The Trump Administration has appointed David Bernhardt as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Interior. Mr. Bernhardt was a former Interior Solicitor and has been a lobbyist for Westlands Water District. He is a registered lobbyist for Westlands and a partner in the Washington law firm of Brownstein-Bernhardt, which received more than 1.7 million dollars in fees from Westlands between 2011 and 2017.
CSPA and fourteen other environmental and fishing organizations submitted a letter to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources regarding his confirmation. The letter detailed Mr. Bernhardt’s actions as Interior Solicitor that benefited Westlands and his extensive efforts as a lobbyist to impact Interior water policy and budgets to the exclusive financial benefit of Westlands. It states that questions regarding whether federal laws have been violated and whether millions of taxpayer dollars have gone to benefit Westlands that should have been deposited in the Federal Treasury should be resolved before Mr. Bernhardt is confirmed.
By water district/agency standards, the consulting/lobbying fees paid by Westlands are among the largest in the Nation. Westlands is the largest federal water district in the nation and depends upon irrigation water exported from the Delta. The District receives substantial public benefits in the form of subsidized water rates, power, and operation and maintenance charges. Unlike other western water and irrigation districts in the seventeen Western States, even Westlands’ operation and maintenance costs are partially paid by taxpayers.