Wyden Calls for Investigation of Bernhardt’s Role in Blocking Scientific Report on Toxic Pesticides
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today called on the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of the Interior to investigate allegations that Acting Secretary David Bernhardt interfered with the scientific process or the scientific conclusions of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) assessment of toxic pesticides’ effect on several endangered species.
Wyden on Thursday questioned Bernhardt directly about his role in blocking the USFWS analysis when Bernhardt appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for his confirmation hearing to become Secretary of the Department of the Interior. During that hearing, Bernhardt essentially confirmed his role in blocking the report—though he disputed Wyden’s assertion that his involvement was inappropriate political meddling.
“Mr. Bernhardt, in his role as Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior, directly intervened with Fish and Wildlife Services officials to block the release of a report on toxic pesticides," Wyden wrote in his letter to Acting Inspector General Mary Kendall. “As a result, I am deeply troubled by what appears to be a political appointee meddling in the scientific process at USFWS in its analysis of toxic pesticides and their effect on the environment and hundreds of endangered species.”
Wyden, a senior member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, requested the Inspector General investigate the following:
- The role Bernhardt and other political appointees at the Interior Department played in delaying or obstructing the USFWS pesticide analysis.
- The role Bernhardt played in changing USFWS policy with regard to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
- The role other political appointees, like Agriculture Department senior advisor and former CropLife lobbyist Rebeckah Adcock, played in the Interior Department and USFWS decision-making process with regard to the USFWS draft analysis.
- Whether, as Bernhardt alleged to Wyden under oath on March 28, 2019, the USFWS draft analysis “clearly didn’t have any legal review.”
- Whether, as Bernhardt alleged to Wyden under oath on March 28, 2019, career lawyers at the Interior Department agreed with his analysis.
A copy of Wyden’s letter to Acting Inspector General Mary Kendall can be found here.
A video of the full exchange between Wyden and Bernhardt during Bernhardt’s nomination hearing be found here.
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