Department of Interior

Interior nears a contract with a company its secretary used to lobby for
Conservation groups fear water deal will be a hazard for protected salmon and other aquatic life

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt testifies in May 2019. The department he leads is close to completing a contract for a water district he represented as a lobbyist. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Interior Department is close to completing a permanent water supply contract for a water district once represented by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt as a lobbyist, despite concerns that doing so would imperil aquatic species including endangered salmon. 

Conservation groups say the deal between the Interior Department and the Westlands Water District, which serves and is run by farmers in California’s Central Valley, promises to permanently divert more federally managed water to the district just as climate change threatens to make the state hotter and more prone to extreme drought.

As House passes Arctic drilling ban, Interior goes the other way
Trump administration moves to open part of sensitive area to drilling, a win for Alaska Republicans

A pair of moose are seen near the Sheenjek River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. (Alexis Bonogofsky/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The Interior Department and the House are moving in different directions on Arctic drilling.

Hours after the House voted 225-193 to block oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the agency said it was moving to open a portion of the area to drilling.

Trump administration to allow energy development in Utah former national monument
House Natural Resources chairman calls the move ‘a shameless giveaway campaign’

Sandstone formations are seen in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument outside Escalante, Utah. (George Frey/Getty Images file photo)

The Bureau of Land Management acknowledged Friday it plans to open a large portion of land in Utah — which the federal government until recently considered a national monument — to future oil, gas and mining projects.

At the urging of local and state officials as well as industry groups, President Donald Trump in 2017 shrank the size of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to 1 million acres from the 1.9 million acres it was when President Bill Clinton established it.

Happy Birthday to C-SPAN and Pelosi, from swamp monsters and velociraptors: Congressional Hits and Misses
Week of March 25, 2019

The creature from the Black Lagoon paid Capitol Hill a visit this week, as D.C. institutions like C-SPAN and Speaker Nancy Pelosi celebrated their birthdays. Plus, Sen. Mike Lee roasted the Green New Deal resolution with a poster of Ronald Reagan riding a velociraptor, and Reps. Markwayne Mullin and Ann McLane Kuster clashed over a certain word that starts with the letter “S.”

Also, while it was technically last week during recess, Roll Call is thrilled to wish the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network (C-SPAN) a happy 40th birthday! Thanks for letting us borrow your footage to make dumb congressional blooper reels.

Ryan Zinke Picked to Be Trump's Choice for Interior Secretary
Had suggested he might challenge Sen. Tester

Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., is reportedly President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Interior secretary. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and trained geologist, has been offered the post of Interior secretary by President-elect Donald Trump, according to a person familiar with the offer.

The 55-year-old Montana Republican was a featured speaker at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. He has targeted energy and minerals policy as a member of the House Natural Resources Committee. Representing the eighth-largest coal-producing state, Zinke has been critical of EPA regulations compelling coal-fired power plants to either cut their emissions further or shut down completely. He also has criticized the Obama administration’s rules on royalties for fossil fuels extracted on public lands.

Mount Rushmore Chief Carver Finally Recognized
National Park Service centennial warrants a long-awaited honor

Luigi Del Bianco, the chief carver of Mount Rushmore. (Courtesy the Mount Rushmore National Memorial's Facebook page)

For its 100th birthday, the National Park Service gave a long-awaited gift to many Italian-Americans and all unsung artists: Italian immigrant Luigi Del Bianco was finally recognized as the chief carver of Mount Rushmore.  

The park service acknowledged on the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Facebook page on May 4 that Gutzon Borglum, the designer and chief engineer of the project, had appointed Del Bianco as the monument's chief carver in 1935.  

Interior Department Says Final Arctic Drilling Rule Will Boost Safety
But Republicans, oil industry concerned over harming energy production

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski criticized the Obama administration for launching what she called a "regulatory onslaught" on drilling in the Arctic which would more likely harm energy production there. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Interior Department on Thursday finalized a rule it says will make drilling in the Arctic safer and more environmentally sustainable by requiring oil and gas companies to set in place systems to prevent and contain oil spills in the region's difficult weather conditions.  

The rule, first proposed in February 2015, requires drillers on the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf to have access to a separate rig ready to drill a relief well in case they lose control of an existing well.