Acting Secretary of the Interior (Interior) David Bernhardt will testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee next week for his confirmation hearing to replace his predecessor, Ryan Zinke.  Democrats are expected to posse challenging questions to Acting Secretary Bernhardt on Interior’s plans to expand off-shore oil drilling and his relationships with the fossil fuels industry. 

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Kamala Harris (D-California) were among the Senate Democrats who sent a letter to the Acting Secretary this week, requesting an exemption for the Pacific Ocean from Interior’s five-year leasing plan for oil and gas drilling projects.  Democrats in the Senate are also expected to raise the issue of the Trump Administration’s Fiscal 2020 budget request for Interior which would reduce the Department of the Interior’s budget by $2 billion.

Acting Secretary Bernhardt will expect a warm welcome from Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who is a vocal supporter of the Interior Department agenda under the Trump Administration.  The Committee will likely vote to move Bernhardt’s confirmation to the floor, but the Acting Secretary is under mounting pressure from Republicans from coastal states who share Democrats’ concerns about off shore drilling programs at Interior.  Opposition from coastal state Republicans such as Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), and Rick Scott (R-Florida) could delay what would otherwise be a smooth confirmation process.