Think tank: New US Interior Department candidate Sally Jewell faces a tough balancing act

15 February 2013 09:49  [Source: ICB]

US President Barack Obama has chosen an environmentalist and petroleum engineer to head the Interior Department, saying that Sally Jewell knows "there's no contradiction between being good stewards of the land and our economic progress".

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US energy bosses hope Sally Jewell will bring industry change as interior secretary

With one foot in the environmental world and the other well-worn in the oil and gas business, Jewell will have to try to meet the interests - and avoid the barbs - of both camps in what Obama conceded "is not always an easy balancing act".

The UK native has been president of famed outfitter Recreational Equipment Inc (REI) since 2005. She worked for Mobil Oil for three years, and in the commercial banking sector as an oil and natural gas expert for 19 years.

While in the finance industry and later with REI, Jewell expanded her environmental interests. She was a founding board member of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, dedicated to preserving the environmental health and economic vitality of the Interstate 90 corridor from Washington's Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast to the Cascade Mountains that form the state's central spine.

She also holds the Rachel Carson Award for environmental conservation from the Audubon Society. But her initial hands-on work in the oil business and later long years in oil and gas banking and finance also give Jewell an inside-industry perspective that not all cabinet secretaries enjoy.

It is that experience that has energy industry officials hoping for a change in what at times has been a contentious and often heated relationship over the last four years with outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the Obama administration overall.

"We look forward to learning how Sally Jewell's business background and ­experience in the oil and natural gas industry will shape her approach to the game-changing prospects before us in energy development," said Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute (API).

Among other things, the Interior Department oversees oil and natural gas drilling on federal onshore lands and offshore continental shelf regions.

"President Obama campaigned on implementing a true 'all of the above' energy plan for America," Gerard noted, adding that the occasion of a new Interior Department secretary presents an "opportunity that could create millions of new jobs here at home and generate hundreds of billions of dollars to the federal government at a time we need it most".


By: Joe Kamalick
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