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.
Zinke, who is finishing his first term, apparently edged out House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., for the Interior spot. In a Facebook post Tuesday, McMorris Rodgers, who met with Trump for a second time in New York on Monday, wrote, “It was an honor to be invited to spend time with the president-elect, and I’m energized more than ever to continue leading in Congress as we think big, re-imagine this government, and put people back at the center of it.”
The Interior secretary oversees the nation’s public lands and waters, which the new administration has targeted for additional fossil fuel extraction.
Zinke had suggested he might challenge two-term incumbent Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., in 2018. He beat four opponents in the GOP primary for the at-large House seat vacated by Republican Sen. Steve Daines.
Daines praised Trump’s choice in a statement.
“As a westerner, Ryan understands the challenges of having the federal government as your largest neighbor and I couldn’t think of a better fit for Secretary of the Interior,” Daines said.