Oh to be a fly on the wall during President-elect Donald Trump’s team meetings on who will populate his cabinet when he is sworn into office on Jan. 20.
Some cabinet positions are more interesting than others to Alaskans. Take the Interior Department, for instance.
Conservatives have been harsh critics of both the current Interior Secretary, Sally Jewel, and her predecessor, Ken Salazar, both who favored turning federal lands into preserves, and were anti-development.
Forrest Lucas, who with his wife Charlotte founded Lucas Oil in 1989, is a top name being considered, according to insiders. Lucas is solidly pro-oil and would send the environmental protection industry into a panic. Lucas, who is 74, also founded a nonprofit called Protect the Harvest, which promotes farming, hunting and ranching, and is the nemesis of various animal-rights groups.
Lucas started out as a trucker, has never gone to college, and is quoted the Indianapolis Business Journal that one of his philosophies in business is to “work yourself to death.” He has never met Trump in person.
Also being talked about for Interior is Robert Grady, a partner at Gryphon Investors, a private equity fund. Prior to Gryphon, Grady was a major partner at the Carlyle Group, which is owned by the husband of Alice Rogoff, publisher of the Alaska Dispatch News.
Donald Trump Jr. is another name in the mix. He was quoted earlier this year saying, “The biggest family joke that we all had over the holidays was that the only job in government that I would actually want would be in the Department of the Interior.”
Meanwhile, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has made it clear that she is interested in the job, and she spent weeks leading up to the Nov. 8 General Election stumping for Trump in states such as Michigan, Michigan, North Carolina, and New York.
Rounding out the possibilities are others with Western state credentials: former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer; Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin; Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis; and Oklahoma oil entrepreneur Harold Hamm.
Hamm pioneered the development of the large shale oil finds of the Bakken formation and is ranked at the 39th richest person in the nation by Forbes Magazine. He was mentioned by then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012 as his likely pick for Energy Secretary.
Looking for post with the new Trump Administration? David Bernhardt of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck is the Trump transition team’s lead dog for the Interior Department.
Bernhardt is a lobbyist who co-chairs his company’s natural resources portfolio. He was the Interior Department’s solicitor, deputy solicitor, deputy chief of staff, and counselor to the secretary of the Interior. He was also director of the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs under President George W. Bush.
A native of Rifle, Colorado, Bernhardt was appointed to the U.S.-Canada International Boundary Commission in 2007.
He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Northern Colorado and a law degree from George Washington University Law School.
According to his company’s web site, he has recently represented:
- The Nation’s largest federal water contractor in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding Endangered Species Act litigation involving the Bay-Delta in California, a case widely considered one of the most complex Endangered Species litigation cases in the country.
- A national trade association in Federal District Court interested in defending the U.S. government’s decision to proceed with an offshore lease sale under the Outer-Continental Shelf Lands Act.
- An entity challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for violating the Endangered Species Act in Federal District Court.
- Alternative energy developers involved in projects seeking to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Federal Land Policy and Management, the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
- An electric transmission facilities developer that crosses lands in federal jurisdiction.
- Mining companies who intend to develop potash or copper resources on private, state and Federal lands.
- A mining company undergoing an audit regarding royalty payments.
- An entity under investigation by a Federal Agency.
- An entity involved in energy development on Indian lands.
- Entities accused of violating the Department of the Interior’s regulations.