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<span class="articleLocation”>The U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed President
Donald Trump’s pick to head the Interior Department as the White
House seeks to increase fossil fuel production on federal lands.
Ryan Zinke, a U.S. Representative from coal-producing
Montana, won confirmation by a vote of 68 to 31, with several
Democrats joining Republicans, who lead the chamber.
The former Navy SEAL commander is an avid hunter and angler
who is popular with many outdoor enthusiasts, including Trump’s
son Donald Jr.
Many environmentalists, however, are concerned about Zinke’s
zeal for exploiting coal and other fossil fuels. As a one-term
Congressman, Zinke worked to boost mining, including supporting
an effort to end a coal leasing moratorium on federal lands.
Forty percent of U.S. output comes from federal lands that are mostly in Wyoming and Montana.
In his confirmation hearing in January Zinke said he would
consider an expansion of energy drilling and mining on federal
lands but would ensure that sensitive areas were protected.
Democrats who voted against Zinke, including Senators Maria
Cantwell and Chuck Schumer, questioned his support of fossil
fuel development on federal lands.
“Congressman Zinke says he’s a dyed in the wool
conservationist, but doesn’t have the record to back it up,”
said Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat. “That should concern
every outdoor enthusiast, every lover of our great and grand
Zinke will head an agency that employs more than 70,000
people across the country and oversees more than 20 percent of
federal land, including national parks such as Yellowstone and
Fellow Republican Senator Steve Daines, also from Montana,
said Zinke “knows we must strike a balance between conservation
and responsible energy development.”
The White House is expected to issue an executive order soon
reversing former President Barack Obama’s temporary moratorium
on coal leasing on U.S. lands, which is part of a wider review
of the program.
The Senate is also expected to easily confirm Trump’s pick
to head the Department of Energy, Rick Perry, a former governor
of Texas, this week.
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