] Secretary must balance the short-term demands of developing resources on our public lands against the need to protect environmentally sensitive areas and preserve that natural heritage for future generations.”
Sen. Cantwell said: “The jobs from the outdoor economy are just as important—maybe more important—economically [than extractive industries] in the near term and the long term. Nationwide, it’s 6.1 million jobs and $646 billion in revenues from outdoor recreation. This is a very valued part of the U.S. economy. It is also a very valued part of the American spirit.”
The Senate will vote on Rep. Zinke’s nomination later tonight or early tomorrow; the vote has not yet been scheduled. Sen. Cantwell plans to vote “no” on his nomination.