Sally Jewell, nominated to be U.S. Interior secretary, won praise from environmentalists as a conservation champion and from business groups that said she understands the importance of energy development on public land.
Bloomberg by Jim Snyder
How well the head of a retail chain and former oil engineer manages the expectations of both camps will help determine if President Barack Obama can balance efforts to combat climate change with the push to extract more energy as a way to boost the economy, Joshua Freed, vice president for clean energy at The Third Way, said yesterday in an e-mail.
Naming “a businesswoman with a background in both sides of the mission is a great step,” said Freed, whose group says it promotes “pragmatic solutions” to public policy debates.
Jewell, 56, started working at Mobil Oil Corp. in 1978, moved into commercial banking then joined retailer Recreation Equipment Inc. in 2000 as chief operating officer. She is an outdoors enthusiast who climbed the 14,400-foot Mount Rainier, highest point in Washington state, several times.
If confirmed by the Senate, she would succeed Ken Salazar, a former Democratic senator from Colorado who sought to strengthen oil and gas regulations after BP Plc’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill and to expand solar and wind projects on federal land. Energy groups such as the American Petroleum Institute are pushing to open more public land for drilling, citing added jobs and economic activity.
“We are encouraged that Ms. Jewell would bring a wealth of business experience to her new position overseeing the vast mineral and coal resources of the federal government,” said Hal Quinn, chief executive officer of the National Mining Association, a Washington-based group whose members include U.S. units of BHP Billiton Ltd. “We trust she will put her experience to good use in addressing long-standing impediments to more efficient development of these resources.”
Jack Gerard, chief executive officer of API, the Washington-based group whose members include Exxon Mobil Corp. in Irving, Texas, and ConocoPhillips in Houston, said energy producers would look to Jewell’s business background and experience in the industry to “shape her approach to the game- changing prospects before us in energy development.”
Jewell’s nomination is a signal the Obama administration will protect U.S. public lands, the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations said, citing her experience defending public lands from development as REI’s chief.
“Sally Jewell’s nomination comes at a critical moment, as we work to balance energy development and conservation to protect our wildest public lands,” said Jamie Williams, president of the Wilderness Society, a Washington-based group that promotes conservation.