Some 170 conservation groups are calling on the U.S. Senate to reject Rep. Ryan Zinke as the next interior secretary.
Senators will vote in the coming weeks on whether to place Zinke in charge of the nation’s more than 1,500 endangered species, as well as more than 500 million acres of public lands and minerals leasing for oil, gas and coal across the country and in waters.
A letter signed by the groups says Zinke earned just a 3 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters during his two years in Congress.
At his Jan. 17 nomination hearing, he offered no indication he would manage the Department of the Interior differently from what his congressional voting record indicates: that he consistently put special interests ahead of the nation’s wildlife, natural heritage and climate.
“Zinke’s voting record qualifies him to be an exterminator, not the chief protector of America’s endangered animals and beautiful public lands,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, one group that signed the letter.
As interior secretary, Zinke would oversee the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one of two federal agencies responsible for administering the Endangered Species Act.
In Congress Zinke cast 21 votes against endangered species protections. He even opposed a crackdown on black-market ivory from poached African elephants.
At his confirmation hearing, Zinke endorsed increased fossil fuel extraction on public lands despite the fact that existing oil, gas and coal leases on public lands already account for a significant portion of the U.S.’s carbon pollution.
Additional reserves on public lands contain an estimated 450 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution, which if fully tapped would dangerously tip the scales toward an unlivable planet for future generations.
“Forty percent of America’s coal and 21 percent of our oil are produced on federal land under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of the Interior. To address climate change, protect our environment, and prevent another BP-type oil catastrophe, we need an interior secretary who understands the science of climate change and will stand up to Big Coal and Big Oil. Zinke’s confirmation hearing made clear that he is the wrong man for this important job, and the Senate should not confirm him,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.
“Donald Trump has turned our foreign policy over to Big Oil and now he wants to hand them our public lands as well,” said Friends of the Earth president Erich Pica. “A movement formed to keep fossil fuels in the ground and that movement will resist Trump and his polluting agenda.”