Obama nominates environmentalist for Interior Secretary

February 6, 2013

interior department

Secretary of the Interior nominee Sally Jewell

Secretary of the Interior nominee Sally Jewell

Today President Obama nominated REI’s CEO Sally Jewell to be the next Secretary of the Interior, replacing Colorado’s Ken Salazar.

Click here for the full transcript and video

Jewell has been president and chief executive officer for REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) since 2005.  She lives in Seattle, Washington. There are no oil & gas wells in Washington state.

An article today in Jewell’s hometown paper, The Seattle Times said this:  “After graduating from the UW, Jewell and her husband took a job with Mobil Oil, working in the oil fields of Oklahoma. She spent three years in the industry before moving back to Seattle to work for Rainier Bank in 1981.” Jewell said, “Oil and gas isn’t found in the most pleasant places in the world and, being a woman, there were things I had to put up with that would be considered illegal now, and it just became tiresome.”

Furthermore, “Wyss Foundation president Molly McUsic, whose group focuses on land conservation, wrote in an email that Jewell ‘understands the full economic potential of America’s resources’.”

McUsic added: “[Jewell] knows the oil and gas business from having worked at Mobil and in the banking industry, but also understands the growing economic potential of America’s $646 billion outdoor recreation industry. She knows that to grow the economy, development of energy resources must be on equal ground with the protection of places that drive tourism, travel, and recreation.”

Remember the tourism and recreation industries? This is music to my ears.

If confirmed by the Senate, Jewell will be the second woman to be Secretary of the Interior. In the past the post has been dominated by politicians from the Western United States, like Ken Salazar, former senator from Colorado. Under President George W. Bush, Gale A. Norton, former attorney general of Colorado, and Dirk Kempthorne, a former governor and senator from Idaho, served in the position. Former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt served as President Clinton’s Interior Secretary for eight years.  In a speech last week, Babbitt said that for every acre given over to fossil fuel extraction another acre should be set aside for conservation.

Environmental groups are praising Jewell’s nomination.

Chris Wood, President & CEO of Trout Unlimited:
“Sally Jewell would make a great secretary of Interior. Her background suggests that she would bring needed balance to energy development on public lands. Her stewardship of REI demonstrates that she understands the interests of anglers and hunters and would serve as an aggressive advocate within the White House for protecting fish and game habitat and hunting and angling opportunity. She is a practical, no-nonsense leader who would bring a sense of purpose to implementing the oil and gas reforms that have remained largely on the shelf. She is a strong pick.”

The Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams:
“Sally Jewell is an outstanding choice to serve as the next Secretary of the Interior.  She has been a tremendous leader for conservation at every level, from her support for the Obama administration’s America’s Great Outdoors program to her work on the Mountains to Sound Greenway in Washington State.  Through her work at REI, she also understands the value of our public lands as a place for every American to enjoy, and how that recreation helps drive more than $600 billion in consumer spending every year.
“Sally Jewell’s nomination comes at a critical moment, as we work to balance energy development and conservation to protect our wildest public lands.  We look forward to working with her to strike that balance, and to protect the wild places that belong to the American people.”

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune:
“There are few more outspoken or dedicated champions in the effort to connect children with nature than Sally Jewell, who has provided critical support to the Sierra Club Inner City Outings program and played an integral role in founding the Outdoors Alliance for Kids. Whether it’s been through her work to get more kids outside or her accomplishments in building a business that recognizes the passion Americans have to explore the outdoors, Sally Jewell has demonstrated that she knows just how important our wild places are to our national legacy and our economy.”

“In Jewell, President Obama chose a leader with a demonstrated commitment to preserving the higher purposes public lands hold for all Americans – recreation, adventure, and enjoyment.” Brune added that the Sierra Club hoped to work with Jewell in pursuit of its environmental agenda “to preserve more of those benefits and more of our natural heritage by designating new national monuments, protecting America’s Arctic from risky drilling, and keeping dirty and dangerous fracking out of our public lands.”

American Rivers President Bob Irvin:
“We applaud President Obama’s choice of Sally Jewell for Secretary of the Interior. As the head of REI, the outdoor gear and clothing company, she understands firsthand the connections among healthy rivers, healthy communities, and a strong economy,” said Irvin.

“Sally Jewell knows that clean, healthy rivers and protected public lands are the infrastructure of the $289 billion outdoor recreation industry that supports 6.5 million jobs. She knows how important fishing, boating, and hiking and the great outdoors are to our families, to our future, and to our heritage as Americans.

“We hope she will be speedily confirmed by the Senate and look forward to working with her as she carries out the President’s vision for conservation through initiatives like America’s Great Outdoors, and continues the impressive legacy of her predecessor, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.”

The National Parks Conservation Association called the selection of Sewell “great news.”

Reaction from the oil & gas industry was mixed.

So far the kindest endorsement comes from Denver’s Western Energy Alliance President Tim Wigley:
“Western Energy Alliance welcomes the nomination of REI CEO Sally Jewell as Interior Secretary. Her experience as a petroleum engineer and business leader will bring a unique perspective to an office that is key to our nation’s energy portfolio. We hope to see a better balance of productive development on non-park, non-wilderness public lands.”

“Oil and natural gas companies have achieved that balance in the West — delivering 18% of American oil and 26% of natural gas production while disturbing less than 0.07% of federal lands. We look forward to working with the new secretary,” Wigley said.

Barry Russell, president and CEO of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, issued this vague non-endorsement:
“While we do not personally or professionally know the president’s Interior secretary nominee, Sally Jewell, we will be anxious to learn more during the confirmation process about her background in entrepreneurship, finance and energy production.”

Russell added that IPAA, whose members drill 95% of US oil and gas wells, would continue to “work closely with the Interior Department and its agencies to ensure that federal lands are open for multiple uses — from recreation to safe energy production.”

Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said he was not familiar with Jewell’s background and views, expressed his preference for outgoing Secretary Salazar saying the association had become accustomed to working with Salazar because he was well acquainted with issues surrounding energy development in the Rocky Mountain West. “Salazar comes from the West. We knew where he stood on the issues.”

Perhaps someone should show him where Seattle is on a map.

Hinchey added that Jewell’s future tenure as Interior secretary represents an unknown quality for the association. “”It’s going to be interesting to see how things develop with the new secretary. We’ll try to work with her anyway we can.”

Oh my fellow environmentalists-fracktivists-hypocrites, it has been quite a day. This is like a dream come true. I think I shall retire to the fainting couch.

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