Another Disappointing Day in DC — Nation deserves better protections for lands, environment, health, wealth

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‘Swamp Creatures’ crash Bernhardt’s confirmation hearing. (Credit: Fox News)

By Rick Happ | News Openion

WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 23, 2019 is another disappointing day regarding our Federal Government. What happened Tuesday is that another swamp creature, David Bernhardt, was sworn in as Secretary of the Interior.

Mr. Bernhardt is a former lobbyist for the oil and agribusiness industries. Mr. Trump’s first Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, and his first Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Scott Pruitt, both resigned last year amid allegations of ethics misconduct. The people of this country deserve better protections to our lands and our environment. Moreover, David Bernhardt now joins a host of other Cabinet swamp creatures, which puts our people’s health and their wealth at risk. Here I will simply address our Department of the Interior and David Bernhardt.

Even before the ceremony, David Bernhardt, was under formal investigation by the Inspector General of the US Interior Department. Mr. Bernhardt now oversees our nation’s 500 million acres of public land and vast coastal waters. According to three separate investigations by The New York Times, Mr. Bernhardt used his position [Acting Interior Sec.] to advance a policy pushed by his former lobbying client; he continued working as a lobbyist after filing legal paperwork declaring that he had ceased lobbying; and he intervened to block the release of a scientific report showing the harmful effects of a chemical pesticide.


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The Center for Biological Diversity and The New York Times obtained, via the Freedom of Information Act, over 84,000 documents alleging that Bernhardt interfered with a US Fish and Wildlife Service report on the dangers of the pesticides chlorpyrifos, malathion and diazinon.

Brett Hartl, with the Center for Biological Diversity’s Director of Government Affairs, says that all three pesticides are organophosphate insecticides. They were discovered during World War II because they have the same chemical properties as nerve agents, meaning they affect the nervous system in all animals of all types. Bernhardt’s interference with the pesticide report from US Fish and Wildlife has raised concern inside and outside the government.

“Pesticide companies are, and have been, large donors to the Trump administration, Hartl points out, which could explain Bernhardt’s reluctance to release information to the public that could affect the industry’s bottom line. Dow Chemical, the maker of chlorpyrifos, gave $1 million to Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017. Very soon after, the company wrote a letter to then-Secretary Ryan Zinke at the Interior Department, as well as to Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency, asking them to stop the pesticide reviews.”

– Adam Wernick, Living on Earth April 23, 2019 4:30 PM EDT

And also this week, The New York Times reports that the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General has launched a new investigation into more political appointees at the agency, a move described as a “related investigation to a federal probe into the ethics practices of the agency’s Secretary, David Bernhardt.”

How long David Bernhardt will last as Secretary of the Interior is very debatable. Unfortunately, how long supporters of President Trump will put politics in front of sound policy is more certain. And with that stated, I also do not endorse any of the Democrats’ current proposals. America is currently lacking in honest and fair leadership from either political party. Again I repeat, the people of this country deserve better protections to our lands, our environment, our health and our wealth.

Editor’s note: Mr. Happ is a Pamlico County resident who closely follows national and international affairs. We welcome his contributions to this newspaper.