Just hours after Barack Obama’s announcement of Ken Salazar as his choice for Interior Secretary, denunciation of and opposition to Salazar have already turned the Colorado Senator in to the most controversial of President-elect Obama’s many cabinet designees. This story in NPR ,”Environmentalists Fuming Over Salazar’s New Post”, describes the growing disillusion in the environmental community about the Interior Secretary designate Salazar, who Kieran Suckling, head of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said, “is very closely tied to ranching and mining and very traditional, old-time, Western, extraction industries. We were promised that an Obama presidency would bring change.” A scathing press statement (see below) released by CBD includes a litany of pro-polluter anti-environmental positions taken by Salazar, including his vote not to repeal tax breaks for Exxon-Mobil and his vote for oil drilling of the Florida coast.
Questions about Salazar’s past may bring more unwanted negative attention to Obama, who already finds himself fending off questions about his scandal-ridden ally, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. One reliable source in the DC environmental community just told me that the Interior Secretary position “may not be closed” because Salazar “has some issues from his past that may come out.”
Whether or not these rumors do, in fact, materialize and become newsworthy, it will be interesting to see whether Latino groups come out in support of Salazar as they did during the Senate hearings around the appointment of Salazar friend and ally, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Salazar, National Council of La Raza leader, Janet Murguia, and the leaders of other Washington-based Latino organizations came out forcefully in support of Gonzales even after revelations of the former White House Counsel’s role in providing legal facilitation for the acts of torture and humiliation at Abu Ghraib garnered international attention. Salazar and other Latinos in Washington rescinded their support for Gonzales in the final months leading to Gonzales’ resignation.
(Statement on Salazar Appointment by the Center for Biological Diversity)
December 16, 2008
Contact Kieran Suckling , executive director, (520) 275-5960
Ken Salazar a Disappointing Choice for Secretary of the Interior
Stronger, More Scientifically-Based Leadership Needed to Fix
Strong rumors are circulating that President-elect Barack Obama has
selected Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO) as the new Secretary of the Interior.
As the overseer of the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land
Management, the Mineral Management Services, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, and the Endangered Species Act, the Secretary of the Interior
is most important position in the protection of America’s lands, waters,
and endangered species.
The Department of the Interior has been rocked by scandals during the
Bush Administration, most revolving around corrupt bureaucrats
overturning and squelching agency scientists as they attempted to
protect endangered species and natural resources from exploitation by
developers, loggers, and oil and gas development. Just yesterday, the
Interior Department Inspector General issued another in a string of
regulations in order to avoid or eliminate environmental protections.
“The Department of the Interior desperately needs a strong, forward
looking, reform-minded Secretary,” said Kieran Suckling, executive
director of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity,
“unfortunately, Ken Salazar is not that man. He endorsed George Bush’s
selection of Gale Norton as Secretary of Interior, the very woman who
initiated and encouraged the scandals that have rocked the Department of
Interior. Virtually all of the misdeeds described in yesterday’s
Inspector General expose occurred during the tenure of the person Ken
Salazar advocated for the position he is now seeking.”
While Salazar has promoted some good environmental actions and fought
against off-road vehicle abuse, his overall record is decidedly mixed,
and is especially weak in the arenas most important to the next
Secretary of the Interior: protecting scientific integrity, combating
global warming, reforming energy development and protecting endangered
– voted against increased fuel efficiency standards for the U.S.
– voted to allow offshore oil drilling along Florida’s coast
– voted to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to ignore global warming
impacts in their water development projects
– voted against the repeal of tax breaks for Exxon-Mobil
– voted to support subsidies to ranchers and other users of public
forest and range lands
– Threatened to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when its
scientists determined the black-tailed prairie dog may be endangered
“Obama’s choices for Secretary of Energy and his Climate Change Czar
indicate a determined willingness to take on global warming,” said
Suckling. “That team will be weakened by the addition of Ken Salazar
who has fought against federal action on global warming, against higher
fuel efficiency standards, and for increased oil drilling and oil
William Myers III to the federal bench. Myers was a former Interior
Department Solicitor and lobbyist for the ranching industry. Senator
Leahy called him ”the most anti-environmental candidate for the bench I
have seen in 37 years in the Senate.” Bizarrely, Salazar praised Myers’
“outstanding legal reasoning” regarding endangered species, Indian
affairs, federal lands and water, timber, and fish and wildlife issues.
The American Bar Association rated Meyers as “not qualified.” Salazar
later supported Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General, introducing him
at his Senate confirmation hearing.
“One of the most important jobs of the Secretary of the Interior is to
help pick dozens of critically important political appointees to oversee
America’s conservation system. His past misjudgments of Norton, Meyers
and Gonzales give us little confidence he will choose wisely in the