Confirmation hearing for Sally Jewell

Mar 7, 2013

Northwest native Sally Jewell faced nearly three hours of questions at a hearing in Washington DC on her nomination to become the next US Secretary of the Interior. If confirmed, she said she’d take a balanced approach to protecting ecosystems while expanding energy production on public lands.

As CEO of REI, Jewell has strong credentials as an environmentalist. Some say – too strong.

Sally Jewell introduced herself to the Senate committee talking about her love of the great outdoors. She said growing up around Seattle, some of her earliest memories are of exploring the forests and National parks in the region: Mount Rainier, Olympic National Park, Crater Lake.

“And I was hooked on the outdoors and I have been ever since. So, my children will tell you that we spend a lot of time outside together. My friends will tell you that any opportunity I have, I invite them into the outdoors. And Senators, I hope that we too can enjoy some time in the outdoors perhaps in your states, over the course of our time working together, if I’m confirmed for this position,” Jewell said.

Jewell’s resume includes credentials as a petroleum engineer and 19 years working as a banker in the energy sector, as well as her well-regarded success as the CEO of REI. She promised she wouldn’t shy away from expanding natural gas and oil production on public lands, if confirmed.

"Many people as they enjoy the outdoors jump in a car to get there, it requires fuel. Many of the products that our industry produces are produced in some way or another with materials  that derive from fossil fuels" she said. "And so it's very important I think that we take a balanced approach to both energy development and resource development with conservation and recreation."

But there’s concern she may have a conflict of interest because she sits on the board of a conservation group that has filed dozens of lawsuits against the federal government.

Wyoming Senator John Barasso said one of the lawsuits filed by the National Parks Conservation Association would toughen hydraulic fracturing regulations on public lands. The Republican senator asked if Jewell would recuse herself of rulemaking on issues that her group is involved in. She responded that she would handle it on a case by case basis.

‘As I said before, should a matter come before me that involves the organization, I would approach the appropriate ethics counselors within the Department to determine what role I should take,” Jewell said.

Jewell managed to defer many of the toughest questions during the hearing, saying she’d have to learn more specifics if confirmed for the job. A committee vote is tentatively scheduled for next week.