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DeFazio Demands Answers on Interior Secretary’s Reported Unethical Practices

Sep 11, 2019
Press Release
Lawmaker’s Letter to Federal Watchdog Offices Highlight Bernhardt Conflicts of Interest with Jordan Cove Project

Washington, DC—Peter DeFazio (OR-04) today sent a letter to oversight officials at the U.S. Department of the Interior demanding answers about the questionable activity of U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. DeFazio’s letter to the department’s Inspector General, Mark Lee Greenblatt and Director of the Office of Ethics, Scott de la Vega highlights reports that Secretary Bernhardt is violating  federal ethics policies and using his position to promote the approval of the Jordan Cove Energy Project (JCEP).

“Secretary Bernhardt’s questionable actions with regard to JCEP are numerous, and it appears he has violated at least two requirements of current political appointees including President Trump’s so-called ‘Drain the Swamp’ Executive Order and his own ethics recusal,” said DeFazio.

Included on Secretary Bernhardt’s recusal list is his most-recent former employer, lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. In December 2018 Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck was hired by Canadian company Pembina, which is in the process of seeking federal approval of the JCEP.  Additionally, in March 2019, Secretary Bernhardt held at least two meetings with several Colorado county commissioners who represent areas where the natural gas would be extracted and exported to the JCEP.  One of the commissioners Secretary Bernhardt met with, Garfield County Commissioner Mike Sampson, taught Secretary Bernhardt at Rifle High School.  According to The Guardian, Commissioner Sampson emailed a lobbyist also retained by Pembina to advocate for JCEP, saying, “Awesome time in DC he is totally behind the project and has people working on it towards completion.”  On March 6, 2019, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported on the meetings. Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese is quoted as saying, “It doesn’t hurt that Mike Sampson was (Bernhardt’s) teacher.”

DeFazio’s letter can be found here.