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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, this afternoon we will take up in the Senate the confirmation of Sally Jewell to head the Department of the Interior. The Department is one of America's biggest landowners and is the second largest source of revenue for the Treasury after the Internal Revenue Service. The Department of Interior has the unique mission of protecting America's treasures while pursuing balanced approaches to promote sustainable economic development.

The Department administers the Outer Continental Shelf Program, which is vital to the gulf coast, and Oregon's forest lands in southwestern Oregon where we are pushing hard to increase forest health because we know forest health equals a healthy economy.

The Department has significant trust responsibilities for Native Americans, and it manages water reclamation projects throughout the West. Public lands, which are administered by the Department, are a lifeline for our ranchers, and they are especially important given the recent droughts our country has experienced.

In addition to these traditional responsibilities, increasingly the Department of the Interior is responsible for providing recreational opportunities for millions of our citizens. Today millions of Americans use these lands to hunt, camp, fish, hike, and boat. Let's make no mistake about it. Outdoor recreation is now a major economic engine for our country, generating more than $645 billion of revenue each year.

This is why I am especially enthused today to be able to strongly recommend Sally Jewell to head the Department of the Interior. She has exceptional qualifications. Somehow she has managed to pack into just one lifetime two or three lifetimes of experiences. She has been a petroleum engineer, corporate CEO, a banker, and a citizen volunteer. Her qualifications clearly made an impression on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which I chair.

Last month our members voted 19 to 3 to approve her nomination, and I believe she got that resounding vote because she is the right person to oversee the multitude of programs at the Department of the Interior, several of which I have just mentioned. She certainly made clear in her confirmation hearing that she understands there is an enormous responsibility to balance the dual roles of conserving and developing resources.

I think we all understand that jobs in our country come from the private sector, and if through this Department we can come up with innovative, fresh policies to set the climate for job growth while we protect our treasures, that is clearly going to be good for the United States of America.

Let's look at a few of the areas where she is going to be involved. Natural gas is just one. This resource has been a huge, positive development for our country. We have it, the world wants it, our prices are lower, and we are seeing a significant interest among American manufacturers in bringing jobs back home. I know this has been of great interest to the Presiding Officer today. A lot of these manufacturers are saying they want to come back from overseas because America has a price advantage in terms of clean natural gas.

There are significant environmental questions associated with natural gas. We have already talked about them in our committee. We are going to have to deal with fracking issues and methane emissions and underground aquifers. Based on some of the discussions we have had--and we had a very good dialog between Frances Beinecke of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Senator Hoeven from North Dakota where they have a significant interest in natural gas--I believe that under Sally Jewell, when it comes to our public lands, we are going to be able to strike the kind of responsible balance that will make sense for the Senate in a bipartisan way.

I see my friend and colleague Senator Murkowski is here. She has more than met me halfway as we have tried to look at the issues associated with these questions, such as natural gas.

I will only say that with someone with the brains and energy and the willingness to reach out that Sally Jewell has--and she certainly did that based on the number of visits she made to Senators--we may be able to have a natural gas policy where we can have it all, where we can have modest prices for our businesses and consumers that make for a significant economic advantage, we can bring back some of those industries from overseas to Oregon and Ohio and other parts of the country, and we can do it by using, for example, best practices on our public lands as it relates to managing these resources. But we will only have a chance to accomplish those kinds of things if we have someone with Sally Jewell's talents and professional track record of actually bringing people together on these kinds of issues.

I do not believe you can run a multibillion-dollar company, such as REI, which has been Ms. Jewell's current position, without showing the ability to manage, to bring people together, and in particular to anticipate some of the exciting trends in the days ahead in terms of outdoor recreation, where we all have enjoyed the American tradition of the great outdoors. I think few thought it would be a $646 billion contributor to the American economy. But that happens because individuals like Ms. Jewell are willing to step up to take these positions. Because she is from our part of the world in the Pacific Northwest, we are particularly pleased to see her secure this position.

But, again, you do not run--and run well--a nearly $2 billion outdoor equipment company, as Ms. Jewell has, by osmosis but because you are a good manager, you are good with people, and in particular you understand what the challenges are all about.

At this point, I would like to give some time to my friend and colleague. I know that Washington Senators are very interested in being part of this debate, and before we wrap up this afternoon, I also would like to talk about the wonderful track record of Ms. Jewell's predecessor, our current Secretary, Secretary Salazar, who is Senator Murkowski's and my personal friend.

For purposes of this part of the discussion, I would only like to say to the Senate that in Sally Jewell we will have an individual with the experience and with the expertise and the drive to lead the Department of the Interior. I believe she will listen to Senators who have concerns, listen to Senators who want, as Senator Murkowski and so many in our committee have tried to do, to find common ground. So I strongly urge the Senate today, when we vote a little bit later on, to join me in voting to approve Sally Jewell's nomination for the Department of the Interior.

I will now be happy to yield to my friend and colleague from Alaska.


Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, before she leaves I want to thank Senator Cantwell for all her good work. As northwesterners know, and I hope the rest of the country knows, Senator Cantwell is one of those who understands the opportunity in the great outdoors. I know she is climbing a mountain this summer and is always in shape. She is always fit and ready for a mountain.

To have the opportunity to work with folks in the Pacific Northwest, particularly with Sally Jewell's background, as the Senator has eloquently outlined, I think it is going to be an advantage not just for our region but for the rest of our country.

I see our colleague from New Mexico is here. If he would like to make some remarks at this point, we welcome him. I have some additional remarks as well.

Would my colleague from New Mexico like to make any remarks at this time?

All right.

Let me, then, talk for just a few more minutes about Ms. Jewell and some of the challenges ahead of her, particularly in natural resources. Obviously, with authorities, as my colleagues have outlined, that range from managing national parks, to offshore oil and gas development, to protecting fish and wildlife, serving as Secretary of the Interior, it is almost like an extreme sport for multitaskers. You are going to have to juggle. Ms. Jewell knows a little bit about multitasking, as we have outlined, from being a petroleum engineer, a CEO, a conservationist, and a banker.

Particularly in my part of the world, Oregon, there are some especially important challenges. The Federal Government owns most of our land. Particularly in forestry, we need to find a way to bring together all sides--timber owners, environmentalists, scientists--and we need to go in there and clean out millions and millions of acres of overstocked timber stands. We can get that material to the mills. It is an ideal source of biomass, a clean source of energy.

Because we are working to build relationships with the environmental community, we can also find a way to protect old growth as we get to harvest timber. But it is, again, not going to happen just by osmosis or because somebody waves a wand in Washington, DC. It is going to happen because we have responsible administrators like Sally Jewell who are going to take the time to learn the checker-board pattern of O&C lands and our local communities, and particularly understand some of our traditions that have worked particularly well in the past and I think can be of great benefit as we look to future solutions.

Back in 2000 I had the honor of writing the secure rural schools bill and the timber payments bill with our former colleague, Senator Larry Craig. What we included in that legislation is the kind of model for collaborative forestry that we are going to see Sally Jewell pick up on. We established something called resource advisory councils where, in effect, on the local level people from the timber industry, people from the environmental community, scientists, and a whole host of others--frankly, some people who as a general rule had not done much talking to each other, probably done a lot of litigating against each other--they would use these resource advisory councils to come together and try to find some common ground.

It worked. Regarding these resource advisory councils, when I meet people from the timber industry, from any of the extractive industries, and environmental folks, they say: Use that model. Use that collaborative model that we are seeing used in timberlands in southwestern Oregon as a way that we can build on the opportunity to bring people together.

We have been able to do that with Forest Service lands in eastern Oregon to some extent. I think we can do it also in western Oregon and in the communities that are affected by the Bureau of Land Management lands. Probably to do it we are going to have to extend the timber payments law for another year to give us the time to come up with a long-term solution. I have talked about this with Sally Jewell in the past and about her willingness to see that this is an issue that now finally has to be addressed, addressed in a way that will get the timber harvest up in O&C lands but also protect our treasures. Our old growth is some of the very pristine treasures of America. If we do not figure out a way to promote forest health and go in there and thin out these overstocked stands, these fires that we are seeing--they are not natural fires, they are really magnets for infernos because of years and years of neglect--are going to continue.

I think Sally Jewell is up to the challenge of coming up with the kind of policies for the O&C lands, for the lands in eastern Oregon and those my colleagues talked about in Montana and Colorado and Idaho, and I think she is up to that challenge.

Before we wrap up today I want to take a few minutes and talk about--I know the Presiding Officer has great affection for him as well--our former colleague, Ken Salazar. Ken Salazar has been Secretary of the Interior throughout the Obama administration to date. It is my view he has done an exceptional job. I think we all understand in the Senate that when Ken Salazar is involved, get ready for a great smile, an enormous amount of energy, enormous amount of intelligence, and someone who, in a very persistent way, is interested in solving problems. Ken Salazar has sure done that in a number of important areas.

For example, before Ken Salazar took office--I am looking at a headline from when there was a huge scandal at the Department of the Interior. I am looking at an article from the

fall of 2008 headlined, ``Sex, Drug Use and Graft Cited In The Interior Department.''

Basically, what it talks about is an investigation, a number of reports delivered by the inspector general, that basically document, at the Department of the Interior, a culture of lax ethics. It basically describes something like a dozen current and former employees of the Minerals Management Service, an agency that collected at that time billions of dollars of royalties annually--you basically had an ``anything goes'' kind of environment, and the reports go on and on. It feels more like a litany for a late-night television show.

The reports focused on a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity in what was the Service's royalty and in-kind program--essentially, officials who seemed to be exempt from expense accounts limits, one ethical lapse after another, as documented in these reports. I remember at the hearing, the confirmation hearing, Senator Salazar--it was unusual because he had been my seatmate over the years at the Senate Energy Committee--I said: Senator Salazar, you have to go in there and drain the swamp at the Minerals Management Service.

In fact, he certainly did that. Essentially, the successor agency has been free of scandal. I think that is representative of both the integrity and professionalism that Secretary Salazar has brought to the agency.

Also, I note after the gulf spill he overhauled the offshore drilling practices, ensured that they were beefed up in terms of safety while at the same time allowing for the drilling that is so important to the industry.

I am also going to reflect on Secretary Salazar's accomplishments, mention that he has done yeoman work in terms of promoting green and renewable energy. I note in one of the comments about his departure that Christy Goldfuss, Public Lands Director at the Center for American Progress, stated Secretary Salazar championed ``a new model of conservation which focused on partnerships with private land owners and States'' and ``that approach has paid off with cooperatives in the Everglades in Florida, the Prairie Potholes region of the Dakotas, and other areas.''

I would like to note something else as well about Secretary Salazar. I know Senators on both sides of the aisle would call him when they had those kinds of resource questions. I know Senator Murkowski brought up one of Secretary Salazar's final acts in office today. Under his leadership the State of Idaho and the Fish and Wildlife Service entered into an arrangement so that the State of Idaho's plan for addressing the sage grouse could be implemented. I know this is a critical issue for Senator Risch. He and I talked about it often. I am going to work with him on these issues, and what Secretary Salazar did today is an example of the new kind of partnership that we all are looking to the Interior Department and the states for, and certainly something I want to promote, and I know Senator Murkowski shares that view.

I think it is fair to say that Sally Jewell has very large boots to fill. We all remember Secretary Salazar's wonderful western boots and the anecdotes about them. She has certainly got a challenge to try to step in after a Secretary who has accomplished so much. But as I and Senator Murkowski and the Washington Senators have outlined today, we believe strongly that Sally Jewell is up to this challenge. I hope she will receive a resounding vote in the Senate. I believe we are close to the point where we will be able to vote on Ms. Jewell.

For all the reasons that I and my colleagues have outlined this afternoon, I hope there will be very strong bipartisan support for Ms. Jewell when we vote.

With that I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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