Zinke To Interior: Hopes And Fears

Senators will likely question Zinke about his view on climate change as one of the big issues facing public lands in their use for oil and gas drilling.

By Nicky OuelletJanuary 17, 2017 9:42 am| , ,

From Inside Energy

Freshman Congressman Ryan Zinke from Montana is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Interior Secretary.  The Interior Department oversees one fifth of federal lands in this country, including national parks from Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon.

Last week Zinke said he was quote, “honored and humbled to be asked to serve Montana and America.”

The nomination unleashed a mixed bag of reactions.

“We’re hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” said Drew Caputo, vice president of litigations at Earthjustice’s headquarters in San Francisco. Earthjustice is a law firm that frequently litigates endangered species, water and public lands issues.

“Congressman Zinke has shown some important independence from Republican party orthodoxy on a couple of environmental issues,” Caputo added.

For example, Zinke talks big about keeping public lands in federal hands and broke from the GOP in voting in favor of clean energy funding for the Department of Energy.

“He prides himself on being a ‘Theodore Roosevelt Republican,’” said Land Tawney, the CEO of Missoula-based Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

“What Theodore Roosevelt did when he helped set aside this large public land estate that we have and so it’s important for him to continue this legacy,” Tawney said. “And he said he wants to do that and we expect him to do that.”

Tawney said Zinke’s nomination could be a boon to hunters and anglers, in part, because the Congressman supports the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses federal oil and gas royalties to buy and protect properties.

But Earthjustice’s Drew Caputo said that’s only half the story.

“Literally the rest of his voting record during his two years in congress is awful for the environment,” Caputo said.

Zinke has voted against new fracking regulations on federal public lands, voted to limit the president’s ability to designate National Monuments and has favored bills with riders that weaken the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. This voting record earned him a low three-percent rating with the League of Conservation Voters last year.

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