In­te­rior pick fa­vors eas­ing land-use re­stric­tion

McMor­ris Rodgers has history friendly to fos­sil fuel de­vel­op­ment.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

If con­firmed to head the In­te­rior Depart­ment, Rep. Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers likely would bring sweep­ing changes to the agency, eas­ing re­stric­tions on en­ergy pro­duc­tion on fed­eral lands and play­ing a lead role in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ex­pected bit­ter fights with en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists.

The Washington Repub­li­can, re­ported to be Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s choice for in­te­rior sec­re­tary, has a leg­isla­tive history friendly to fos­sil fuel de­vel­op­ment on gov­ern­ment land and off­shore drilling, and has fa­vored in­dus­try in­no­va­tion over Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion reg­u­la­tion in the ef­fort to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions.

Through­out her ten­ure in Congress, she’s rou­tinely drawn the ire of pow­er­ful en­vi­ron­men­tal groups. The League of Con­ser­va­tion Vot­ers, for ex­am­ple, has given her a 4 per­cent “pro-en­vi­ron­ment score” over her en­tire ca­reer; in 2015, they gave her a score of 0 per­cent for the year.

With the pick, Mr. Trump would again sig­nal his in­tent to weaken gov­ern­ment re­stric­tions over the fos­sil fuel sec­tor, and early signs in­di­cate he’ll make it eas­ier to drill for gas and oil and to mine coal on fed­er­ally owned lands, par­tic­u­larly those in the Western part of the coun­try.

Ms. McMor­ris Rodgers hasn’t yet ad­dressed the wide­spread re­port­ing that she’ll re­place Sally Jewell at the In­te­rior Depart­ment, nor has Mr. Trump of­fi­cially an­nounced his se­lec­tion. But en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists al­ready have started a cam­paign to dis­qual­ify her from a job that would put her in charge of mil­lions of acres of gov­ern­ment land, na­tional parks, mon­u­ments and other fed­eral prop­erty.

“Sell­ing off our pub­lic lands to the high­est bid­der and open­ing them to drilling, min­ing and log­ging is not in the best in­ter­est of our coun­try, but that is ex­actly what Rep. McMor­ris Rodgers has voted to do over and over again,” Sierra Club Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Michael Brune said in a state­ment late last week. “From ex­pand­ing off­shore drilling to un­der­min­ing at­tempts to pro­tect our wild places, it’s clear that McMor­ris Rodgers would jeop­ar­dize the fu­ture of our pub­lic lands if ap­pointed as sec­re­tary of the in­te­rior.”

The en­vi­ron­men­tal group Friends of the Earth linked the loom­ing nom­i­na­tion of Ms. McMor­ris Rodgers to a broader fight against the ex­trac­tion of fos­sil fu­els, par­tic­u­larly fuel on gov­ern­ment land.

“Rep­re­sen­ta­tive McMor­ris Rodgers and Don­ald Trump seem de­ter­mined to turn our pub­lic lands and waters into en­ergy sac­ri­fice zones. We need a re­spon­si­ble stew­ard of our most scenic, sen­si­tive pub­lic ar­eas, not an auc­tion­eer. Friends of the Earth is ready to op­pose her nom­i­na­tion to keep fos­sil fu­els in the ground,” the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s cli­mate cam­paigner, Marissa Kn­odel, said in a state­ment.

As in­te­rior sec­re­tary, Ms. McMor­ris Rodgers — first elected to Congress in 2004 and the No. 4 rank­ing Repub­li­can in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives — also would play a key role in the des­ig­na­tion of land and waters as na­tional mon­u­ments, a tac­tic rou­tinely used by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to stop any en­ergy ex­plo­ration in those ar­eas.

In 2014, she voted in fa­vor of leg­is­la­tion that would limit the pres­i­dent’s abil­ity to set aside land as na­tional mon­u­ments, and would stop the gov­ern­ment from tak­ing pri­vate land and in­clud­ing it in na­tional mon­u­ment des­ig­na­tions.

The bill also would’ve pro­hib­ited the pres­i­dent from des­ig­nat­ing more than one na­tional mon­u­ment in a par­tic­u­lar state dur­ing a four-year pres­i­den­tial term.

“While na­tional mon­u­ments of­fer trib­ute to our history, we must guar­an­tee East­ern Washington the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in de­ci­sions that im­pact our com­mu­nity,” she said in 2014. “Pri­vate prop­erty should not be un­justly al­lo­cated for fed­eral pur­poses with­out a prop­erty owner’s ap­proval, and by sup­port­ing the En­sur­ing Pub­lic In­volve­ment in the Cre­ation of Na­tional Mon­u­ments Act, we are re­spect­ing the rights of prop­erty own­ers through­out East­ern Washington.”

The bill passed the House but died in the Se­nate.

In July, af­ter the House voted on a fund­ing bill for the In­te­rior Depart­ment, Ms. McMor­ris Rodgers out­lined what seems to be a set of core prin­ci­ples for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and how it han­dles nat­u­ral re­sources. The bill would’ve in­creased fund­ing for wild­fire preven­tion, stopped im­ple­men­ta­tion of a pro­posal giv­ing the EPA more power over U.S. wa­ter­ways, and other steps.

“Our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and their lead­ers know how to man­age their own land and the re­sources around them bet­ter than fed­eral bu­reau­crats. This leg­is­la­tion in­cludes key pro­vi­sions that will help keep our com­mu­ni­ties safe from wild­fires, pro­tect farm­ers from overzeal­ous EPA reg­u­la­tions, and main­tain our beau­ti­ful, abun­dant pub­lic land as a recre­ational out­let for all walks of life,” she said in July.

McMor­ris Rodgers

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