U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who is a sixth-term Republican from Washington State is a climate change denier as well as a fervent opponent of regulations for greenhouse gas emissions, has been selected by President-elect Donald Trump for Secretary of Interior.
Perhaps most critically, she would manage the development of many of America’s fossil fuels and renewable resources, including all of its offshore gas, oil, and wind development. Federal land is the source of more than 20 percent of all the gas and oil and 40 percent of the coal produced in the U.S.
REVERSE OBAMA EFFORTS
McMorris Rodgers would have the power to reverse the efforts of the Obama administration to protect federally managed waters from gas and oil development and end the research into how the mining of coal disturbs climate. Earlier this year, the Obama administration placed a three-year moratorium on federal coal leasing, and closed the entire East Coast as well as areas of the Arctic Ocean to offshore oil drilling
The land the Interior Department manages stores atmospheric carbon in trees and tree roots; protects biological diversity in wilderness areas, forests and national parks; and delivers water for millions of people, mainly in the West.
DENIAL OF CLIMATE SCIENCE
McMorris Rodgers would also have wide-ranging power over how the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey communicate to the public about global warming, possibly troubling in light of her denial of climate change and climate science.
“Scientific reports are inconclusive at best on human culpability of global warming,” McMorris Rodgers falsely told the Spokane, Wash., Spokesman-Review newspaper in 2012. “Regardless of which theory proves correct, the goal is the same – to reduce carbon emissions, we need innovation in the private sector; not excessive government regulation to stifle some industries while rewarding others. I oppose ‘cap and trade’ and other big government schemes because they will destroy jobs while likely having minimal impact on the climate.”
McMorris Rodgers signed a 2012 pledge sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group funded by billionaire David Koch, promising that she would oppose any federal climate-related legislation that would raise revenue for the federal government, including a carbon tax.
Coming from Washington State, which is highly dependent on large hydroelectric dams for its electricity, McMorris Rodgers is a vocal supporter of hydropower and nuclear energy and has sponsored legislation that expands development of small hydroelectric dams nationwide — a valuable source of renewable energy.
But she is also a major proponent of drilling public lands for fossil fuels.
The League of Conservation Voters gives McMorris Rodgers a 4 percent lifetime score out of a possible 100 in their environmental scorecard because she has voted against bills that required the federal government to account for the social cost of carbon in administrative actions and required federally funded projects to be resistant to the impacts of climate change.
McMorris Rodgers has supported legislation that would have opened the Outer Continental Shelf to oil drilling, and opposed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as an air pollutant. She has also voted against tax credits for renewable electricity.
“That is not a record that is likely to inspire confidence from the environmental community,” said Mark Squillace, a natural resources law professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder. “On the other hand, I don’t sense that she has been a leading voice on public lands issues and so perhaps she will take a more conciliatory approach if she is confirmed as Interior Secretary.”
He said that McMorris Rodgers has voted mostly with her party on environmental and public lands issues.
“She also serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but again I have not seen clear signs of leadership on energy issues, other than a pattern of consistent votes in favor of fossil fuels and against taking action on climate change,” Squillace said.
In 2011, McMorris Rodgers co-sponsored a bill that would have required the Interior Secretary to sell off more than 3 million acres of public lands in 10 western states, a bill driven largely by western Republicans who believed the land served no specific purpose. Selling it would have raised more than $1 billion for the federal government, Utah Sen. Mike Lee said at the time.
As Interior secretary, McMorris Rodgers will oversee water management in much of the West. The department’s Bureau of Reclamation operates 476 dams and 348 reservoirs across the country, as well as being in charge of many scientific endeavors and mapping the entire globe through the U.S. Geological Survey.