Interior nominee OK’d by committee

Associated Press photo by CLIFF OWEN -- U.S. Interior Secretary nominee Sally Jewel testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on her nomination. Show caption
Associated Press photo by CLIFF OWEN -- U.S. Interior Secretary nominee Sally Jewel testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on her nomination.

The nominee to head of the Department of the Interior in charge of federal lands and much of the nation’s oil-and-gas production moved toward Senate confirmation on Thursday.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted an overwhelming 19-3 to advance the nominee, Sally Jewell, to the Senate floor, with Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., among those in support.

Jewell, a former oilfield
engineer and banking executive, is the president and chief executive officer of Recreational Equipment Inc., of Seattle

The Interior Department is responsible for the management of most federal lands and natural resources, ranging from federal parks and fisheries to coal-mining sites and the Gulf of Mexico’s Outer Continental Shelf.

Landrieu praised Jewell’s executive business experience and said it is “refreshing” that she has “fracked a well” in the oil-and-gas industry.

Landrieu said she is “impressed” with Jewell’s “ability to see the balance” between environmental conservation and domestic energy production with the nation’s natural resources.

However, Landrieu did continue to express concern about what she called Jewell’s vague responses regarding efforts to create more revenue sharing with Louisiana and other states from offshore drilling revenues.

Earlier this month, Jewell said, “Revenue sharing (with states) is clearly a very important issue that deserves some attention from the Department of the Interior.”

“I know that we’re all in a situation with a tight federal Treasury, and it would take good collaboration,” Jewell said about finding the “appropriate resolution.”

Landrieu noted Thursday that offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has produced more than $200 billion in federal revenues with scant returns for Louisiana and the other Gulf states.

“The coast that’s produced $211 billion is literally sinking into the Gulf of Mexico,” Landrieu said.

Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., responded to Landrieu that she has his commitment to work out the issues regarding revenue sharing for energy production.

Many of the concerns from Republicans about Jewell have revolved around her time on the board of the National Parks Conservation Association.

The nonprofit association has sued the federal government many times in efforts to prevent coal mining, domestic drilling and other issues.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., who was one of three senators to vote against Jewell, said he remains “troubled” about her “lack of transparency” regarding her involvement on the board.