Obama picks supporter of mining on public lands for Interior Secretary

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M. Spector M. Spector's picture
Obama picks supporter of mining on public lands for Interior Secretary

In the case of [Ken] Salazar, Obama has selected a figure who stands on the right wing of the Senate Democratic caucus, excelled only by Connecticut's "independent-Democrat" Joseph Lieberman in his identification with the policies of the Bush administration.

[b]A supporter of the Iraq war, Salazar distinguished himself as a freshman senator in 2003 by personally leading Alberto Gonzales onto the floor of the Senate and then testifying on his behalf in his attorney general confirmation hearings.

He likewise enthusiastically backed Bush's selection of Gale Norton, a right-wing Republican from Colorado, for secretary of the interior.[/b]

Previously Salazar supported the appointment of William Myers III, a former Interior Department solicitor and ranching industry lobbyist, as a federal judge. While the American Bar Association rated Myers as "not qualified," Salazar praised his "outstanding legal reasoning" on federal land use issues. By contrast, Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, called Myers "the most anti-environmental candidate for the bench I have seen in 37 years in the Senate."

[b]While in the Senate, Salazar voted: against increased fuel efficiency standards for the US cars, in support of offshore oil drilling on Florida's coast, against the repeal of tax breaks for Exxon-Mobil, and in support of subsidies to ranchers using public lands.[/b] He also fought against attempts to beef up protection for endangered species and the environment in the US Farm Bill.

Salazar's appointment was greeted with dismay by environmental groups, which had lobbied against his being named. [b]He is widely seen in the West as a loyal servant of the big ranching, mining and other major corporate interests, which backed his selection.[/b]

Jon Marvel of the Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project called the appointment a "travesty." Salazar, he said, "will completely undermine Obama's message of change. He will not bring change to the public lands of the western United States."

"Ken Salazar is very closely tied to ranching and mining and very traditional, old-time, Western, extraction industries," said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity. "We were promised that an Obama presidency would bring change."

[b]"The only ones pleased" with the appointment, noted National Public Radio's Jeff Brady, "were those in the agriculture and mining industries.[/b] During the campaign these folks, generally, were counted as supporters of Republican John McCain."...

Indeed, Salazar's appointment was celebrated on the stock market Wednesday [Dec. 17]. Shares of Consol Energy and of Massey Energy Co. both climbed by more than 10 percent in the course of afternoon trading on expectations that his taking charge at the Interior Department would spell continued opening up of federal lands for mineral exploitation.


M. Spector M. Spector's picture