President Donald Trump’s new pick for Interior Department secretary played a key role in gutting protection for migratory birds, according to emails obtained by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.
The newly obtained emails from 2017 and 2018 indicate that David Bernhardt, a former industry lobbyist, has been personally involved with intricacies of new policies at the Interior Department that benefit oil companies and other industries.
According to the emails, Justice Department lawyers apparently opposed the rollback. Daniel Jorjani, the Interior Department’s top lawyer, shared their comments with Bernhardt, calling them “robust.”
“Well we have a bit of work to do,” Bernhardt replied. “Change is not easy.”
Trump last week announced that he would nominate Bernhardt, currently the department’s acting secretary, to replace Ryan Zinke, who left office last month amid ethics investigations.
The emails provide rare insight into Bernhardt, who is known for avoiding paper trails. Current and former department officials told Reveal that he directed staff not to write emails or take notes during meetings.
For more than 50 years, federal officials used the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to prosecute and fine companies that inadvertently kill geese, ducks, cranes, eagles and hundreds of other migratory bird species with industrial hazards, such as oil pits and wind turbines. But under Trump, the Interior Department issued a legal decision in late 2017 that revoked that ability.
The energy industry lobbied the administration to scale back prosecutions under the law, according to a report published by Reveal last year.
The documents show that Jorjani, the author of the legal opinion…