Washington – Following his confirmation hearing Thursday in the Energy and Natural Resources committee, a coalition of 15 East and West Coast senators announced their intent to vote “No” on David Bernhardt’s nomination for Interior Secretary due, at least in part, to his role in expanding offshore drilling that threatens their states’ coastal economies. Declaring their opposition were Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
“Today’s hearing made one thing absolutely clear: A vote for Bernhardt is a vote for offshore drilling. Acting Secretary Bernhardt is committed to following the administration’s directive to open our nation’s coastal waters to reckless offshore drilling, which directly threatens the health of our beaches and the strength of our coastal economies,” said the senators. “The Interior Department’s mission is to protect our nation’s public lands and natural resources. Acting Secretary Bernhardt has proven he is not up to the task, and we oppose his nomination.”
Acting Secretary Bernhardt, who previously served as Deputy Secretary, has overseen the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) development of an oil and gas leasing plan that dramatically expands risky offshore drilling and that has prompted bipartisan criticism at all levels of government throughout each coast. The Interior Department, under Bernhardt’s leadership, has simultaneously been working to weaken offshore drilling safety standards put in place in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and at the recommendation of a bipartisan commission that investigated the disaster.
During today’s confirmation hearing, Bernhardt did not commit to protecting our coastal communities from the threat of offshore oil and gas drilling by removing the Atlantic, Pacific, Eastern Gulf of Mexico and other areas from Interior’s risky offshore drilling plan. Additionally, Bernhardt failed to respond to last week’s letter cosigned by 17 senators demanding answers about his plan to drill off their states’ beaches.
While several senators have expressed additional concerns with Bernhardt’s record on ethics, numerous conflicts of interest, transparency, and other policy issues, the coalition today cited Bernhardt’s unacceptable position on offshore drilling for prompting them to join in announcing their opposition to his nomination.