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Interior secretary leaving post

Ken Salazar stepping down in March

Herald and News 1/17/13

WASHINGTON (AP) — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who oversaw a moratorium on offshore drilling after the BP oil spill and promoted alternative energy sources throughout the nation, will step down in March.

Salazar, a former Colorado senator, has run the Interior Department throughout President Barack Obama’s first term and pushed renewable power such as solar and wind and the settlement of a longstanding dispute with American Indians.

In a statement, Obama said Salazar had helped “usher in a new era of conservation for our nation’s land, water and wildlife” and had played a major role in efforts to “expand responsible development of our nation’s domestic energy resources.”

Salazar said in a statement that the Interior Department was helping secure “a new energy frontier” and cited an aggressive agenda to reform oil and gas leases, which he said had increased offshore drilling safety.

Under his watch, the Interior Department has authorized nearly three dozen solar, wind and geothermal energy projects on public lands that provide enough electricity to power more than 3 million homes, Salazar said.

Local response

Klamath County commissioner Tom Mallams said the news of Ken Salazar stepping down as secretary of the interior was a good start to his day.

“We had high hopes for him, with his (agriculture) background, but that didn’t happen . He decided to turn away from the citizens and toward environmental organizations,” Mallams said.

Similarly, when asked about connections between Salazar and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, Mallams said the process started out well, but then turned left toward environmental and tribal concerns. The KBRA and the related Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement aim to remove four dams on the Klamath River, establish reliable water supplies and affordable power rates for irrigators, restore fish habitat and help the Klamath Tribes acquire a 92,000-acre parcel called the Mazama Tree Farm.

“Salazar fell short of his promise to be open and transparent. I’m hoping President Obama will appoint someone who will open up our resources: timber, water, fish … the Department of Interior could take the lead with the right man on the job,” Mallams said. In contrast, Pete Lucero, Public Affairs Officer for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Region, said Salazar was a great secretary of the interior. The Bureau of Reclamation is a part of the Department of the Interior.

“We’re going to miss him,” Lucero said. “He was very supportive of our programs at Reclamation.”

Citing that Salazar’s departure date is not until March, Lucero said everything will continue to move forward, including the KBRA. The Interior department has funded studies related to the KBRA and the agreement stipulates the secretary of the interior is to determine whether removal of the Klamath River dams is feasible and in the public interest. Salazar was waiting for congressional approval before making a final determination.

“The KBRA is still in place and still moving forward,” Lucero said. “And the new appointee will be a part of the same administration.”

— Devan Schwartz




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