Recent Democratic Presidents have appointed Western politicians to be Interior Secretary. It worked out quite well with Stewart Udall, Cecil Andrus and Bruce Babbitt. Barack Obama followed the same pattern when he selected then Colorado Senator Ken Salazar. It hasn’t worked out that well. Why? The aforementioned Western pols were all conservationists whereas Salazar dances to the beat of a different drummer. I was unaware of that until I readTim Dickinson’s recent article in Rolling Stone. Here’s the money quote about Mr. Salazar:
Salazar did little to tamp down on the lawlessness at MMS, beyond referring a few employees for criminal prosecution and ending a Bush-era program that allowed oil companies to make their “royalty” payments – the amount they owe taxpayers for extracting a scarce public resource – not in cash but in crude. And instead of putting the brakes on new offshore drilling, Salazar immediately throttled it up to record levels. Even though he had scrapped the Bush plan, Salazar put 53 million offshore acres up for lease in the Gulf in his first year alone – an all-time high. The aggressive leasing came as no surprise, given Salazar’s track record. “This guy has a long, long history of promoting offshore oil drilling – that’s his thing,” says Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “He’s got a highly specific soft spot for offshore oil drilling.” As a senator, Salazar not only steered passage of the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which opened 8 million acres in the Gulf to drilling, he even criticized President Bush for not forcing oil companies to develop existing leases faster.
p>I think Salazar’s bald head should roll but if it doesn’t, radical surgery is required at Interior. I’m certain that MMS isn’t the only agency that’s been wrecked by the Bush administration’s deregulatory fervor/fever. It constantly amazes me that post-Reagan wingers have taken the conserve out of conservative but they have. Note that I used amaze: nothing they do shocks me and they always have a fancy ideological rationale for every depredation. The Obama administration needs to do better and my fingers are crossed that they will BUT it’s unfortunate (to say the least) that it took the BP oiltastrophe to get them to do the right thing.