UPDATED: Trump’s pick for Interior Secretary wants to sell off public lands

Rep. McMorris Rodgers’ nomination is more bad news in an administration that will be terrible on climate.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

UPDATE: The Trump administration has announced that Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) will be its nomination for Secretary of the Interior.

Another climate-denying nominee will be named Friday for a key environmental position in the Trump administration, multiple sources are reporting.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) will likely be tapped to lead the Department of the Interior, which oversees all of the U.S. public lands, including forest management, the Parks Service, and fossil fuel extraction.

McMorris Rodgers is strongly in favor of developing the United States’ fossil fuel resources. She has also opposed federal ownership of public lands and voted to make it more difficult for the president to create national monuments. McMorris Rodgers is the author of a bill that would have directed the Department of the Interior to sell off federal lands in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.

The selection is not surprising, in what is shaping up to be the most anti-environmental administration — Republican or Democrat — in modern times. The Interior Department transition team has been led by Doug Domenech, the director of a pro-fossil fuels project at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.

McMorris Rodgers has repeatedly expressed her support for oil. She supports expanding offshore drilling, voted for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and voted against raising the royalty rates for oil and gas that comes from public lands.

The Department of the Interior includes the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, which permits offshore drilling and renewable energy. A proposed plan to include parts of the Atlantic in the bureau’s five-year plan was scrapped earlier this year after community opposition. If confirmed under the Trump administration, McMorris Rodgers will have a key role in shaping the next plan.

On the League of Conservation Voters scorecard, which tracks environmental votes in Congress, McMorris Rodgers has a lifetime score of 4 percent. Her 2015 score was zero. While she has not gone on the record about climate change often, a 2008 list of reasons she is glad she is a Republican included “We believe Al Gore deserves an ‘F’ in science and an ‘A’ in creative writing.”

McMorris Rodgers spent much of 2011 tweeting about high gas prices, which she blamed on Obama and the EPA. McMorris Rodgers plainly equates more drilling with lower gas prices, at one point tweeting a FoxNews story about Shell’s decision not to drill in the Arctic, after the company was found not to have adequately calculated its environmental impact.

A cursory look at the shows that there is not an inverse relationship between domestic oil production and gas prices.

As production massively increased from 2009 to 2014, gas prices did not fall accordingly. There are many complex economic factors that determine gas prices, including the fact that oil is traded on a global market. To that end, McMorris Rodgers voted to lift the oil export ban last year.

The Trump administration is likely to squeeze as much oil, gas, and coal out of the United States as possible over the next four years. With McMorris Rodgers at the helm of the Department of the Interior, and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt heading the Environmental Protection Agency, environmentalists, public lands supporters, and climate advocates are bracing for many battles ahead.

“Her congressional voting record shows lots of evidence that McMorris Rodgers will serve the interests of corporations that seek to plunder resources from public lands, rather than acting on behalf of all Americans to safeguard our wild lands and natural treasures,” said Drew Caputo, Earthjustice’s Vice President of Litigation for Lands, Oceans, and Wildlife. “President-elect Trump should retract this announcement, or the Senate should reject this nomination. If not, and if McMorris Rodgers attempts to carry out her anti-environment agenda, Earthjustice and its attorneys will see her in court.”