- President-elect Donald Trump is expected to name Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) to head the Department of the Interior, Politico and the Washington Post report. Zinke's office did not confirm the story.
- The news comes after multiple media outlets reported that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) was poised to be named to the DOI position earlier this week. She said in a Facebook post Tuesday that she is "energized more than ever to continue leading in Congress."
- Zinke is a freshman Congressman supports expanding fossil fuel exploration on federal lands and has expressed doubts about mainstream climate science. Like Donald Trump, he has opposed proposals to sell federal lands to states, a GOP platform plank.
Donald Trump's presidential transition has been marked with apparent disorganization, so it comes as little surprise that national media — including Utility Dive — would latch on to an expected nominee that eventually does not pan out.
Here the case is Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who many expected to be named to the DOI post this week. But those reports were based largely on unnamed officials involved in the presidential transition, and now it appears some either got the story wrong or Trump changed his mind.
Late Tuesday afternoon, as reports of Zinke's nomination broke, McMorris Rodgers indicated she would not be leaving Capitol Hill at the start of Trump's administration.
"It was an honor to be invited to spend time with the President-elect," she wrote on her Facebook page, "and I’m energized more than ever to continue leading in Congress as we think big, reimagine this government, and put people back at the center of it."
Hill reporter Scott Wong tweeted that many House Republicans were "floored" by the announcement, and that McMorris Rodgers was not as close to the job as earlier reports suggested:
Source close to @cathymcmorris says CMR never received an offer from Trump and did not receive a call from president-elect today— Scott Wong (@scottwongDC) December 13, 2016
If the reports of Zinke are confirmed, his appointment could be one that Democrats embrace, at least relative to previous cabinet members. A former Navy SEAL commander, some in the Montana GOP wanted to tap the freshman Congressman to run against Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) in 2018, according to Politico, which stressed that Zinke's office has not confirmed the story.
During his time in office, Zinke has largely subscribed the Republican playbook for energy policy, advocating for fewer federal rules on fossil fuel extraction and emissions while arguing for an "all-of-the-above" energy policy. The League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group, gives Zinke a 3% lifetime score.
The Congressman has also expressed doubt over mainstream climate science. In a 2014 debate for his House seat, Zinke said that "evidence strongly suggests that humans have had an influence on higher CO2," before adding the (incorrect) caveat that "the evidence is equally as strong that there are other factors, such as rising ocean temperatures, that have a greater influence."
Later, in 2015, Zinke softened his position in an interview with the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Comparing climate change to Russian roulette, Zinke said that "even if there’s a one-in-six chance that global warming could end in catastrophe, then I think you need to be prudent."
That prudence, however, should come from an all-of-the-above strategy and not "be destructive to fossil fuels," he said.
Zinke does differ from most of the GOP in one important respect: selling public lands, which he has called a "non-starter." The GOP platform includes language calling for the sale or transfer of federal lands to states, but Donald Trump has opposed that plank.