President Donald Trump's nominee for Deputy Secretary of the Interior said today that Trump's economic policy could take priority over climate science.
In his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, David Bernhardt said that he will consider science on climate change but that Trump's policy opinions that prioritize jobs could outweigh scientific conclusions.
In response to questions from Sen. Al Franken about how he views climate science, Bernhardt said he would look at new science but that "we're absolutely going to follow the policy perspectives of the president."
"Here's the reality, we're going to look at the science whatever it is, but policy decisions are made, this president ran, he won on a particular policy perspective," Bernhardt said after more questions from Franken.
"That perspective's not gonna change to the extent that we have the discretion under the law to follow it. In some instances we might not but in the instances that we do we're absolutely going to follow the policy perspective of the president. And here's why, that's the way our republic works and he is the president," he added.
Trump has said that he will bring back jobs in the coal industry and roll back environmental regulations put in place under President Barack Obama.
Bernhardt also pushed back on claims that scientists at the agency are under attack. The department suspended multiple advisory councils earlier this month. Sen. Debbie Stabenow asked Bernhardt about reports that scientists are "under attack" throughout the administration and whether he will honor recommendations by agency scientists.
"I would say first that I am certain that scientists at the Department of Interior are not under attack," Bernhardt replied.
Bernhardt held multiple positions at the Interior Department between 2001 and 2009, including as solicitor for the department.
More than 100 environmental groups wrote to senators earlier this week asking them to oppose Bernhardt's nomination, citing concerns about conflicts of interest from his work as a lobbyist and inspector general reports from during the time that Bernhardt was solicitor, including one that found that department staff had presented misleading data in a report.
The committee's chair, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, said she wanted to move Bernhardt quickly through the confirmation process at the end of today's hearing, calling him a "valuable asset to the team."