Eastern Washington lawmaker Cathy McMorris Rodgers is emerging as President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead natural resources policy as interior secretary.
Several news organizations, including the Associated Press and The New York Times reported this development Friday, based on information from unnamed sources.
Such an appointment would ensure that a Washington state resident remains at the helm of the Interior Department, which includes the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
But it would mark a philosophical shift from that of President Obama’s outgoing Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, a Seattle Democrat and former CEO of REI.
Rodgers, who lives in Spokane, is a six-term Republican congresswoman who would bring a conservative Northwesterner’s perspective into his cabinet — and would likely reinforce the Trump campaign’s climate skepticism and advocacy for more economic activity through extractive natural resource policies on public lands: from increased logging to mining to natural gas and oil drilling.
The League of Conservation Voters publishes a yearly scorecard, ranking the environmental record of members of Congress. The group has given McMorris Rodgers a 4 percent lifetime score and a zero percent score in 2015 for her votes on environmental issues.
Although a Trump transition team official said the president-elect is considering other options, the possibility of a Rodgers appointment has been generating reaction.
Mariana Parks is the spokeswoman for the industry-backed group Alliance of Northwest Jobs and Exports, which is backed by the coal industry, railroads, trade unions and other groups seeking to transport U.S. coal by rail and ship to Asia.
“She is going to bring a kind of common-sense approach to [the environmental regulatory process] in that it shouldn’t be used as a kind of sledge hammer to stop a project without going through an appropriate, thorough regulatory overview,” Parks said.
McMorris Rodgers’ possible appointment drew plenty of reaction from critics.
The Wilderness Society issued a statement noting that while Rodgers has supported renewable energy and the responsible siting of wind and solar energy projects on public land, many of her House votes are bad for the environment.
“Unfortunately, she has voted for measures that would prevent taxpayers from receiving a fair price for resources mined on public lands, prioritized drilling public lands over recreational uses, and allowed companies to bypass certain Clean Air Act provisions for offshore,” it said in the statement.
Mitch Friedman, the executive director of Conservation Northwest, raised similar concerns about what the possible appointment could mean for natural resources, public lands and the climate. Even though he opposes Rodgers’ nomination, Friedman said he considers her to be the best of the possible nominees who have been mentioned for Interior.
“We’ll be able to make our case, and she’ll listen,” he said. “I just dearly hope that a time comes when she decides to show us who she really is, and rather than following some larger polarized, partisan agenda, she advances her own vision. And I’d only hope it’s one that has some sort of conservation element.”
Others who have surfaced as possible interior secretary appointees include Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Lucas Oil co-founder Forrest Lucas and former Colorado Rep. Bob Beauprez.