Jewell: No Climate Change Deniers at Interior

Photograph by Rick Gerharter

Sierra Nevada

It’s official.

There is no denying climate change at the Department of Interior.

Sally Jewell, the outdoorswoman and new interior secretary schooled in oilfield engineering and molded in her leadership of an adventure-outfitting company, made her debut address at the Department of Interior on Day 111.

“I hope there are no climate change deniers in the Department of Interior,” she told employees yesterday. If there are, she said, they should visit some of the public lands managed by the agency — say the melting permafrost in Alaska or shrinking snow packs in the high Sierras. “If you don’t believe in it, come out into the resources.”

And now the Jewell mission statement:

“You and I can actually do something about it,” she reiterated for the Interior staff. “That’s a privilege, and I would argue it’s a moral imperative.”

This is no James Watt talking.

The interior secretary in the first term of Ronald Reagan’s administration viewed public lands as a commodity with which to make profit. He vastly expanded leases of tracts of public land to coal-miners and opened the outer continental shelf to oil drillers.

Thirty years later, a consciousness about global warming has taken hold — albeit resisted in many political circles. And President Barack Obama has elevated the issue in his second term — indeed hinting that approval of the Keystone XL pipeline could run up against concerns about exacerbating climate change.

Environmentalists are eating this up, casting Jewell as one of two “kickass” women taking the lead on climate change, along with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Still, Jewell brings an oil management mind to the debate as well.

A House subcommittee’s proposed budget cuts for the Interior Department in fiscal 2014 would slow down permitting of onshore  and offshore oil and natural gas work and would have a variety of other harmful impacts on the management of federal lands, Jewell said earlier this week,as Bloomberg BNA reported July 29.

“Reductions are shortsighted,” Jewell said, citing economic benefits of Interior programs, including oil and natural gas revenues from the leasing of federal onshore and offshore lands.  Budget cuts will slow leasing and planning for permits to drill, Jewell said.

“It really shoots ourselves in the foot, and taxpayers in the foot,” she said.

The former president and CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc. Says the federal government has the ability to tackle climate change on a scale that is “orders of magnitude” bigger than any business entity — even Wal-Mart.

The administration also confronts a Republican-run House looking for ways to rein in the government’s reach.

One of the challenges: that proposedHouse $9.7 billion Interior budget for fiscal 2014, with steep cuts to the Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management. Jewell is pledging to fight that.

“I’ll go down slugging to get what we can for the good work that you do,” she told employees.

This was her 111th day on the job — “but who’s counting,” she joked. In that time, she has climbed rocks on bureau land, “geeked out” over a dam test center in Denver and attended at Wolf Trap, a National Park Service outdoor concert venue in Virginia just outside of Washington.

And when this secretary looks offshore, she sees something different.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p>As we continue to expand domestic production, cut carbon pollution &amp; keep America competitive, offshore wind is an exciting new frontier. SJ</p>&mdash; Sally Jewell (@SecretaryJewell) <a href=”″>July 31, 2013</a></blockquote>

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