Ryan Zinke has resigned as Secretary of the Interior:
“In new year, Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior, seemed certain to catapult into that top tier of political nemeses for Democrats. Like Pruitt, Zinke excels at generating bizarre scandals; also like Pruitt, his own heroic vision of himself seems to survive any amount of bad press. House Democrats, salivating over their new oversight power, had already promised to subpoena Zinke over a number of issues, including a sweetheart $300-million contract for electricity in Puerto Rico that he allegedly gave to a small power company based in his home state of Montana.
But Zinke’s star turn is not to be. On Saturday morning, President Trump announced that Zinke will step down at the end of the year. David Bernhardt, the current deputy secretary and a former oil lobbyist, will take over the department.
Little is likely to change under Bernhardt. The Interior Department oversees the nation’s public lands, encompassing nearly a quarter of its total area. This makes it a kind of extra-powerful environmental regulator, especially out West, where it owns 47 percent of the territory. The department also includes the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Under Zinke, the agency has gone on a spree of deregulation. It has cut more than 1 million acres of wilderness out of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah; with help from Congress, it has opened up 19 million acres in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. The agency is also in the process of overhauling the Endangered Species Act, the muscular 1973 law that helped save the bald eagle, the gray wolf, and the American crocodile from extinction.
Many of Zinke’s efforts seemed particularly helpful for fossil-fuel companies, which can lease public land from the government and then sell the oil or coal they find there. Near the end of his term, President Obama blocked Interior from releasing any land for coal mining. Zinke, by contrast, has sped up the process of obtaining these leases for new oil and gas drilling.
Every single one of these initiatives is almost certain to continue under Bernhardt. What will not continue is Zinke’s penchant for publicity. The man embraced his role as the Cabinet’s cowboy. He arrived to his first day at the department on horseback, wearing a stetson. A former SEAL, he transplanted an arcane military ritual onto his new life as a downtown bureaucrat: Whenever he walked into the Interior Department’s downtown D.C. headquarters, he ordered his staff to fly a special flag. …”
This isn’t going to change much.
As Secretary of the Interior, Zinke’s pro-business policy on energy and the environment has essentially been Drill, Baby Drill. The U.S. has become a net exporter of petroleum for the first time in 75 years. Unlike the French, Americans are enjoying low gas prices and the United States is no longer dependent on OPEC which is good news considering where we were in the 2000s.
The most important thing happening in the world today: the U.S. shale energy revolution has transformed geopolitics. https://t.co/EH5vD6i4kQ
— Avik Roy (@Avik) December 15, 2018
Note: If a Democrat wins in 2020, they could screw this up and go down the road of Macron’s France by putting a “Green New Deal” at the top of their agenda.