Trump’s Interior Secretary Cathy McMorris Rodgers Really Likes Fossil Fuels

by Ryan Schleeter

December 9, 2016

But she still can’t stop the clean energy revolution.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Trump's team leaked this morning that Cathy McMorris Rodgers (pictured) will be his nominee for Secretary of the Interior. Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr. Creative Commons.

UPDATE December 14, 2016: Cathy McMorris Rodgers issued a statement yesterday indicating that she intends to remain in Congress. In her place, Trump has nominated Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) to serve as Interior Secretary. 

Earlier today, President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team leaked that he intends to nominate Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) to serve as his Interior Secretary.

In that position, McMorris Rodgers would oversee the nation’s 500 million acres of public land, our national parks among them. And she’d be the one to decide who that land ultimately belongs to — the people or fossil fuel companies. If her voting record is any indication, it looks she’ll make the mistake of choosing the latter.

Since she entered Congress in 2005, McMorris Rodgers has consistently supported drilling, fracking, mining, and other exploitation of public lands for corporate profit. In 2011, she co-sponsored a bill that would have sold off 3 million acres of public land. More recently, she publicly supported the armed takeover of Oregon public lands by militants, becoming one of just 15 “Bundy Buddies” in Congress.  

At the same time, she’s repeatedly blocked legislation that would support clean energy, protect wildlife, and help fight climate change. Oh, and she’s taken $355,340 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry over the course of her political career.

All in all, she fits in quite nicely with the rest of Trump’s fossil fuel-loving administration.

McMorris Rodgers is the latest roadblock Trump has placed between the American people and a clean energy future. But if these two think that tearing apart our public lands will revive some bygone era of fossil fuel dominance, they’re playing a losing game. Here’s why.

The Keep It in the Ground Movement Is Too Strong

There is incredible momentum behind the movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground — momentum that will not be slowed by a Trump presidency. Already, people like you have harnessed their power to stop the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, shut down fossil fuel lease sales from Colorado to Utah and beyond, and mobilized by the thousands to demand clean, renewable energy over the polluting systems of the past.

And we have no plan to stop.

The movement may look different come 2017, but it will be as relentless as ever. With Trump trying to stand in the way of a clean energy future, we’ll need to put even more pressure on state and local leaders to be the climate champions the world needs right now.

Fossil Fuels Are Bad Business

If Trump were truly the businessman he claims to be, investing in renewable energy would be a no-brainer. Instead, he’s siding with an industry whose market is shrinking by the day.

Take the coal industry. For years now, coal barons have struggled as demand drops in favor of renewable energy and natural gas. That’s resulted in both of the country’s largest coal companies filing for bankruptcy in the past year (not before they paid their executives million-dollar bonuses) and plummeting stocks for those that are left. Sometimes, fossil fuel companies don’t even want the stuff. Investing in coal makes no sense right now, and neither does expanding American coal production on public lands.

Plus, it’s becoming increasingly risky to finance fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Just ask any of the banks that funded the Dakota Access Pipeline, which have seen major public pressure to cease their involvement in a project that tramples Indigenous rights and the climate — pressure that hits their bottom lines.

Unlike the Trump Administration, Local Leaders Actually Care About Climate Change

McMorris has said she’s “still learning” about climate change. Trump called it a “hoax.”

Other elected officials across the country — and people like you and me — have no time for their denial and stall tactics.

Two states (Vermont and New York) have already banned fracking, and a third (Maryland) has temporarily banned it through 2017. This November, on the same day Trump was ultimately elected, Monterey County, California became the first oil-producing county to ban oil and gas drilling. Back in February, Democrats in the House and Senate introduced Keep It in the Ground legislation that would halt new leases for fossil fuel extraction on public land. And in the final months of his administration, President Obama has made the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans off limits to oil drilling, a move that will be difficult for Trump to reverse.

And that list of victories for the keep it in the ground movement will only grow. At best, Trump can only delay the clean energy revolution. He cannot stop it, no matter how many fossil fuel devotees he nominates to his Cabinet.

Ryan Schleeter

By Ryan Schleeter

Ryan Schleeter is a senior communications specialist with Greenpeace USA covering climate and energy. His writing has appeared in National Geographic, Grist, GreenBiz, EcoWatch, and more. Find him on Twitter @ryschlee.

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