President-elect Donald Trump is expected to nominate U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers as Interior Department secretary, according to media reports. The decision could be a victory for proponents of greater energy production from federal lands and waters.
McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington state, has advocated legislation to streamline hydropower permitting and joined her GOP colleagues in opposing many of the Obama administration's regulatory efforts on energy. She called the U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers' Clean Water Rule a "prime example of the failed top-down, government-knows-best policies we've come to expect from this administration."
With McMorris Rodgers in charge, Interior could reverse several agency initiatives promulgated under President Barack Obama, including the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's programmatic review of the federal coal leasing program. The bureau temporarily banned issuing new leases for coal production on federal lands until the review is complete. Republicans and oil and gas industry groups have also blasted Interior's recently finalized rule to limit methane emissions from wells on public lands.
News of McMorris Rodgers' likely nomination provoked environmental groups still reeling from Trump's pick of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. EPA. As attorney general, Pruitt sued the EPA on behalf of Oklahoma to overturn the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.
"From expanding offshore drilling to undermining attempts to protect our wild places, it's clear that McMorris Rodgers would jeopardize the future of our public lands if appointed as Secretary of the Interior," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said.
While in Congress, McMorris Rodgers voted to expand access to hunting and fishing on public lands and pushed to limit funding for federal land acquisitions. She also backed bills to allow the sale or transfer of federal lands, including introducing legislation to permit the sale of more than 3 million acres of public land in the West to private entities.
The Washington lawmaker has supported expanded oil drilling in the Pacific and other coastal waters and opposed efforts to raise royalty rates on oil and gas from public lands. In February, she voted against a House bill that sought to designate the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness in order to close off the area to drilling. McMorris Rodgers also rejected legislation to restrict hydraulic fracturing on federal areas and backed measures in Congress to undo the Clean Power Plan and support TransCanada's Keystone XL crude pipeline project.
The League of Conservation Voters also noted that McMorris Rodgers voted five times against funding for climate research, including voting to block the U.S. Department of Defense from assessing or reporting on climate change.
The potential Interior nominee's track record on public lands will be the likely target of Democratic scorn during U.S. Senate confirmation hearings.
"President-elect Donald Trump just announced a fire sale of our federal lands with the nomination of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers to head the Department of the Interior," said Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., who sits on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "The Trump administration intends to turn the Interior Department from a watchdog of the fossil fuel industry into a lapdog."
Trump's transition team did not respond to a request seeking confirmation of McMorris Rodgers' nomination