U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today voted against forwarding to the Senate floor the nomination of Marcilynn Burke to be the Department of the Interior's Assistant Secretary for Lands and Minerals. Burke currently serves in that position in an acting capacity.
"I have concerns about Ms. Burke's nomination from a number of standpoints, including her role in the proposed OSM-BLM consolidation and her involvement in litigation interfering in the wildlife management decisions of Alaska," Murkowski said. "These concerns, and others, have caused me to oppose her nomination."
Among Murkowski's reasons for voting against Burke's nomination during Thursday's Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee meeting was the fact that she served on the Defenders of Wildlife's litigation committee from 2005 to 2006, something she didn't disclose until questioned about it at her first confirmation hearing. For decades, Defenders of Wildlife have repeatedly sued the state of Alaska and DOI over Alaska wildlife management issues.
Burke has also been vocal about her support for designating as wilderness the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She was also a leading official on DOI's attempt to circumvent the prohibition on designating new wilderness areas without the express will of Congress.
As the Department of Interior's Acting Assistant Secretary for Lands and Minerals, Burke is responsible for the land use, resource management and regulatory oversight policies of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE). She has played a lead role in efforts to consolidate the offices of BLM and OSM, a plan Murkowski has criticized.
"The responses we have received from Ms. Burke regarding the proposed OSM-BLM consolidation have been quite simply inadequate. The official reason given for the consolidation has been administrative efficiency but after five months of repeatedly asking for estimates on the costs and savings, we have still received nothing," Murkowski said. "Given the generally insufficient level of communication about the consolidation, I have serious concerns about how forthcoming and collaborative Ms. Burke would be if confirmed."