Trump Picks a Pro-Coal Congressman to Head the Department of the Interior

By Yessenia Funes Dec 14, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump has offered Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Montana) the position of Department of Interior secretary, according to sources who spoke to Politico.

The ex-Navy Seal commander has not accepted the offer yet. Trump’s decision to place the pro-coal Zinke in the position underscores the direction the president-elect would like to take the department and its proposed $13.4 billion budget for next year. The Department of the Interior is responsible for managing public lands, Indian affairs and the country’s national parks.

After Zinke was elected to the house in 2014, he took his pro-coal agenda to Native lands. Just earlier this year in May, Zinke introduced the Certainty for States and Tribes Act, which would create roadblocks for the Department of Interior to pass coal regulation by giving a committee composed of state representatives and tribal members power to delay regulations based on their economic impact. Zinke says that he supports tribal input in energy development, but he’s also incentivized fossil fuel development among tribes in Montana by providing companies tax breaks to mine coal on Indian lands. The Crow Tribe has taken advantage of this as a method to remedy its high poverty and unemployment rates—issues seen across Indian country.

The congressman also championed a water agreement between Montana and the Blackfeet Nation that established the tribe’s water rights over six nearby watersheds in November. With Zinke’s documented support for Native input and independence, it remains unclear if he supports the Trump administration’s plans to privatize tribal land. Zinke has supported the sale of public lands in the past, as his Democratic critics have highlighted.