President-elect Donald Trump is planning to name Montana Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior Department.
Citing to a source close to Trump’s transition, The Hill reported that Zinke was offered the post on Tuesday. A transition official separately told CNN that Zinke has accepted the offer.
The Department of the Interior has some 70,000 employees and a wide range of responsibilities, including managing huge swaths of federal land, mostly in the West; enforcing treaties with Native American tribes, and studying the nation’s geography. If confirmed, Zinke would be replacing Sally Jewell, who has been President Obama’s Secretary for the department since 2013.
An early Trump supporter, the freshman Congressman has been a critic of numerous Obama administration environmental initiatives, including a moratorium on new leases for coal mining on federal land that accompanied a review of the coal leasing program. Zinke’s homes state is among the leading states for coal mining on public lands. Trump has similarly opposes the administration on this. In fact, his transition website said that he “will encourage the production of [fossil fuels] by opening onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands and waters.”
He is also no fan of the administration’s policies cracking down on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and oil and gas wells, and has pushed for Native American tribes to get more leeway in how they permit drilling on their land.
He is in agreement with one of the President-elect’s positions in that he is a strong opponent of transferring federal land ownership to the states — so much so that he resigned his position in the committee writing the GOP platform earlier this year due to a provision in the platform advocating such transfers.
Like Trump, he is also a climate change denier. “The evidence strongly suggest that humans have had an influence on higher CO2,”Zinke said during his 2013 congressional campaign. “However, the evidence is equally as strong that there are other factors, such as rising ocean temperatures, that have a greater influence.”
Last Tuesday, reports emerged that Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was going to be Trump’s pick for the Interior Department. However, a source said that McMorris Rodgers was never offered the job from Trump or his transition team and that she has not spoken to the President-elect regarding the post, either.