Trump’s Interior Pick Needs to Deal With Rampant Cronyism, Top Lawmaker Says

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Whoever President-elect Donald Trump picks to head the Department of the Interior will need to deal with the cronyism and mismanagement plaguing the agency, a top Republican lawmaker said.

“I want somebody who understands how the department has developed,” Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, told The Daily Caller News Foundation, noting that “cronyism is one of the problems” that plagues the agency.

Bishop chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, which oversees the Interior Department. His committee has been critical of how the Obama administration has run the agency, especially when it comes to keeping officials from abusing their power.

One of the most notable cronyism cases came to light in June when DOI’s inspector general found Bob Abbey, the former Bureau of Land Management head, stood to personally benefit from the sale of federal land to a developer. The sale never went through, and the Department of Justice declined to prosecute Abbey.

Investigators also caught a U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service employee secretly taking money from an environmental lobbying group while also working for the government. The feds initially declined to prosecute the employee, but he eventually agreed to a plea deal.

While Trump’s been vocal about repealing Environmental Protection Agency regulations, the president-elect has largely been silent on many of the issues facing the Interior Department.

So, it’s hard to say how Trump will run the department. It mostly depends on who he nominates.

“A lot of it will be determined by who is appointed,” Bishop said. “If we are going to become a permanent power we are going to ed to open up offshore areas and federal lands.”

“It doesn’t have to be done at the expense of conservation,” Bishop said.

Trump is considering several candidates for Interior secretary, including Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, oil executive Forrest Lucas and even former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis is also reportedly being considered for the job.

The Interior Department not only leases land for drilling and mining. Bishop wants to see an Interior secretary promotes energy production, but also understands the agency’s many other duties, like tribal relations and managing U.S. territories.

“It’s more than just land,” Bishop said.

Another big question is what Interior-related executive actions Trump should repeal. Bishop says Trump could repeal a White House guidance document asking federal agencies to take into account how individual projects will impact global warming.

Republicans have been heavily critical of the NEPA guidance since it would further burden projects on federal lands.

“That’s one thing he can repeal,” Bishop said.

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