REI Exec Sally Jewell Confirmed as Interior Secretary

Newly confirmed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, center, with President Barack Obama and the back of Ken Salazar's head | Photo: White House

Sally Jewell, the CEO of Washington-based retailer REI (it formerly stands for Recreational Equipment, Inc), will be the next Secretary of the Interior, replacing former Senator Ken Salazar. The U.S. Senate voted 87-11 to confirm Jewell on Wednesday, and she's likely to be sworn in before the week is out.

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Jewell will inherit an Interior Department with a much sharper focus on aggressive energy development than the one Salazar took on; during his tenure, the departing Secretary essentially remade the department as an energy exploitation agency. Salazar pioneered the first ever departmental level programmatic policy for development of utility-scale solar generating stations on public lands, presided over a radical expansion of wind turbine permitting on those same lands, and much-expending permitting of oil and gas drilling.

Mere hours before Jewell's Senate confirmation, the White House released its proposed Interior Department budget for Fiscal Year 2014. The $11.9 billion budget request is essentially flat compared to the $11.5 billion the White House requested for Interior in 2012 and 2013, though it's a substantial cut from 2010's $20 billion budget. Despite the lack of overall increase in the budget, the Department's budget for energy exploration and development would rise sharply to $771.6 million, up nearly $100 million from 2012. According to a Department press release issued Wednesday morning, much of that increase would focus on renewable energy development:

Salazar was widely rumored to have ordered subsidiary agencies not to dissent from his overarching goal of maximizing renewable energy development on public lands, with the result that gigantic industrial facilities such as BrightSource's Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System and FirstSolar's Desert Sunlight project were approved on the doorsteps of National Park holdings with nary a peep of protest from frustrated Park Service staffers. Whether Jewell will allow land managers to offer their professional opinions on proposed permanent alterations of our public lands remains to be seen.

Of course, renewable energy isn't the only kind of energy development being ramped up at Interior. As Wednesday's budget press release notes, the sharp increase in fossil fuel exploitation will also continue in FY 2014:



For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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