Deputy Interior Department secretary nominee David Bernhardt, whose law firm has represented Rosemont Copper since 2011, is pledging to recuse himself from handling all Rosemont-related issues for a year if confirmed for the post.
Bernhardt listed Rosemont Copper as one of 17 firms and other entities from which he receives at least $5,000 a year in compensation. Many are energy and water companies or water districts whose business the Interior Department often regulates. Another is the Tucson-based Safari Club International, a foundation that is regularly active in national hunting and other conservation-related issues.
In a letter to Interior’s ethics office, Bernhardt pledged to avoid taking any official actions for a year that could affect those various entities. If confirmed by the Senate for the job, Bern-hardt also pledged to leave his current partnership at the D.C.-based law firm Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber and Schreck L.L.P.
Interior does not have decision-making authority over the proposed Rosemont Mine. But two of its agencies, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have taken significant stands on opposing sides in the protracted mine dispute. A third Interior agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, has provided scientific information related to the mine issue to other agencies.
Bernhardt lobbied for Rosemont from 2011 through 2015 and remains a consultant, Rosemont’s Toronto-based parent company Hudbay Minerals Inc. said late last year.
Other prominent Bernhardt clients are the Central Valley, California-based Westlands Water District, one of the biggest U.S. water districts; the Garrison Diversion Irrigation District in North Dakota, and Cadiz Inc.
Cadiz, of Los Angeles, is embroiled in a longstanding controversy on which Interior must ultimately decide over a proposed, 43-mile-long pipeline to take groundwater from the Southern California desert to the Colorado River Aqueduct for delivery to urban areas.
Bernhardt has also represented seven energy companies, based in Dallas and Houston, and the D.C.-based Independent Petroleum Association of North America.
His letter and disclosure form are posted on the U.S. Office of Government Ethics website. Bernstein’s pledges were first reported on a website run by Politico, a Washington, D.C.-based news service.