U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet will oppose President Donald Trump’s nomination of Colorado native David Bernhardt as Interior secretary.
The decision, announced Thursday, marks a change from the Colorado Democrat’s earlier vote in July 2017 to approve Bernhardt’s selection as the No. 2 job at the Interior Department.
“During his tenure as deputy secretary of the Interior, Mr. Bernhardt has worked to revoke national methane standards, drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and limit input from state and local officials with respect to the oil and gas leasing process in Colorado,” Bennet said in a written statement. “Although I respect David Bernhardt as a Coloradan, I cannot support his nomination to serve as Secretary of the Interior.”
Many Democrats and environmental groups have been opposed to Bernhardt’s selection because of his past work as a lawyer and lobbyist on behalf of the oil and gas industry.
Bernhardt is a native of Rifle and worked as an attorney and lobbyist for the high-powered, Denver-based firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.
Bernhardt was selected by Trump earlier this month to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned from his post in December amid ethics investigations. Bernhardt has been leading the agency, which oversees the nation’s national parks and vast amounts of public lands, ever since.
Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, also of Colorado, is supportive of Bernhardt’s nomination.
“I’ve known David Bernhardt for many years and have worked closely with him over the last two years to advance Colorado priorities,” Gardner said in a written statement. “As a native Coloradan from the Western Slope, David knows how important public lands are to our state and has a keen understanding of the issues Coloradans face every day.”
Bennet’s decision not to support Bernhardt is notable because he is considering a 2020 presidential bid.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that the two-term senator plans to travel to Iowa this month to meet with Democratic activists in the 2020 presidential caucus.
“I think that I’ve got a different set of experiences that the other folks in the race, many of whom are my friends and people that I like,” Bennet told NBC’s Meet the Press over the weekend. “… We’ve got a million people who are going to run, which I think is great. We have to do it. And I think having one more voice in that conversation that’s focused on America’s future I don’t think would hurt.”