The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Luke Eshleman (202) 265-7337

Interior Department Needs New Brooms to Sweep it Clean

Whistleblowers and Reformers Required to Rejuvenate Ravaged Agencies


The Obama transition should reach out to reformers and
whistleblowers to transform the scandal-wracked U.S. Department of
Interior, according to Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER). Under President Bush, corporate penetration into
the top echelons at Interior resulted in a prison term for its
number-two official, losses of billions in oil royalty dollars and
scandals ranging from sex and drug parties to unprecedented political
manipulation of science.

President-elect Obama naming Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) as
Interior Secretary-designate was greeted with a huge sigh of relief
from drilling, mining and livestock interests. In his short statement
at the December 17th press conference, Salazar stressed "As the Nominee
to be Secretary of the Interior, I will do all I can to help reduce
America's dangerous dependence on foreign oil." He made only passing
reference to protecting natural resources and no mention of the parade
of recent scandals.

"'The change we need' requires change agents," stated PEER Executive
Director Jeff Ruch, recalling an Obama campaign slogan. "Energy
production, the stated priority of Secretary-designate Salazar, is only
one of many issues confronting Interior; we desperately need leaders
passionately committed to public service, protecting public resources
and the plethora of other problems plaguing this gigantic agency which
controls one out of every five acres in the U.S."

To run the agencies within Interior, PEER is presenting the Obama
transition with a slate of agency veterans and experts who exhibit what
the President-elect calls "a new kind of leadership". Most have made
career sacrifices to advance the stewardship principles that are the
cornerstones of their agencies' missions. The PEER "nominees" include -

  • Martha Hahn as Director of the Bureau of Land Management.
    Martha has more than 25 years of experience in both the BLM and Park
    Service. In 2002, at the behest of Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), she was
    removed at the BLM Idaho State Director by Deputy Interior Secretary
    Steven Griles in connection with grazing reforms she had instituted.
    Today, she is Division Chief for Science and Resource Management at
    Grand Canyon National Park;
  • John Donahue as the Director of the National Park Service.
    John has served at several national parks and received the Stephen T.
    Mather Award for exemplary stewardship in addressing off-road vehicle
    challenges as Superintendent of Big Cypress National Preserve. He is
    regarded as one of the most forward-thinking park managers in the
    nation and is currently Superintendent of the Delaware Water Gap
    National Recreation Area;
  • Bobby Maxwell as Director of Minerals Management Service.
    Formerly an audit manager at MMS, Bobby blew the whistle on vast
    royalty underpayment by major oil companies but was ordered to drop his
    issue and was later "re-organized" out of his position in 2005. As a
    private citizen, Maxwell filed a suit to recover the billions of
    dollars owed to taxpayers and has campaigned against what he calls the
    "cult of corruption" at MMS;
  • Phil Doe as Commissioner of Reclamation. In
    his 20 years at the Bureau of Reclamation, Phil exposed and ended large
    illegal water subsidies to agribusiness posing as family farms. He
    pushed other cost recovery policies to protect the taxpayer interest in
    huge water projects. Since leaving Reclamation, he has been a citizen
    activist promoting protection of the public's water resources;
  • Patrick McGinley as Director of the Office of Surface Mining.
    Patrick has 35 years of experience with the administration and
    enforcement of laws relating to coal mine health and safety and coal
    mining and reclamation. He is the grandson of a coal miner who suffered
    from black lung disease and served as a Special Assistant Attorney
    General, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, on the "Environmental Strike
    Force" enforced mine safety and anti-pollution laws. Today he is a law
    professor at West Virginia University College of Law;
  • Robert McCarthy as Interior Solicitor. In
    late 2007, as a Field Solicitor, McCarthy testified against his own
    agency in the Indian trust class action lawsuit Cobell v. Kempthorne.
    He contradicted Interior's central defense that it can accurately
    account for income from leases of 300,000 Indian landowners and was
    cited by the judge in his ruling for the plaintiffs. Currently he is
    the Managing Attorney of the Oklahoma City Law Office for Legal Aid
    Services and recently received the Fern Holland Courageous Lawyer Award
    from the state bar association; and
  • Teresa Chambers as Chief of the U.S. Park Police.
    Just days after giving an interview with the Washington Post, revealing
    low staffing levels, Chief Teresa Chambers was ordered to surrender her
    badge, weapon and ID and was relieved of her duties. In what has become
    the prime example of the Bush administration's suppression of
    information, Chambers was ultimately removed from the Chief position.
    She recently won an appeal of that action before the U.S. Court of
    Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Chambers is presently serving as Chief
    of Police for Riverdale Park, a town in Prince George's County,

"Many of these agencies have been gutted, not just by
the Bush appointees but, in some cases, by the Clintonites before
them," Ruch added. "To repair the damage, we need a new direction, not
just placeholders."


Find out more about these individuals

Look at some of the recent scandals at Interior

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.