WASHINGTON (AP) — The Interior Department is proposing to award one of the first contracts for federal water in perpetuity to a powerful rural water district that had employed Secretary David Bernhardt as a lawyer and lobbyist.
Environmental groups and a California Democratic lawmaker oppose giving the contract to the California's Westlands Water District, the nation's largest agricultural water supplier. The water supplier serves some of country's wealthiest and most politically influential corporate farmers.
Bernhardt served as a lobbyist for Westlands until 2016, the year before he joined Interior, initially as deputy secretary.
"The Interior Department needs to look out for the public interest, and not just serve the financial interests of thei