Greenpeace Activists Crash Congressional Hearing Dressed as Swamp Monsters to Protest Acting Interior Secretary's Oil Ties

Greenpeace activists dressed as swamp monsters showed up at the Senate on Thursday to protest President Donald Trump's nomination of Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to lead the agency.

Bernhardt is a former oil lobbyist who has extensive ties to the fossil fuel industry. His nomination provoked fierce partisan debate, which was on display as he was questioned by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

"David Bernhardt is one of us. He's down here in the muck every day advocating for the dirty fossil fuels we swamp monsters love. I wanted to be at his shining moment to make sure he won't forget where he came from," Greenpeace USA activist Adrienne Lowry, who was dressed as a monster, told Newsweek.

"David Bernhardt heading the Interior Department would be a dream come true for fossil fuel companies, but a nightmare for the American people. If ethical violations alone don't disqualify him from holding this position, his record of selling out public lands and waters to his industry buddies should," Janet Redman, Greenpeace USA Climate and Energy campaign director, said in a statement to Newsweek. "People who care about clean air, safe water, and a healthy climate have been sounding the alarm about Bernhardt's history of catering to fossil fuel executives since he was named Deputy Secretary two years ago, and he's done nothing since but prove he's not fit for this job."

Democrats grilled Bernhardt, who was appointed deputy secretary in August 2017, during his appearance before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden questioned Bernhardt about a New York Times report that Bernhardt prevented the publication of information showing that prevalent pesticides impacted hundreds of endangered species.

Wyden said that Bernhardt was "so conflicted" that he'd have to recuse himself from many agency matters or violate ethical standards by declining to do so.

Bernhardt challenged Wyden's claims, saying "the news report you're citing is not even close to true." He said that his focus would be on "beginning to fundamentally transform the department and bureau-level ethics programs to ingrain a culture of ethical compliance," according to The New York Times. The agency has faced scrutiny for its corruption, most recently with the departure of Trump's former Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, who announced he would step down from his position at the end of 2018 amid a series allegations of ethical misconduct. In a statement discussing his resignation, Zinke said he couldn't "justify spending thousands of dollars defending myself and my family against false allegations," The Guardian reported.

Environmental groups have bristled at Trump's nomination of Bernhardt to lead the Interior Department, which CNN reported manages a budget of over $22 billion and oversees 20 percent of land in the country.

MapLight, an organization that tracks the spending of money in politics, reported earlier this month that Bernhardt and his lobbying firm paid senators voting on his confirmation almost $1 million since 2013.

Republicans senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have backed Bernhardt. Colorado Republican Cory Gardner that Bernhardt's industry experience and time spent in the Interior Department were beneficial.

"He is an excellent choice and has demonstrated he is more than capable of leading on a permanent basis," Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said.

Greenpeace Activists Crash Congressional Hearing Dressed as Swamp Monsters to Protest Acting Interior Secretary's Oil Ties | U.S.