Former Attorney General Ken Salazar Confirmed as Secretary of the Interior

Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior

Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO), a former Colorado Attorney General from 1999 to 2004, has been confirmed as secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Salazar is a Colorado native, where he worked as a rancher and businessman, and practiced law. He also served as director of the state Department of Natural Resources.

During his tenure as Attorney General, Salazar was chair of the Conference of Western Attorneys General and co-chair of NAAG’s Environment Committee. He instituted Colorado’s environmental crimes unit and was deeply involved in matters related to state regulation of federal facilities. His office negotiated the cleanup of Rocky Flats, a large contaminated Department of Energy site that had been used for manufacturing plutonium pits that are part of nuclear warheads. The state’s oversight of the cleanup culminated in creation of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, which surrounds a Department of Energy area that is still subject to environmental monitoring. The Refuge preserves Colorado flora and wildlife. Salazar also worked to clean up two other large federal sites in Colorado, Lowry Air Force base and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.

In the Senate, Salazar served on the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and on the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, as well the Finance Committee. One area he focused on particularly is carbon sequestration and capture. Salazar worked on the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007, which was ultimately folded into omnibus energy legislation. The law requires the United States Geological Service (USGS), which is a part of the Department of the Interior, to study options for capture of carbon dioxide.

A great challenge for Salazar may be the fact that the Department of Interior includes eight disparate missions, incorporated in its eight bureaus and offices: the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Geological Survey, Minerals Management Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Office of Surface Mining. States — and Attorneys General — interact with every branch of the Department of the Interior, sometimes as legal allies, sometimes in opposition. Salazar believes that his background as a westerner and especially his experience as an official of state government will be useful to him in his new position.

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