A week ago, the Washington Post asked whether Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke was cynical or incompetent, following his entirely illogical and almost certainly politically motivated decision to unilaterally exempt Florida from the Trump Administration’s plan to expand offshore oil drilling. Montanans, who have experienced the Zinke show for the past few years, were stunned by the headline, wondering how anyone could think that Zinke embodies only one of its adjectives.
The last two days of news coverage demonstrate why.
The New York Times reported yesterday that Zinke’s haste in rolling back regulations in order to “appear decisive” has opened up the Department of the Interior to legal challenges that will make many of his signature decisions, from expanding offshore drilling to undermining protection for the sage grouse, subject to lengthy, expensive legal delays. Zinke’s reckless disregard for regulation and the process by which decisions are made that he’s managed to make his friends in the oil industry upset:
Privately, oil executives who are pleased with Mr. Trump’s desire to strip away regulations have expressed frustration at the Interior Department’s methods, worrying that they could bog down the efforts in a legal morass. “What’s important is, let’s step back and go back to regular order, and let the process run its course,” said Jack Gerard, head of the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies on behalf of oil companies.
While it’s a relief to know that Zinke’s incompetence and impatience make undermine his efforts to damage public lands and destroy the environment, it’s hardly a positive to have a Secretary of the Interior making decisions without regard to science, environmental impact statements, or even basic fact-finding.
With Zinke, though, it’s never just incompetence. Politico reported yesterday that Zinke’s Interior Department has delayed plans to allow an expansion of an Indian-owned casino after repeated meetings with lobbyists for MGM and their friends in Congress:
Two casino-owning American Indian tribes are accusing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke of illegally blocking their plans to expand operations in Connecticut — a delay that stands to benefit politically connected gambling giant MGM Resorts International.
The Interior Department’s refusal to sign off on the tribes’ plans for a third Connecticut casino came after Zinke and other senior department officials held numerous meetings and phone calls with MGM lobbyists and the company’s Republican supporters in Congress, according to a POLITICO review of Zinke’s schedule, lobbying registrations and other documents. The documents don’t indicate whether they discussed the tribes’ casino project.
It’s not as if anyone should be surprised by Zinke’s reckless, self-aggrandizing, corrupt turn at Interior. He’s shown himself to little more than a corrupt opportunist willing to do and say almost anything to get himself in the public eye, consequences be damned. One day this will all catch up with him, and the fall will be a spectacular sight to behold.