Public land belongs to all Americans and the bureaus of the Interior Department are responsible for balancing conservation and resource extraction on our land. The Trump administration is making some major changes to this important agency which few Americans are aware of. In this episode, learn what their plans are, how those plans are being implemented, and who stands to benefit from the changes. Spoiler alert! Fossil fuel companies will be pleased.
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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes
CD149: Fossil Fuel Foxes
- Article: Court halts leasing, drilling expansion in sage grouse habitatBy Allayana Darrow, The Sheridan Press | Via Wyoming News Exchange, October 23, 2019
- Article: Pendley’s Reagan years: Leasing zeal spurs coal ‘fire sale’ By Timothy Cama, E&E News, September 30, 2019
- Article: The Interior Secretary Wants to Enlarge a Dam. An Old Lobbying Client Would Benefit. By Coral Davenport, The New York Times, September 28, 2019
- Article: Audio of private meeting shows oil industry ripping into Trump administration By Ben Lefebvre, Politico, September 27, 2019
- Article: Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn By Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone, August 29, 2019
- Article: The Federal Election Commissino Needs 4 of 6 Members to Enforce the Law. It Now Has 3. By Shane Goldmacher, The New York Times, August 26, 2019
- Article: Congress pumps brakes on Interior push to relocate Bureau of Land Management By Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill, August 22, 2019
- Letter: Addressed to Mr. Joseph Balash Tom Udall and Betty McCollum, August 22, 2019
- Article: Bureau of Land Management retirees fight plan to relocate agency out west By Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill, August 21, 2019
- Article: Interior Releases Specifics of Reorganization Plan FEDweek, August 21, 2019
- Article: Land and minerals chief resigns with questions in his wake by Heather Richards, E&E News, August 21, 2019
- Article: Trump’s Pick for Managing Federal Lands Doesn’t Believe the Government Should Have Any By Steven Mufson, The Washington Post, July 31, 2019
- Article: Lawmakers, Lobbyists and the Administration Join Forces to Overhaul the Endangered Species Act By Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman, The New York Times, July 22, 2019
- Article: Tribes accuse BLM of shutting them out on drilling decisions By Heather Richards, E&E News, July 16, 2019
- Report: Assessment of methane emissions from the U.S. oil and gas supply chain By Ramón A. Alvarez, Daniel Zavala-Araiza, David R. Lyon, David T. Allen, Zachary R. Barkley, Adam R. Brandt, Kenneth J. Davis, Scott C. Herndon, Daniel J. Jacob, Anna Karion, Eric A. Kort, Brian K. Lamb, Thomas Lauvaux, Joannes D. Maasakkers, Anthony J. Marchese, Mark Omara, Stephen W. Pacala, Jeff Peischl, Allen L. Robinson, Paul B. Shepson, Colm Sweeney, Amy Townsend-Small, Steven C. Wofsy, Steven P. Hamburg, Science Magazine, Vol. 361, Issue 6398, pp. 186-188, July 13, 2018
- Article: Carbon dioxide levels hit landmark at 415 ppm, highest in human history By Ryan W. Miller and Doyle Rice, USA TODAY, May 13, 2019
- Article: Rep. Grijalva: House panel considering subpoenas for Interior information By Anthony Adragna and Ben Lefebvre, Politico, May 10, 2019
- Article: Bernhardt bucks Zinke on part of reorganization plan By Michael Doyle, Politico, May 8, 2019
- Article: Interior Dept. Opens Ethics Investigation of Its New Chief, David Bernhardt By Coral Davenport, The New York Times, April 15, 2019
- Article: Oil Producers Are Burning Enough ‘Waste’ Gas to Power Every Home in Texas By Kevin Crowley and Ryan Collins, Bloomberg, April 10, 2019
- Article: David Bernhardt confirmed as Secretary of the Interior By Chris D’Angelo, High Country News, April 12, 2019
- Article: Trump’s Pick for Interior Dept. Continued Lobbying After Officially Vowing to Stop, New Files Show By Coral Davenport, The New York Times, April 4, 2019
- Article: Interior Nominee Intervened to Block Report on Endangered Species By Eric Lipton, The New York Times, March 26, 2019
- Article: The Trump administration is opening millions of new acres to drilling — and that’s just the start By Darryl Fears and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, March 15, 2019
- Article: Top Leader at Interior Dept. Pushes a Policy Favoring His Former Client By Coral Davenport, The New York Times, February 12, 2019
- Article: Interior Secretary Zinke resigns amid investigations By Darryl Fears, Juliet Eilperin, and Josh Dawsey, The Washington Post, December 15, 2018
- Article: Trump Says He’ll Nominate Andrew Wheeler to Head the E.P.A. By Lisa Friedman, The New York Times, November 16, 2018
- Article: “The Guy Doing the Dirty Work” at Trump’s Interior Department is an Ex-Oil Lobbyist Straight Out of the Swamp By Rebecca Leber, Mother Jones, October 9, 2018
- Article: In America’s Hottest Drilling Spot, Gas Is Going Up in Smoke By Rebecca Elliott, The Wall Street Journal, August 29, 2018
- Article: As Trump Dismantles Clean Air Rules, an Industry Lawyer Delivers for Ex-Clients By Eric Lipton, The New York Times, August 19, 2018
- Article: At Interior, we’re ready to bring the Endangered Species Act up to date By David Bernhardt, The Washington Post, August 9, 2018
- Article: Law That Saved the Bald Eagle Could Be Vastly Reworked By Lisa Friedman, Kendra Pierre-Louis and Livia Albeck-Ripka, The New York Times, July 19, 2018
- Article: Firm Prepares To Mine Land Previously Protected As A National Monument By Shannon Van Sant, npr, June 21, 2018
- Article: White House Proposes a Massive Reorganization of Federal Agencies By Charles S. Clark, Government Executive, June 21, 2018
- Resignation Letter: Read Joel Clement’s resignation letter – Whistleblower Joel Clement, an executive with the Department of Interior, resigned Oct. 4 By Joel Clement, The Washington Post, October 4, 2017
- Article: I’m a scientist. I’m blowing the whistle on the Trump administration By Joel Clement, The Washington Post, July 19, 2017
- Document: STATEMENT OF RYAN ZINKE, SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE ON THE 2018 PRESIDENT’S BUDGET REQUEST, June 20, 2017
- Article: Zinke moving dozens of senior interior department officials in shake-up By Juliet Ellperin and Lisa Rein, The Washington Post, June 16, 2017
- Executive Order 13781: Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch Executive Office of the President, Federal Register, March 13, 2017
- Article: Trump advisors aim to privatize oil-rich Indian reservations by Valerie Volcovici, Reuters, December 5, 2016
- Article: The Federal Government Should Follow the Constitution and Sell Its Western Lands by William Perry Pendley, National Review, January 19, 2016
- Press Release: President Obama Announces Bromwich to Fix Oil Industry Oversight The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, June 15, 2010
- Article: Report Finds Interior Department Mismanaged Coal Lease Program by Philip Shabecoff, The New York Times, February 9, 1984
- Press Release: Energy Revenues and Disbursements Soar Under the Trump Administration, U.S. Department of the Interior, October 24, 2019
- Interior Reorganization, U.S. Department of the Interior, August 19, 2019
- Unified Interior Regional Boundaries, U.S. Department of the Interior, August 19, 2019
- Frequently Asked Questions about DOI Reorganization, U.S. Department of the Interior, August 19, 2019
- Who We Are: Secretary David Bernhardt, U.S. Department of the Interior
- Index: CALIFORNIA OIL AND GAS LEASE SALES, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management
- Memorandum: The Interior Secretary Wants to Enlarge a Dam. An Old Lobbying Client Would Benefit. U.S. Department of the Interior, August 9, 2019
- YouTube Video: How Trump’s new Interior pick David Bernhardt became “the guy doing the dirty work.”, Mother Jones, February 7, 2019
- Petition: Please Oppose David Bernhardt For Deputy Secretary of the Interior May 17, 2017
- Document: U.S. Department of the Interior Order No. 3355
- Charity Navigator: Defenders of Wildlife
- Department of Influence Leadership – Scott Cameron: Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget
- Linkedin Page: Scott Cameron
- GAO – U.S. Government Accountability Office Page: GOVERNMENT REORGANIZATION: Key Questions to Assess Agency Reform Efforts
- Representative Summary: Rob Bishop, Representative (UT)
- Website: Public Lands Foundation
Sound Clip Sources
Full Committee Hearing: THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR’S FAILURE TO COOPERATE WITH CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT REQUESTS, Committee on Natural Resources, September 26, 2019
Watch on YouTube: DOI’s Failure to Cooperate with Congressional Oversight Requests
- William Perry Pendley – Deputy Director for Policy and Programs at the Bureau of Land Management
- Tony Small – Vice Chairman of the Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee
- Edward Shephard – President of the Public Lands Foundation
Hearing: BLM DISORGANIZATION: EXAMINING THE PROPOSED REORGANIZATION AND RELOCATION OF THE BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT HEADQUARTERS TO GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO, Committee on Natural Resources, September 10, 2019
Watch on YouTube: BLM Disorganization EventID=109893
- William Perry Pendley – Deputy Director for Policy and Programs at the Bureau of Land Management
- Tony Small – Vice Chairman of the Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee
- Edward Shephard – President of the Public Lands Foundation
21:30 William Perry Pendley: We need to have the energy, mineral and realty management experts, who are now in Washington, out in the field with the state offices to work hand in glove with tribal leaders on tribal lands to ensure their ability to develop the resources. Congress passed last year, in 2018, a change to that law to permit more of these agreements. We’re working aggressively with the BIA to have those agreements, and I’ll be a very, very strong advocate for tribes being able to enter into those agreements to take over the oil and gas leasing functions on their land if that’s their decision to do so.
52:15 Rep. Rob Bishop (UT): Grand Junction is not necessarily where everyone is going to go. We’re also moving people to New Mexico. You’re moving people to Arizona, to Nevada, over to Utah, up to Idaho, where their function can be better enhanced by being in those local particular areas. So this is not just a wholesale move from at stadium to Grand Junction. You’re covering the entire West, and you’re going to allow a greater expertise and a greater experience throughout the entire area in which you find BLM lands, right?
William Perry Pendley: That’s absolutely the case. We have 74 people going to various state offices to perform SAIDI office functions. We have 222 people going to state office to perform headquarters’ functions. Nearly every, well, not nearly, every Western state will benefit from the infusion of experts.
Rep. Rob Bishop (UT): We all will benefit, and I appreciate that. Yes, sir.
55:40 Rep. Jody Hice (GA): How will the American people be able to visualize and experience some of the, how they themselves, how Americans are going to be better served, if the leadership and the resources are moved closer to the actual places that are impacted and involved with BLM. William Perry Pendley:Congressman, I think one of the ways is better decision making earlier in the process. None of us like the logjam that we’ve seen, for example, with national environmental policy act, where we have endless litigation, and makes it difficult for things, rubber to hit the road, and whether we’re doing a recreational project or grazing renewal or oil and gas operations, whatever we’re doing, they get bogged down. And one of the things the secretary has done is forced those decisions out into the field with sectoral or 3355 to shorten our NEPA process and get it done right. And one of the ways we can most effectively do that is having our top people in the field.
1:04:30 Rep. Dianna Degette (CO): 35 of those people said they’re going, of the 177 you have now, they said they’re not going to move to the West. Do you have people in the West who are qualified who say they’re going to take that job? William Perry Pendley: If I could slightly correct the statement, that is an estimate that our policy budget and management people made, calculating that typically 25%… Rep. Dianna Degette (CO): The find 25% that want to go there? William Perry Pendley: No, no. It’s simply a rough calculation, okay, we’ve got to make some numbers. We’re going to try to get a number to provide Congress. What’s our PHCS code? Rep. Dianna Degette (CO):Understand. Did they get the number on the other side of how many more people would want to come in? Do you have that number? William Perry Pendley: I don’t have that number. Rep. Dianna Degette (CO): Thank you very much.
1:33:30 Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC):Would you, to this committee, promise to have before this committee, a survey of staff so that the committee will have information on how many will refuse and how many will be glad to move to Grand Junction? William Perry Pendley:We’re going to be meeting with people one on one. We’re going to be meeting with family members. We’re going to be asking their personal needs and be responsive to those needs. I don’t think we can provide that information because that’s going to be a one-on-one employee to employee discussion.
1:54:15 Tony Small: Moving BLM to Grand Junction will impact energy permitting on our lands. No one is talking about moving the White House or Congress to Grand Junction or any other agencies involved in energy permitting on Indian lands. Moving BLM will reduce coordination, drain expertise, eliminate accountability. Rather than drain the swamp, BLM will become a tool of special interest and will lose focus on its national missions, including trust responsibility to tribes. Grand Junction is in our original homelands. In 1880 we entered into an agreement with United States to give up millions of acres and to resettle along the grand river, near modern day Grand Junction. These lands were rich with water resources, but the United States forces us at gunpoint further West into what would become Eastern Utah. In this rocky desert, a 1.9 million acre reservation was established for our benefit. Ever since, our Kopavi reservation in Utah has been under attack. First, non Indians overgraze lands intended for our stock, and today BLM permits energy development on our lands. — have been made and energy leases and royalties on our own Kopavi reservation. BLM splits this money with the state. We have never been paid for the use of our lands. Year after year, the United States forces us to go to court to protect our lands and enforce treaties, agreements, and trust responsibilities. This must stop.
2:34:15 Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC): If this proposal were to go through, there would be virtually no headquarter staff, and there would be, it would be the only agency that did not have a headquarters staff present here in the nation’s capital. It is an extreme proposal to put it mildly.
2:35:45 Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC): And you reference that there had been past reorganization efforts, that they had been problematic, and even ultimately reversed. I wonder if you have any detail you could offer the committee on prior reorganizations of any kind. Edward Shephard: I can. One example that I can give from my personal experience, when I was back on forestry staff here in Washington DC, is we moved a lot of folks West to, what we call, centers of excellence. And when they went out to the West they became a part of that state. Whether it was intended to or not, that’s just human nature. They became part of that state organization and a lot of the knowledge of what went on, if you went to Oregon, you didn’t know what was going on in Utah, Colorado, because you were in that state, you concentrated on that state. And you also, the way this reorganization was, you won’t even have, and that way in ’91 also you don’t have the benefit of going over, if you’re a forester and you’re making a decision on a policy level thing, you can’t walk over to the wildlife staff that also does policy because they’re not there. And that’s an issue that’s gonna happen with this reorganization. You need to work together between interdisciplinary teams and it won’t be there when they’re spread out all over the place.
Full Committee Hearing: WHEN SCIENCE GETS TRUMPED: SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY AT THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, Committee on Natural Resources, July 25, 2019
Watch on YouTube: Full Committee Hearing EventID=109850
- Andrew Rosenberg, PhD – Director at the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists
- Joel Clement – Senior Fellow at the Arctic Institute
- Daren Baskst – Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation
- Maria Caffrey, PhD – Former partner of the National Park Service
34:00 Andrew Rosenberg: Some examples of attacks at the Department of Interior selected from our research are as follows. The Fish and Wildlife service bowed to political pressure and circumvented our comprehensive assessment of impacts on endangered species of a proposed city size development in southeastern Arizona. Department suppressed 18 memos from staff scientists raising concerns about proposed oil and gas operations in the Arctic National Wildlife refuge, and they defunded landscape conservation cooperatives effectively censoring climate change adaptation information for state and local governments. Department of Interior published an analysis of gray wolves that was riddled with errors, scientific errors, as identified by peer reviewers and that analysis then extensively supported removing endangered species act protections for this species. And DOI officials blocked the release of a comprehensive analysis on potential dangers of widely used pesticides for hundreds of endangered species, as the chairman noted, 1400.
39:05 Joel Clement: As Director of the Office of Policy Analysis, it was my job to understand the most recent scientific and analytical information regarding matters that affected the mission of the agency and to communicate that information agency leadership. I never assumed that agency leadership would make their decisions based entirely on that information, but I did assume they’d taken into consideration. And that proved true for the first 6 years of my time at Interior. It all ended with the arrival of the Trump political team, which as I’ll describe later on, has sidelines scientists and experts, flattened the morale of the career staff, and by all accounts has bent on hollowing out the agency. Now the career staff at interior are not partisan in the work. They have a job to do, they do it well. Of course, they know that an incoming Republican administration is likely to favor resource extraction of a conservation. The vice versa is true, but they’ve pledged to support and defend the constitution, advance the mission of the agency regardless of their beliefs. But what if their leaders are trying to break down the agency? What if their directives run counter to the agency mission as directed by Congress? What if the political appointees are intentionally suppressing the science that indicates that doing more harm than good and putting American’s and the American economy at risk? These days, career staff have to ask themselves these questions nearly every day, or at least decide where their red line is. For me, the Trump administration crossed it by putting American health and safety at risk and wasting taxpayer dollars. Here’s how that went down. Science tells us that rapid climate change is impacting every single aspect of the agency mission, and it was my job to evaluate and explain these threats. For example, as the federal trustee for American Indians and Alaska natives, Interior is partially responsible for the wellbeing, uh, but with over 30 Alaska native villages listed by the government accountability office, as acutely threatened by the impacts of climate change, it should be a top priority for Interior to help get these Americans out of harm’s way as soon as possible. I was working with an inter-agency team to address this issue, speaking very publicly about the need for DOI to address climate impacts, and I paid that price. Uh, one week after speaking at the U.N, uh, on the importance of building climate resilience, I receive an evening email telling me had been reassigned to the auditing office that collects royalty checks from oil, gas, and mining industries. I have no experience in accounting or in auditing. It was pretty clear to me and my colleagues that this was retaliation for my work highlighting Interior’s responsibilities as they pertain to climate change and protecting American citizens. So I blew the whistle. I was not alone. Dozens of other senior executives received reassignment notices in that night’s purge. The ensuing inspector general investigation revealed the political team had broken every single one of the office of personnel management guidelines for reassigning senior executives, and they left no paper trail to justify their actions.
41:50 Joel Clement: There are many more instances of the agency directly suppressing science. Among them, reports that Secretary Bernhardt ignored and failed to disclose over a dozen internal memos expressing concern about the impacts of oil and gas exploration on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Former Secretary Zinke, canceling a national academy study on the health impacts of coal mining, right before lifting a moratorium on coal leasing. Zinke again, instituting a political review of science grants led by an old football buddy that was, that has bottle-necked research funding and led to cancelled research and the U.S. Geological survey eliminating their entire climate change mission area. The list goes on and on. Not only does this group ignore science and expertise, they crossed the line by actively suppressing it at the expense of American health and safety, our public lands and the economy. They’re intentionally leaving their best player on the bench.
1:08:10 Rep. Deb Haaland (MN): Who took over the work that you were doing for those Alaska native communities, that incredibly important work. Who took that over after you were gone?
Joel Clement: They’ve never replaced me and that work ceased. Rep. Deb Haaland (MN): They’ve never replaced you? Joel Clement: No. Several months later they found a political appointee to sit in the office, but he has since moved on upstairs.
1:10:05 Rep. Deb Haaland (MN): Why do you believe this reassignment was done out of retaliation and wasn’t simply a policy decision by leadership? Joel Clement: I don’t see any chance that that was a policy decision. I think it was purely punitive and retaliatory for two reasons. One, of course, to take the climate adviser and put them in the office that collects royalty checks is clearly an indication they want, they wanted me to quit. But also, the very next week, Secretary Zinke came to the hill and testified during a budget hearing, that indeed he did want to use reassignments to trim the workforce at DOI by 4,000 people. I don’t think he realized the reassignments don’t trim the workforce unless you’re getting people to quit, and that’s unlawful.
1:45:30 Rep. Paul Gosar: I don’t think anybody denies that, that climate is always changing. I think there is nobody that will say that, but I think the priorities is what can man do and what cannot man do? Like i.e., the Sun. Would you agree with me that the Sun has more implications on our weather and climate than does man? Joel Clement: The uh, the climate has certainly always changed, there’s no question about that. The climate has not changed at this pace and to this extent during the course of human civilization. Rep. Paul Gosar: Oh, well, has the earth changed dramatically before man? Joel Clement: It certainly has. During the time of the Dinosaurs, of course, they were wiped out by a very dramatic change. Rep. Paul Gosar: It did.
Full Committee Hearing: U.S. Department of the Interior Budget and Policy Priorities for FY 2020, Committee on Natural Resources, May 15, 2019
Watch on YouTube: U.S. Department of the Interior Budget and Policy Priorities for FY 2020
- David Bernhardt: Secretary of the Interior
1:36:45 Rep. Mike Levin (CA): Yes or no? Is there any doubt that you have a legal obligation to take into account the needs of future generations and manage the public lands to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation, now and in the future? David Bernhardt: We certainly have a need to take them into account. We are taking them into account.
Rep. Mike Levin (CA): Yet when we met, you claimed that Congress hasn’t given you enough direction to address climate change. David Bernhardt: What I specifically said is you haven’t given me any direction to stop any particular activity and if you want to stop it, you need to give us that direction. The reality is we comply, we are compliant with NEPA. Rep. Mike Levin (CA): Mr Bernhardt, Secretary, what type of direction would you want Congress to give you to make it in every year? David Bernhardt: Whatever you think you can do to stop it, if that’s what you want to do, go for it. But, but that should happen in this body. That’s not something the Department of Interior does with the magic wand.
2:39:40 Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA): So I was reading the newspaper this week and it hit the headlines that two days ago, that carbon dioxide levels hit 415 parts per million, which is the highest in human history, the highest in 800,000 years. Did you happen to see that secretary? David Bernhardt: I didn’t see that particular fact…. Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA): Well that was on the front page of USA Today, and I’ll ask unanimous consent that the article titled “Carbon Dioxide levels hit landmark at 415 parts per million, highest in human history”, be made part of the record. And that was of course when there were no humans the last time it, it hit that kind of level and so my question for you is on a scale, and this is a number question, I’m looking for a number secretary. On a scale of one to 10, how concerned are you about that? David Bernhardt: Well, what I will say is I believe that the United States….. Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA): …And 10 being the most concerned and one being the least concerned, what’s your number? David Bernhardt: I believe the United States is number one in terms of decreasing CO2. Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA): Did you hear me all right Secretary? I’m asking you what’s your number of your level of concern about that? On a scale of one to 10, 10 being the most concerned, what’s your number for how concerned you are about us hitting 415 parts per million of carbon dioxide? David Bernhardt: I haven’t lost any sleep over it.
C-SPAN Broadcast: Interior Department Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request, Mother Jones, May 7, 2019
Watch on YouTube: APPROPRIATIONS–DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
- David Bernhardt: Secretary of the Department of the Interior
27:35 David Bernhardt: I recognize that climate is changing. I recognize that man is a contributing factor.
29:00 David Bernhardt: Are we going to stop Welland Gas Development because of this report? The answer to that is no. Congress, you all have the ability to decide whether we do anything on federal lands and you’ve decided the lands that we manage. You’ve decided a whole host of different range of things. On some things you’ve decided that it’s wilderness and should be enjoyed for the solitude and enjoyment of people and untrammeled by man. On other things, you’ve decided that this is a national park and it should be managed that way. And on other areas you’ve decided that the land is for multiple use. We go through a planning process. That planning process can result in some areas that are for solitude, other areas are for multiple use, but at the end of the day we also have the Mineral Leasing Act. And if you have a view on what you want to happen, we’ll carry it out when you execute it. And that is my position.
44:45 David Bernhardt: If I were to ask for a Lexis or Westlaw search, and for somebody to give me the number of times that the secretary is directed to do something, you’d find that there are over 600 instances in law that says, I shall do something. There’s not a “shall” for “I shall manage the land to stop climate change” or something similar to that. There’s a “shall” that tells me to provide people to work on reports. There’s some authorization, but there’s no “shalls”.
53:40 Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ): Obviously I want to talk to you a little bit about drilling off the coast. Democrats and Republicans, we kind of agree on this issue. There were in opposition to drilling off the coast of Atlantic, so our state has been very concerned about this administration’s proposal to open up the outer continental shelf to drilling. I certainly was pleased to hear that those plans are on hold, but it’s very concerning that the administration is planning to proceed with the seismic air gun testing. A practice that causes extreme injury to marine animals, including dolphins and whales. Considering the harm to wildlife, what is the justification for engaging in seismic testing when there is a little prospect of offshore drilling anytime soon? David Bernhardt: Well what we do is we receive these applications and we process them. I don’t think we’re at a stage where any have been approved. But we go through the process.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ):
What applications are you talking about? David Bernhardt: The seismic applications. And my view would be that there’s seismic that occurs out there for other things already that don’t need a permit from a bone. But we’ll go through and we’ll do our analysis. We’ll make our decision and I think the way the regulations written, if we say that there’s a problem with the permit, then we need to explain how their application could be corrected. My own view is, we shouldn’t be afraid of information, if we can do it lawfully and it can be done responsibly. The data itself is not something that we should be afraid of.
1:02:15 David Bernhardt: On my first day as deputy, the secretary pulled me into his office and said, “your first job is to deal with Sage-Grouse. And I’d spent my entire career avoiding Sage-Grouse both at the department and the private sector.
1:05:00 Rep. Mike Simpson (ID): I’m not anti Sage-Grouse. It’s a species we’ve got to make sure it doesn’t get on the listing and our language to prevent listing in the past has been so that there’s progress can be made outside of the courts, frankly. Because it’s going to be done by the Department of Interior, by the states, by the local communities, and not by a judge.
1:08:25 Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI): The oversight committee on natural resources are investigating whether your staff has been complying with transparency and record keeping laws, including whether records related to your daily schedule was deleted or withheld from disclosure. On March 28th, the committee sent you a joint letter requesting transcribed interviews with four employees familiar. It has been over five weeks since the committee issued the letter and the Interior has not scheduled the interviews or allowed the employee to contact. What are you doing and when do you plan on scheduling these witnesses for interviews? David Bernhardt: Well, I think we’ve sent the committee tens of thousands of pages of documents. They’ll see every single calendar entry made from the day. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI): But we’re talking about…. David Bernhardt: We have every single document. You have so much to review. We’ve offered a briefing…. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI): But we as Congress asked for them to come and, last time I checked, you don’t determine how we get our information. I appreciate what you sent, but the issue on the table is scheduling the witnesses for interviews and you sir, are the person who’s responsible to set the tone. So I want to know, when do you plan on scheduling these witnesses? David Bernhardt: I want to be very clear here. We have offered additional briefings. We’ve offered material and at the right, we think it’s not the appropriate time for interviews. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI): So your position is that you have the right to tell Congress when and what, how the information will be…. David Bernhardt: Of course not, but we do have a right to have a process that’s fair and responsive and know…. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI): So you think the process isn’t fair and responsive? David Bernhardt: In all candor, you sent these secretaries requests and they obviously have to make their choice, but you’re talking about individual employees that have been long standing employees within the department and when you want to shoot at me, that’s comes with the territory. But these are people, we have wonderful career employees here that are very, they’ve never had this happen to them in their career and I just think people ought to think about that for a minute.
1:13:00 Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Four days into your tenure, the inspector general opened an ethics investigation into a “wide assortment of questionable conduct on your part”. So, spare us that we’re coming after your career employees, as you say, this is about you and the questions raised, leaving meetings with questionable private interest off your public calendar and changing your public calendar, which may violate federal record laws, rolling back endangered species protections to benefit your former clients, engaging in illegal lobbying activities and blocking scientific study on the impact of certain pesticides on several endangered species to benefit the makers of these pesticides.
1:28:15 Rep. Betty McCollum (MN): Does the DOI have a comprehensive plan for the proposed reorganization? And some of this I know you’re probably going to get back to me on, so I’ll read the others. David Bernhardt: I, um…. Rep. Betty McCollum (MN): Because the committee today has not received anything. David Bernhardt: I think I committed to you months ago that if this moved forward, you’d get a detailed plan. And I think you can say that you don’t have a detailed plan. We have a spend plan that we brought today. I’ll give you, but I know for a while that we need to have a plan that will pass muster for you.
1:30:10 Rep. Betty McCollum (MN): So, let me tie that back to what is going on with tribal consultation. Mr. Cameron’s statement also in the Committee on Oversight and investigations, and I quote for him. “After much input from the department’s career senior executive staff, Congress, governors, and external stakeholders, including consultation with Indian tribal leaders, a map was finalized in the unified regions, took effect on August 22nd 2018”. According to your website, the unified regional boundary map was published on July 20, 2018, however; the first tribal consultation occurred on June 30th and the final consultation occurred on August 23rd. So it’s clear from the timeline that the tribal consultation was, it appears to be an afterthought to the reorganization and…
1:34:00 David Bernhardt: Let me be very, very clear. We are not reorganizing as part of the unified regions in any way. The BIA or BIE, they wanted out of it.
1:58:15 Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Tell us how the things I talked about, like reducing tests to key equipment such as blowout preventers is a compromise? David Bernhardt: The fact of the matter is the more you test equipment, also leads to the greater likelihood that it will fail and… Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): When you take that, so the logical conclusion, we’ve never tested theirs.
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Hearing: NO ROAD MAP, NO DESTINATION, NO JUSTIFICATION: THE IMPLEMENTATION AND IMPACTS OF THE REORGANIZATION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, Committee on Natural Resources, April 30, 2019
Watch on YouTube: Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Hearing
- Scott Cameron – Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget at the Department of Interior
- Worked at the Interior Department during the GWB administration.
- Between his Interior gigs for GWB and Trump, Cameron spent four years working at Dawson and Associates, a lobbying firm that represents lots of companies in the fossil fuel industry.
- Harold Frazier – Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
- Michael Bromwich – Founder and Managing Principle of the Bromwich Group
- Former Justice Department Inspector General and U.S. Assistant Attorney
- Has investigated and helped reform police departments and conducted investigations of the FBI, returning damning results.
- Was one of the prosecutors of Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal.
- Jamie Rappaport-Clark – President and CEO at Defenders of Wildlife
- Former Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service during the Clinton administration
9:45 Rep. T.J. Cox (CA): One of the first things Ryan Zinke did after becoming secretary was try to implement massive solution in search of a problem. The weakness in that approach to reorganizing the 70,000 employee department of the Interior, It became clear early in the process. We have not seen data to show that there is a problem. We’ve not seen data to prove that every organization was the way to solve the problem, nor have we seen a cost benefit analysis or workforce planning data, no measurable goals, no comprehensive plan, and that’s worth repeating, a massive reorganization and we have seen no plan.
11:20 Rep. T.J. Cox (CA): The actions that have been taken so far in the name of the reorganization have already had significant impacts. Starting in 2017, dozens of the most experienced, the most effective employees were moved out of their positions into positions for which they had no qualifications or interest, and with very little notice.
12:35 Rep. T.J. Cox (CA): To try to uphold our constitutional prerogative to provide oversight on this major undertaking, this committee has repeatedly sought information from interior. We’ve been repeatedly denied.
19:55 Scott Cameron: Uh, the departments where reorganization is in response to President Trump’s 2017 executive order to reorganize the executive branch to better meet the needs of the American people in the 21st century. Our Agency’s reform plan highlights the need to modernize and plan for the next 100 years of land and water resource management. The first and very significant step we took toward reorganization was to create 12 unified regions that aligned most of our bureaus with within shared geographic boundaries and more importantly, shared geographic perspectives. After much input from the departments, career senior executive staff, Congress, governors, and external stakeholders, including consultations with Indian tribal leaders, the map was finalized and the unified regions took effect on August 22, 2018.
22:35 Scott Cameron: We have also proposed moving elements of the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Geological Survey headquarters operations west, to bring them closer to the public that they interact with most frequently.
24:25 Harold Frazier: Now when this reorganization happened, um, as tribes in the Great Plains area, and I’m sure throughout the United States, we were never properly consulted. When they come to the region, the Great Plains region, we were given a picture of a map. That’s all we were given. We weren’t given any plans over the purpose of, -how, or why this change is needed or how it’s going to benefit our people. It was never done. That’s all we were given.
29:10 Michael Bromwich: My testimony will focus on the first principles that should guide a significant government reorganization and how they were applied to the reorganization we undertook at interior following the oil spill. First, a bit of background. In late April, 2010, Deep Water Horizon rig was conducting exploratory drilling in the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. The rig experienced a violent blowout that killed 11 people and injured many others. It was a human tragedy of major proportions, but also an enormous environmental tragedy. In early June, 2010 I was asked by President Obama to lead the agency responsible for the oversight of offshore drilling. At the time, known as the Minerals Management Service or MMS. We took immediate steps to modify the rules governing offshore drilling, but we also looked at whether the government’s organizational structure for managing it was the right fit for the risks that it posed. We ultimately concluded that it was not, but not before we developed a detailed understanding of the way the agency operated and the costs and benefits of changing that structure. The agency was responsible for three very different missions, collecting royalties and revenues for the offshore program, making balanced resource decisions and developing and enforcing regulations governing offshore activities. These three missions conflicted with each other and the history of the agency demonstrated that revenue collection was emphasized at the expense of the other missions. By the time I arrived at DOI, six weeks after the initial explosion, discussions had already begun about reorganizing MMS to eliminate its structural conflicts, but I was given the discretion to decide whether or not to do it. I don’t take reorganizations lightly. I have a bias against them. They are disruptive, expensive, frustrating, and they tend to depress morale. They create uncertainty and divert resources. They frequently fail to achieve their objectives. Reorganizations are too often undertaken for reasons of executive vanity. They are developed and implemented in haste, inadequately vetted based on inadequate analysis and insufficient consultations with stakeholders, including the personnel responsible for implementing them. They are a way for a new executive or executive team to put their imprint on an organization, whether the changes make any sense or not. Those are bad reasons for undertaking a reorganization, but those are the reasons that many are undertaken. In the case of MMS, we became convinced that a reorganization was necessary and appropriate, but only after careful study and consideration of less disruptive alternatives. I want to emphasize that when we began the process, there was no preordained outcome. We did not decide on the reorganization that was ultimately implemented and then work backwards to justify it. Instead, we undertook a detailed process together with outside consultants who are experts in organizational diagnosis and reorganizations. We considered a number of less sweeping changes, including changes to staffing levels, enhanced training, and other organizational tweaks. In the end, our analysis and discussions pointed to a broad reorganization and my prepared statement goes into detail into the various steps we took during the process. Throughout the process, we were extraordinarily open about what we were doing. We were open with the agencies personnel, with DOI, with the congress, and with the public. We spoke frequently about what we were doing and why we were doing it. The broad contours and most of the specifics of the reorganization were embraced by members of Congress of both parties. In the more than seven years since the reorganization was completed, its wisdom has been demonstrated. I’ve just told in very abbreviated form, the story of a rare species, a successful government reorganization. As I said at the outset, I know very few of the details of the proposed and far broader DOI organization that is the subject of this hearing, but I gather I’m not alone because the details of the reorganization have not been shared widely with agency personnel, the Congress, or the public, including local stakeholders, communities, and Native American tribes. That’s a problem. I’m aware of no internal or external studies of any kind that have made the affirmative case for the proposed DOI reorganization. I am aware of no analyses or studies that have presented the anticipated benefits of the reorganization and balanced them against anticipated costs.
34:05 Jamie Rappaport-Clark: With more than 20 years of service with the federal government, I have personal experience with reorganization initiatives and with leading mission driven organizations. I believe the administration’s current effort to reorganize Department of the Interior distracts from its vitally important mission. Waste scarce, fiscal and human resources disrupts the essential and lawful functions of interior bureaus, reduces staff capacity and seriously undermines employee morale. To succeed, there must be clarity, not only on the problems posed by the existing structure, but how the proposal will measurably improve performance. Impacts to personnel and operations must be explicitly considere and transparency and public engagement across all affected sectors, vitally important. The administration has not satisfied these fundamental criteria. Their plan suffers from a lack of crucial details, transparency, accountability, and public engagement. They have never really described a compelling need for reorganization. Consideration of critical questions about the scope, purpose, impacts, benefits, and risks of such a radical transformation have not been reconciled.
35:45 Jamie Rappaport-Clark: A unified military command is fundamentally inappropriate for coordinating interior bureaus. A distinct mission and responsibility for each bureau are established by law. Those missions sometimes align, but sometimes diverge or even conflict, and that’s by design. Certainly bureaus can and should coordinate their actions better to achieve timely outcomes, but they cannot be legally subordinated to the control of a single unified regional directorship. The administration’s proposal of 12 unified regions cut through watersheds, they cut through states and even individual public lands units, confounding management and complicating relationships with partners, overlaying new regions atop current agency boundaries or fracture relationships developed with stakeholders over many years.
37:00 Jamie Rappaport-Clark: Given this administration’s agenda of energy dominance on the public domain and continuous attacks on our conservation laws and regulations, it’s fair to question whether their purpose is to support their policy priorities and weaken the effectiveness of conservation programs rather than to achieve objectives of efficiency and public service in carrying out the Interior department’s complex and multidimensional mission.
42:30 Scott Cameron : Because we respect the sovereignty of Indian tribes, we were not willing to impose, if you will look, the involvement of BIA and BIE in the reorganization effort on the tribes and since the tribes have not been particularly enthusiastic about the notion of their bureaus being part of the reorganization, we in fact have not included them.
45:20 Scott Cameron : Essentially, the reorganization has three parts, the unified region, a concept which has already initially deployed, if you will. There’s a notion of saving money to invest in Indian schools and other departmental services by pursuing shared services and our back office administrative functions to get some efficiencies there. And the third prong is the notion of moving the headquarters elements of the BLM and the USGS West, to be closer to where the preponderance of those bureaus activities is taking place.
50:15 Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ): I was thinking if there was an instruction manual on how to fundamentally weaken an agency. This is what I think I would recommend. Start by creating a crisis for key agencies. Move them as far away from Congress as possible to minimize contact with appropriators and authorizers. Undermine those relationships, separate them from the nonprofit community that helps them make informed decisions. Then make it clear to the workforce that they are not valued. Create a culture of fear to demand total loyalty. Transfer them to jobs in which they have no qualifications or interest. Send them to new parts of the country. Uproot their families and lives. Quietly close or cut programs throughout the agency. Take away their decision making authority and voice within the department and put it in the hands of political appointees.
51:40 Jamie Rappaport-Clark:It is incredibly destabilized. Focus is not on the task at hand. Employees are confused. Stakeholders are confused. Communication is not flowing and there’s a culture of fear in the Interior department, clearly in the fish and wildlife service given the reckless nature of senior executive reassignments with no justification, with no information, with no conversation. Another round is expected to be coming. This is an agency I believe in crisis, which diverts its talent. It diverts its responsibilities. It diverts its attention to addressing species extinction, land management needs, climate change, all of the water management, all of the very important natural resource values that that department’s trusted to oversee and take care of.
58:40 Rep. Rob Bishop (UT): Mr. Cameron, Let me also ask you, you talked about benefits of, in your written testimony of relocating and DOI from Washington D.C., can you just simply explain some of the longterm savings that a relocation would actually realize? Scott Cameron: Yes, Mr. Bishop, so there are a number of types of savings. For one thing, the rental cost in most cities in the West is a lot cheaper than in the main interior building or in Washington D.C. more generally. Travel costs, travel time. Most of the airplane trips are from the east coast to the west coast. If we had the geological survey headquarters and the BLM headquarters out west somewhere, there be a lot more one hour plane trips instead of four hour plane trips. Cost of living for our employees is a lot cheaper out west in most locations, than it would be here and there is a list of a dozen or so variables that we’re looking at.
1:04:00 Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ): And what are the steps of accountability? Scott Cameron: We will be working on individual performance standards for the person who is charged with being an Interior Regional Director, each one of the regions. And there will be specific expectations in terms of what that person’s scope is or is not on a region by region basis. And they would be reporting to the deputy secretary in Washington. So we will have an accountability, but we will be not cutting out the bureau directors and the assistant secretaries, but traditional chains of command will also apply.
1:06:40 Rep. T.J. Cox (CA): Can you provide any type of legal justification whatsoever withholding the plan? Scott Cameron: Sir, For once, I’m glad I’m not an attorney, so I won’t dare to go outside of my area of expertise. So I cannot provide that.
1:07:00 Rep. T.J. Cox (CA): Any evidence at all that this reorganization strategy or plan is going to strengthen agency decision-making? Michael Bromwich: Well if there is, we haven’t seen it. And it’s up to the agency to provide it. I looked at the reorganization website that DOI sponsors, there’s been nothing posted on it since November one. One of the key elements of a reorganization if it’s going to succeed, is to continue to push information out to all of the stakeholders who are affected by it. Most particularly, the employees in the agencies that are going to be affected. And you can read through everything that’s on the DOI reorganization website in less than half an hour. And as I say, it hasn’t been updated in five months since November one. So you can’t handle a reorganization that is a mystery shrouded in another mystery. You need to be open about it. You need to provide the details of what you’re doing. You need to lay out the costs and benefits that will be accomplished through the reorganization. None of that has been done. Mr. Cameron has done a very good job of talking in generalities, but there are only generalities and without having the kind of analysis that undergirds a real and potentially successful reorganization, it’s simply not going to work. If the reorganization that has been described by Mr. Cameron and has previously been described by Secretary Zinke were submitted to a board of directors of any major company in this country, it would be rejected flatly, for lack of detail.
1:21:40 Rep. Rob Bishop (UT): What does SES mean? Scott Cameron: Um, Senior Executive Service. Rep. Rob Bishop (UT): And did you not have one of the SES, a two day conference with those people on this plan? Scott Cameron: We did Sir, more than a year ago. We brought in all the regional…. Rep. Rob Bishop (UT): Did it have the recommendations? Scott Cameron: We spent two days chatting with them. They gave us lots of ideas and we modified our original conception of the plan based on their feedback. Rep. Rob Bishop (UT): So you have implemented those types of things? Scott Cameron: Yes Sir, we’re in the process of implementing them. Rep. Rob Bishop (UT): And as you go and talk to interest groups, whatever they be, you have implemented those changes? The changes from the county lines to state lines. Was that pushed by the states? Scott Cameron: It was pushed by the Western Governors Association in particular.
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