By a vote of 87 to 11, the Senate on Wednesday confirmed Obama’s pick to be the next secretary of the interior: Sally Jewell.
Many enviros like her because she’s a longtime conservationist who has worked for the last eight years as CEO of big outdoor equipment co-op REI. She takes climate change seriously and has spoken favorably about a carbon tax.
The extractive industries don’t loathe her because she started her career as a petroleum engineer and went on to become a commercial banker working with natural resources companies. “It’s been a while since I fracked a well; I think it was 1979,” she said at her confirmation hearing last month.
“How’d you get appointed by this administration?” GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) joked at that hearing. “Sounds like someone a Republican president would appoint. That’s a remarkable background.”
Leading up to her confirmation, Jewell talked about the need for a “balanced approach” to energy production and conservation.
While Republicans have frequently criticized the Obama administration’s environmental policies — and the officials who have carried them out — Jewell won praise for her business background and openness to working with different constituencies. …
While some Republican senators, such as John Barrasso (Wyo.), remained opposed to Jewell and voted against her confirmation, none of them spoke against her during Wednesday’s floor debate.
At Interior, Jewell will oversee more than 500 million acres of national parks and other public lands, plus more than 1 billion acres offshore. The lands are used for energy development, mining, recreation and other purposes.
One of the first challenges Jewell will face is a proposed rule requiring companies that drill for oil and natural gas on federal lands to publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations.
The administration proposed a draft “fracking” rule last year, but twice has delayed a final rule amid complaints by the oil and gas industry that the original proposal was too burdensome. A new draft is expected this spring.
Jewell also is expected to continue to push development of renewable energy such as wind and solar power, both of which are priorities of the interior secretary she succeeds, Ken Salazar.
Salazar also oversaw a huge jump in oil and gas drilling on public lands. Is that fossil-fuel surge consistent with Jewell’s idea of a “balanced approach”? We’ll find out.