Interior Nominee Would Likely Continue Bad Policies

Sally JewellConsidering the anti-fossil fuel track record of President Obama and his first-term cabinet members Lisa Jackson (EPA), Steven Chu (Energy Dept.) and Ken Salazar (Interior Dept.), there is no reason to expect that Department of Interior nominee Sally Jewell (photo courtesy Fortune Live Media) would impose a different agenda – especially since the president no longer has to worry about re-election.

While there might not be anything to prevent her confirmation by the Senate, U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah is weary of the resource development haters the administration keeps producing for its energy and environment regulatory regime. Jewell, the CEO of Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) who always tilts for nature preservation rather than human utilization, looks like she would carry on the anti-exploratory and –drilling policies of Obama and Salazar.

“I have some reservations about President Obama’s selection of Sally Jewell,” Bishop, a Republican, said in a statement issued on Wednesday. “While I certainly respect her business expertise, the President had other options who possessed extensive experience with public policy in the west and the impacts of so much federally-owned land.  Additionally, her company has intimately supported several special interest groups and subsequently helped to advance their radical political agendas….

“Unfortunately, Utah’s lands and resources have been a consistent target of this Administration and it is my hope that the next DOI Secretary takes a less heavy-handed approach when it comes to picking winners and losers.”

That’s highly unlikely under a potential Jewell reign. In 2007 she told Forbes she was “intrigued” by the “success” of cap-and-trade as it was applied to sulfur dioxide, and seemed to welcome the idea to regulate carbon dioxide. As Charlie Spiering of the Washington Examiner noted, “Jewell called for ‘real change’ in the country’s approach to climate change.” which tells you where her head is at regarding fossil fuels.

Then in a 2009 interview (hat tip to the Competitive Enterprise Institute for noticing) Jewell embraced the other major policy means to approach carbon dioxide reduction.

“We are not paying for the cost to the environment,” she told Web site, “of the carbon that we use, and we should be paying for that. I know tax is a dirty word, but if we were paying a carbon tax that accounted for our impact on greenhouse gases, that would in fact change our consumption…. Regulation plays an important role in driving behavior.”

And as the Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel recounted on Friday, the former oil company engineer (liberals love how that makes Jewell look more temperate) has served in leadership roles for years on boards for groups such as the National Parks Conservation Association and the Conservation Alliance, through which REI has pushed anti-development initiatives on public lands and financed environmental activist litigators to prevent economic activities such as logging and mining.

“The president knows he can rely on Ms. Jewell to do for the federal government exactly what she’s done at an activist level,” Strassel wrote, “Lock up land, target industries, kill traditional jobs.”

Perhaps most indicative of how Jewell might handle her responsibilities, she was a 2009 recipient of the Audubon Society’s Rachel Carson Award, named for the woman who is an icon for environmental pressure groups. REI proudly calls attention to its “sustainability” efforts that fit neatly with the familiar agenda of every “green” activist group you can imagine, with a near obsession about greenhouse gas emissions.

REI’s giving philosophy almost exclusively emphasizes “conservation,” so as “to protect and preserve our country’s natural spaces and to get more people into the outdoors.” In other words, more people who use REI equipment should be allowed on public lands, but the rest of us who want to use it are out of luck. The company – formally a co-op – allocates 3 percent of its previous year’s operating profit to give to such causes. REI’s Web site says in 2011, $4.48 million was given to more than 330 national and local eco-minded groups.

Jewell and REI don’t hide the fact that their goals have been to preserve “the outdoor recreation economy.” The retailer hired its first full-time government relations director in 2011, in large part to lobby for the ever-greater protection and expansion of national parks, waterways and trails. Of course those things are treasured by everyone, but in the case of eco-activists like Jewell, the goal isn’t peaceful co-existence with industries that seek to tap natural resources via drilling, mining and logging, but to exclude them to the greatest extent possible.

Jewell and environmentalists often like to invoke the term “stewardship,” which to them means to not allow human beings to impact land or waters in ways that enable them to extract or withdraw valuable and needed fuels, minerals and other resources for their needs and use. The result is that the costs for those materials are driven higher because they must either be retrieved in a less efficient way or from more distant sources.

In truth, the environmentalist crowd has distorted the meaning of the term “stewardship.” The way they use it, they are poor “stewards” because they allow the extremely valuable resources that are useful for energy, construction, and manufacturing to go to waste in order to “preserve” nature for REI customers, or for animals, or for the land’s own sake. Meanwhile minerals and raw fuels are extracted from the earth anyway, only in faraway countries where environmental standards are often nonexistent and which require the burning of fossil fuels in order to transport them to the U.S. That’s good “stewardship” according to the enviro-extremist mindset.

If they actually paid attention, environmentalists would understand the U.S. standards that have been attained in the resource access industries nearly demand restoration, or mitigation, for lands and waters that have been affected by activities such as drilling and mining. Many who work and operate such businesses – for example, in the Mountain West – are themselves outdoorsmen and would not accept the raping and plundering of the lands without restoration. It’s become part of the ethics and morality of the industry.

But all signs from Jewell’s words, actions, and financial investments indicate she will perpetuate the practices of bad stewardship rather than good. Besides Rep. Bishop, American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard called attention to the poor utilization of U.S. resources as Jewell’s nomination was announced.

“Eighty-three percent of the land and offshore areas controlled by the federal government are still off-limits to oil and natural gas development,” he said in a statement last week. “Increasing access to America’s vast energy resources should be a top priority for the next Interior Secretary. America’s energy revolution in oil and natural gas could make the U.S. a global energy superpower.”

And Rep. Bishop’s concerns are justified. As one example, he is able to point to the cancellation by the Bureau of Land Management – under Salazar’s Interior Department – of oil drilling leases on more than 130,000 acres in Utah. You could expect that under Jewell – who has led a $1.8 billion dollar enterprise and environmental nonprofits down the path to fossil-fuel opposition and limited land access – there would be no reason for her to change course as Interior Secretary.

Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes, an aggregator of North Carolina news.