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New Secretary of Interior under investigation

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Days after being confirmed, Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt is under investigation for alleged ethics violations. 

Critics say his work as a lobbyist alone should have disqualified him as a candidate for the position. 

“It appears that he was making decisions based on his former clients to approve drilling permits in California and other parts of the west,” said Director of the Land Protection Program at Sierra Club Athan Manuel.

He says Bernhardt has many conflicts of interest as a former fossil fuel industry lobbyist and Senator Ron Wyden says there are new problems too, like allegations about secret meetings.

“To nobody’s surprise many of those secret meetings have been with industry,” Senator Ron Wyden said. Specifically, the timber, oil and gas industry.

A spokesperson with the Department of Interior denies that meetings were kept secret, saying Bernhardt’s calendar as Acting and Deputy Secretary was in compliance with federal record keeping laws.

That spokesperson also told us the department’s Ethics Office already conducted a review of the accusations. But Wyden says Bernhardt has a track record of undermining the Department of Interior’s mission.

“He admitted that he had a role in blocking a landmark scientific report on toxic pesticides,” said Wyden.

Wyden says the buried pesticide report shows the chemicals are killing hundreds of species that are protected by the Endangered Species Act.

“I believe he lied to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee,” Wyden said.

Wyden said questions about Bernhardt’s ethics should have disqualified him from the job.