Ryan Zinke’s oil lobbyist deputy likely to replace him at Interior — but environmentalists say he’s 'even worse'
U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke swears in David Bernhardt as the agency's deputy secretary in August. Image via Creative Commons/Department of the Interior.

Newly-resigned Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's "man behind the curtain" is likely to become his replacement -- and is loved by Donald Trump and loathed by environmentalists.

Politico reported that David Bernhardt, the deputy interior secretary and a former oil, gas and water industry lobbyist, is likely to be named acting Interior secretary.

This move is "already alarming environmentalists," the report noted, "some of whom had said they might prefer to see a distracted, scandal-plagued Zinke stay in the job."

Chris Saeger, the executive director for the conservation group Western Values Project, told Politico that "Bernhardt is too conflicted to even be acting secretary."

“At the very least the American public deserves to know more about the man behind the curtain who is actually running the show at Interior and could soon be fully responsible for managing our country’s public lands, wildlife and natural resources," Saeger, whose group sued in July for Bernhardt's communications, said.

In a statement released after Donald Trump announced via tweet that Zinke is leaving the administration, the Alaska Wilderness League claimed that "if Ryan Zinke was bad, his likely replacement, David Bernhardt, is even worse."

A source close to the administration said that Bernhardt may end up in the role permanently because Trump "has been happy with his effectiveness in running the bulk of the agency on Zinke's watch."

The same source said it may be too "problematic" for Trump to find someone else to run Interior with all the other high-profile vacancies in the administration.

The report noted that because Bernhardt has already been confirmed by the Senate for his role as deputy Interior secretary, choosing him "would be the path of least resistance" for Trump.

Read the entire report via Politico.