Chair Grijalva: Secretary Bernhardt “Not Losing Sleep” Over Climate Change Concerns Me – and So Does His Lack of Transparency With Congress

Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today said he is seriously concerned about the direction of the Department of the Interior (DOI) following Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s testimony yesterday, his first before the Committee since taking the top post. Bernhardt revealed his total lack of concern about climate change during his appearance, telling the Committee he has “not lost any sleep” over the issue despite recent news that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are the highest recorded in human history.

Bernhardt’s statements and responses to questions, Grijalva said, indicated an alarming lack of seriousness about climate change, an inability to explain his deep industry ties and conflicts of interest, and an unwillingness to commit to transparency on key issues, including the ongoing DOI reorganization and the lack of DOI responsiveness to House Democratic requests for documents and information.

“The secretary’s performance yesterday told me that he sees legitimate congressional requests for information as a nuisance he can ignore, which seems to be how this entire administration operates,” Grijalva said today. “Laughing off climate change as a waste of everyone’s time and energy tells me he’s too far in industry’s pocket to be trusted with our public lands. He shrugged off pointed questions about his industry favoritism, he wouldn’t explain why he won’t give us documents we ask for, and he wouldn’t answer simple questions about the DOI reorganization. I’m glad he appeared yesterday as part of doing his job – I just wish he would have come with substantive answers instead of empty, well-rehearsed talking points.” 

You can see video highlights of Bernhardt’s testimony and his exchanges with Democratic lawmakers below.

Sec. Bernhardt’s Attitude to Congressional Inquiries

Chair Grijalva asks Sec. Bernhardt to address “the elephant in the room” – President Trump’s refusal to cooperate with legitimate Democratic inquiries and requests for information – and notes that of 17 document requests since Bernhardt became secretary, the Committee has only received partial responses to two requests (link)

Climate Change

Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) asks Secretary Bernhardt to quantify his level of concern about climate change on a scale from 1 to 10 and Bernhardt responds, “I haven’t lost any sleep over it” (link

Legal Requirements for DOI to Act on Climate Change

Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) points Sec. Bernhardt to four laws that guide much of DOI’s mission, each of which requires the department and its lead officers to leave resources intact for future generations, and asks him to explain how he could meet these directives while ignoring climate change (link)

Sec. Bernhardt’s Lack of Transparency

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) asks Sec. Bernhardt why DOI’s supposedly rigorous process for reviewing documents released in response to Democratic inquiries produces fully redacted pages, reams of computer code and other visual “gibberish” – and Sec. Bernhardt dismisses it by saying he’s spent years in civil litigation “and so I’ve seen a lot of documents that look like this” without promising any new level of transparency (link)

Lack of Tribal Consultation on DOI Reorganization

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) asks Sec. Bernhardt to explain his role in curbing President Trump’s anti-tribal racism – and why Bernhardt and his staff haven’t meaningfully consulted with Native American tribes as part of the ongoing reorganization of DOI’s workforce and infrastructure (link)

Sec. Bernhardt’s Conflicts of Interest

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) asks Sec. Bernhardt to point to a time at which an industry asked DOI for something and Bernhardt said no – and gets no specific example in response (link)

Land and Water Conservation Fund

Rep. TJ Cox (D-Calif.) asks Sec. Bernhardt why the Trump administration’s budget proposal cuts funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund – one of the country’s most popular conservation programs, which conserves land at no cost to taxpayers – by 95 percent, and Sec. Bernhardt says that Congress has one set of priorities and the president has another (link)


Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) asks Sec. Bernhardt to explain his relationship with pesticide manufacturers and why he intervened to block the release of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report finding significant pesticide risks to endangered species (link)

Climate Censorship

Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) describes Trump administration pressure against Dr. Maria Caffrey, a climate researcher who prepared a report for the National Park Service on sea level rise in national parks. She was pressured to remove mentions of human contributions to climate change (link)

President Trump’s Anti-Tribal Rhetoric

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) asks Sec. Bernhardt who President Trump consulted with before attacking tribal land rights in a racist tweet, and how much influence a conservative political donor had over the president’s view of a rival tribal casino construction project (link

Medicaid in U.S. Territories

Rep. Gregorio Sablan (D-CNMI) asks Sec. Bernhardt about an impending lack of Medicaid funding in U.S. territories, which fall under DOI’s jurisdiction, and Bernhardt says he’s not very familiar with the issue (link)


Press Contact

Adam Sarvana

(202) 225-6065 or (202) 578-6626 mobile