Obama to name Colorado’s Ken Salazar as Secretary of Interior
December 15, 2008
WASHINGTON ” President-elect Barack Obama plans to name Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado to run the Interior Department, rounding out an environmental and energy team charged with quickly tackling global warming and developing alternative forms of energy.
The choice of Salazar to be secretary of a department that oversees oil and gas drilling on public lands and manages the nation’s parks and wildlife refuges will be announced later this week, an Obama transition official said Monday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting Obama’s announcement.
Nobel-prize winning physicist Steven Chu will be energy secretary, and Lisa Jackson, the former head of New Jersey’s environmental department, will head the Environmental Protection Agency, Obama announced Monday.
Carol Browner, a confidante of former Vice President Al Gore, will lead a White House council on energy and climate. Browner headed the Environmental Protection Agency in the Clinton administration. Nancy Sutley, a deputy Los Angeles mayor, will be chair of the White House Council on Environment Quality.
The President-elect vowed to “move beyond our oil addiction and create a new hybrid economy.”
Salazar is expected to balance the protection of natural resources while tapping the nation’s energy potential – an approach that Obama has said he wants .
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He co-sponsored a bill in Congress to create a new land conservation system under the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management for permanently protecting 26 million acres of national monuments, wilderness areas and wild and scenic rivers. The legislation died during the lame duck session of Congress after the November election.
Salazar, 53, opposed drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge and objected to the Bush administration’s efforts to lease Western lands for oil shale development. It will be up to the Obama administration whether or not to go ahead with leasing.
If confirmed for the Interior post, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, will select a replacement to fill the last two years of Salazar’s Senate term. Before being elected to the Senate in 2004, Salazar was Colorado’s attorney general. He also headed Colorado’s Natural Resources Department from 1990 through 1994.
Harris Sherman, director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said Monday he believes Salazar is “uniquely qualified” to run the Interior Department.
“There is no better person in the nation to step into this position,” Sherman said in a statement. “He will bring needed balance, judgment and experience to the nation’s natural resource programs during these pivotal times.”
Chu, 60, is director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., and is a leading advocate of reducing greenhouse gases by developing new energy sources.
The selection of Chu, a Chinese American who shared a Nobel Prize for physics in 1997, received widespread praise on Capitol Hill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he looked forward to “confirming Dr. Chu as quickly as possible.”
“His appointment should send a signal to all that my administration will value science. We will make decisions based on the facts, and we understand that facts demand bold action,” Obama said at a news conference in Chicago.
Obama made clear he plans take energy policy in a sharply different direction from President George W. Bush, promising aggressive moves to address global warming and support research into alternative energy sources such as wind, solar and biofuels.
“America must develop new forms of energy and new ways of using it,” he said.
Obama said the dangers of being too heavily dependent on foreign oil “are eclipsed only by the long-term threat of climate change which, unless we act, will lead to drought and famine abroad, devastating weather patterns and terrible storms on our shores, and disappearance of our coastline at home.”
He rejected the notion that economic development and environmental protection cannot go hand in hand.
“We can spark the dynamism of our economy through a long-term investment in renewable energy that will give life to new businesses and industries with good jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced,” he said.
Obama has said he wants to spent $15 billion a year to boost alternative energy and energy conservation to make public buildings more efficient, modernize the electricity grid, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while protecting and preserving natural resources.
Chu’s selection was viewed as a clear signal that science would weigh heavily in the Obama administration. Chu is a widely respected scientist who has been a vocal advocate for aggressive action to deal with climate change. At the Berkeley lab, he has pushed research into the use of plants and energy from the sun as fuel.
In brief remarks, Chu said: “What the world does in the coming decade will have enormous consequences that will last for centuries. It’s imperative that we begin without further delay.”
He said Obama had “set the tone and pace for moving our country forward with optimism and calm determination. I hope to emulate his example.”
Obama said Browner would “coordinate energy and climate policy” from the White House and “will be indispensable in implementing an ambitious and complex energy policy.”
Browner’s role has been described as “energy czar” but it’s unclear how much power she will have. The selection of Chu, a scientist and not a political figure, suggests that Browner’s political roles in crafting energy and environmental legislation would be considerable. Both Jackson, the new EPA chief, and Sutley worked for Browner at the EPA in the 1990s.
Browner, 53, a protege of Gore, served for eight years, longer than anyone else, as EPA administrator during the Clinton administration. No stranger to hard-nosed politics, she frequently clashed with conservative Republicans in Congress over environmental regulations.