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Eastern WA Congresswoman is Trump's Pick for Interior Secretary

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of eastern Washington is expected to be selected as U.S. Secretary of the Interior. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of eastern Washington is expected to be selected as U.S. Secretary of the Interior. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
December 12, 2016

SPOKANE, Wash. - Washington state Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers is expected to be President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Secretary of the Interior.

The appointment would put McMorris Rodgers in charge of the department that manages federal public lands and natural resources, and that has some Northwest conservation groups worried. The League of Conservation Voters gave McMorris Rodgers a score of four percent for her environmental record in Congress; Defenders of Wildlife gave her a zero. Sam Mace is the Inland Northwest director with the group Save Our Wild Salmon.

"It's disappointing to see an appointment of a politician who has carried the water for hydro-power interests at the expense of healthy rivers and wild salmon and the jobs that depend on those resources,” Mace said.

Mace said she is concerned that McMorris Rodgers' support of four lower Snake River dams in particular has hurt endangered salmon. In an editorial McMorris Rodgers penned for the Walla Walla newspaper in November, the Congresswoman said she has, "long been a champion of dams," in part for their role in keeping energy bills low.

Drew Caputo, vice president of litigation at the environmental law firm Earthjustice, warned that McMorris Rodgers' voting record proves that she supports an increase in oil and gas development on public lands.

"She has a very cozy relationship with resource-extractive industries, especially including the oil and gas and coal industries,” Caputo said. "So, for example, she last year voted against fracking protections for oil and gas drilling on public land."

McMorris Rodgers also voted for the Native American Energy Act, which would have made it easier to drill on tribal lands. The bill was vetoed by President Obama.

Mace said the courts are where environmental groups will push back if McMorris Rodgers assumes positions that threaten public lands or wildlife. The congresswoman has expressed her support for keeping the lower Snake River dams, but a U.S. District Court judge ruled in May that federal agencies must at least consider breaching the dams to improve salmon survival rates.

"So, regardless of who is [leading] the Department of Interior, that process is moving forward,” Mace said. "We remain hopeful that dam removal will be chosen as the preferred alternative."

The Army Corps of Engineers will accept public comment on the future of the dams through January 17.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA