Interior pick favors easing land-use restriction
McMorris Rodgers has history friendly to fossil fuel development.
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.