Category Archives: Ken Salazar

PEER: Time for a new Interior secretary

From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER:

Dear Alan:

This week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar apologized to a reporter he had threatened to “punch out” for asking him pointed questions about the scandal-plagued wild horse program. His frustration may be understandable, as the wild horse program is one in a corral-full of knotty problems that Interior has not resolved.  In fact, Salazar’s tenure at Interior has been one fiasco followed by another.

One of his first major decisions was to embrace the Bush “Drill, Baby, Drill” offshore oil program. Then the BP Gulf spill happened.  Salazar’s first reaction was to scapegoat his ownMMS Director who had been told to stay away from the oil issues and concentrate on alternative energy. Next, he broke up MMS in ways that kept the same pro-development biases in place.

Even today, Interior rushed approvals for Shell to enter Arctic waters without doing basic safety checks and still relying on industry self-certification.  Serious environmental concerns are still being suppressed. Agency approvals were given despite the fact that spill response capacity in the Arctic remains a big unknown.

Salazar is often mistaken for the Secretary of Energy but not just for pushing oil and gas.  His zealous pursuit of an “all of the above” energy approach appears to have left no resource un-bruised –

One central problem is that Salazar thinks he is entitled to cut deals with public resources like they are his to bargain away. Consider two recent Salazar forays into blatantly political deal-making at the expense of Interior’s resources –

  • He intervened to undermine a Park Service decision to deny a permit for a professional bike race that would close down part of the Colorado National Monument.  Despite the fact that the Park Service had rejected the permit three times, Salazar met privately with proponents to lay out a plan to do a new assessment, later saying the parks “need to be better neighbors.”

In his press conference on Wednesday, President Obama made it clear that the environment (at least climate change) would not be a second term priority. If he does not plan to spend political capital on the environment, at least his administration should not make matters worse.  It does not seem too much to ask that for the second term he appoint someone who actually understands Interior’s mission and will follow the law.

So despite the reelection, some regime change is definitely in order.  Help us bring it about.

Jeff Ruch
Executive Director


Feds will (again) offer oil leases in the Gulf

In my estimation, this is a huge mistake on the part of the Obama administration. How are we going to wean ourselves off the dirty oil habitat if we just keep drilling for more? And how are we, as a society, going to change our daily transportation choices to walking, or bicycling, or bus riding when we keep making it easy to pull over at a service station/convenience store and “fill ‘er up?”


Some global warming facts

Polar bears must hunt from sea ice for their food, primarily seals. As the ice disappears, bears are unable to hunt for the seals on which they depend. In a recent trip to the Hudson Bay, National Wildlife Federation staff investigated reports of skinnier-than-normal polar bears. Sadly, there is already filmed footage of cubs dying of starvation.

The U.S. Geological Survey projects that two-thirds of polar bears will disappear by 2050. This dramatic decline in the polar bear population is occurring in our lifetime, which is but a miniscule fraction of the time polar bears have roamed the vast Arctic seas.

The Secretary of the Interior listed the polar bear as threatened throughout the United States but is currently allowing oil and gas development in the polar bear’s habitat in Alaska.

The Supreme Court rules that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.


Editorial: Let science inform Arctic drilling decision

This editorial published today by the Seattle Times carries a good argument for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and his on-the-ground team tasked with tracking the argument of whether to open the Arctic for more oil exploration. Still, the science-based argument screams: Don’t do it.

New national wildlife refuge coming to Flint Hills of Kan.

Good news with more land in the Midwest becoming protected as public land. Read about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan for the Flint Hills of Kansas right here.

Cleanups of a spill and an agency test Salazar

So, isn’t that what being the person in charge is all about?

Read the NY Times’ feature-length article here.

Re-arranging the deck chairs on the Deepwater Horizon

From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER comes this.

Dear Alan:

Who knew that the Obama administration would preside over one of the worst ecological disasters in American history?  Perhaps we should have seen it coming.

Since his appointment, Ken Salazar has repeatedly stated that “energy independence” is his top priority as Secretary of Interior, a statement that –

(a) Means protection of resources is not his top priority;

(b) Makes Gale Norton sound like John Muir, as she never said anything half as bald (Bush’s Interior Secretary now works for Royal Dutch Shell);

(c) Does not match his statutory job description; or

(d) All of the above.

If you answered (d) All of the above, you are correct.

In late March, Salazar proposed a dramatic expansion of offshore drilling – ignoring both internal and external warnings that oil spill prevention and recovery needed major improvement., after the BP explosion and massive spill, he proposes to break the Minerals Management Service in two “in order to establish a separate and independent safety and environmental enforcement entity” that will free the current conflicts that Secretary Salazar has never before admitted to or has yet to describe.

However, this new agency will have the same managers who oversaw the current debacle.  And the same managers who prevented accurate environmental analyses on offshore drilling plans in Alaska, as documented in a GAO report last month generated by PEER.  The new agency also will not shield well-performing MMS scientists and specialists from retaliation.

Until there are fundamental reforms in the way the Interior does business, dividing the MMS is merely superficial damage control, like rearranging the deckchairs on the Deepwater Horizon.  Help PEER win changes we need so that public servants have incentives to find and report violations, dangers, and problems.

Jeff Ruch
Executive Director