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Trump Deputy Interior Pick Gets A Lashing On Climate Change From Sen. Al Franken

By Joseph Erbentraut, Alexander C. Kaufman

About an hour and a half into Deputy Interior Secretary nominee David Bernhardt’s Thursday confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, committee member Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked Bernhardt whether he believes climate change represents a “serious threat that requires aggressive action?”

In response, Bernhardt commented that “we need to take the science as it comes, whatever that is.”

After Franken interjected and stated, “I believe the science is pretty decided on this,” Bernhardt added, “I personally believe that the [human] contribution [to climate change] is significant, very significant. Now, that’s different that what we do with it, and here’s where people disagree.”

“My task will be to take the science, put it in the paradigm of the administration’s policy perspective which is [that] we’re not going to sacrifice jobs for this and then look at the legal rubric and say how do we apply the law there?” Bernhardt added.

Franken called his response “incredibly short-sighted” given job opportunities in the clean energy sector, and pressed Bernhardt on the matter again, saying “the science is in.”

“Policy decisions are made,” Bernhardt responded. “This president ran on a particular perspective. That perspective won’t change to the extent that we have the discretion under the law to follow it. In some instances we might not, but those 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.”

Bernhardt, an attorney at the well-connected law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreckwho previously served as the Interior’s top lawyer under former President George W. Bush, also faced pointed questions on Thursday concerning potential conflicts of interest arising from Bernhardt’s connections to the firm’s current or former clients.