Trump taps former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt to lead interior department

US President Donald Trump (left) and acting US Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt in January 2019.
US President Donald Trump (left) and acting US Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt in January 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - President Donald Trump is nominating David Bernhardt to be Interior secretary, a move that puts a former oil lobbyist on track to take over the agency.

If confirmed by the Senate, Bernhardt, the deputy secretary, would succeed Ryan Zinke at the helm of the Interior Department, an US$11 billion (S$14.8 billion) agency that oversees drilling, grazing and other activities on public land.

Zinke left the Trump administration in January amid mounting federal investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest.

Trump announced the nomination on Twitter on Monday.

Bernhardt has led the department on an acting basis since Zinke left in January.

Bernhardt would continue to chart a pro-energy course at Interior, having already played a leading role shaping department policies to expand drilling, weaken wildlife protections and alter the way the government analyses the environmental consequences of projects.