Senators press interior nominee on science and climate | Science

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Originally published by E&E News

The Trump administration’s nominee for Interior deputy secretary today promised he would honor science in his decisionmaking if confirmed to lead the department’s daily operations.

“We will apply the law and be honest with the science,” David Bernhardt said today during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) asked former President George W. Bush’s Interior solicitor how lawmakers could trust that he would respect science in enforcing and applying laws like the Endangered Species Act, especially at a time when scientists are under attack.

“I am certain that the scientists at Interior are not under attack,” Bernhardt told Stabenow, adding that he did not “modify scientific data” during his tenure at Interior.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked Bernhardt directly whether he believed in climate change.

“I believe we need to take the science as it comes, whatever that is,” the native Coloradan said, which didn’t satisfy Franken.

Bernhardt added that he believed the contribution of science on climate change was “very significant” but that policy decisions would be made according to the administration’s agenda as much as allowed under the law.

I am certain that the scientists at Interior are not under attack.

David Bernhardt

Bernhardt, whose nomination has caused controversy because of his lobbying work on behalf of energy interests, promised to keep an “open mind” and listen to different perspectives if confirmed to manage the department’s 70,000-person workforce and vast portfolio.

Bernhardt served as the department’s top lawyer during the Bush administration, as well as counselor and deputy chief of staff to then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton and director of the department’s Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs.

“I have had an opportunity to work on many complex issues affecting” Interior’s diverse bureaus, he told the committee. “I respect the often-conflicting legal and policy issues likely facing the decisionmakers within the department.”

The hearing was largely devoid of fireworks, despite “grave” concerns raised by ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) about “Bernhardt’s record of working on behalf of corporations at the expense of the environment and his history at the Department of the Interior during years plagued by ethical scandals.”

Ethics disclosures Bernhardt made ahead of the confirmation hearing show that he was paid at least $80,000 last year by a host of energy and environmental interests (Greenwire, May 11).

Panel Democrats, including Cantwell, asked about various ethical issues and allegations of mismanagement at Interior during Bernhardt’s tenure — including a…

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