WASHINGTON (AP/CBS4) — President Donald Trump says he’s nominating a Washington veteran with lobbying ties to U.S. energy companies to lead the Interior Department. David Bernhardt, currently Interior’s acting head, would replace Ryan Zinke if the Senate approves his nomination. Zinke resigned in December amid ethics investigations.

David Bernhardt (credit: Twitter/@DOIDepSec)

Trump tweeted Monday that Bernhardt “has done a fantastic job from the day he arrived.”

The Colorado native first served in the department under President George W. Bush. He had been a deputy under Zinke.

Colorado’s Republican Senator, Cory Gardner, reacted to the nomination with the following statement:

“This is fantastic news for Colorado. I’ve known David Bernhardt for many years and have worked closely with him over the last two years to advance Colorado priorities. As a native Coloradan from the Western Slope, David knows how important public lands are to our state and has a keen understanding of the issues Coloradans face every day. From moving the Bureau of Land Management to the West to promoting conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Coloradans will be lucky to have David lead our Interior Department. I look forward to supporting him throughout the confirmation process.”

Bernhardt also worked as a lobbyist and lawyer for several oil and gas companies and other interests that sometimes have regulatory matters before the department.

Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican who represents Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, said in a tweet that Bernhardt “brings tremendous leadership with him from our home state.”

Republicans say Bernhardt’s revolving-door experience makes him an informed regulator in matters before the agency. Democrats and environmental groups say he’s vulnerable to conflicts of interest.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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