Four years ago Baja Arizona’s Congressional Representative Raul Grijalva was a contender for the incoming Obama Administration’s first Interior Secretary. He was turned down in favor of Ken Salazar. Scuttlebutt has it that Grijava was rejected because he was tough enough on mineral extraction, especially offshore drilling, that he made Obama’s team uncomfortable. Apparently they feared he would place too high a priority on environmental protection, interfere with the mining and fossil fuel extraction industry, and generally make things hard for companies like BP as they drilled in the Gulf of Mexico.
So Salazar got the nod instead. About 15 months later the Deepwater Horizon disaster happened, a disaster that could have been prevented had Interior aggressively enforced common-sense safety regulations.
In the meantime, those of us in the desert protection world were learning that Obama’s Interior Department was quite likely the worst threat to the California desert any Presidential administration had ever been, as a record number of acres of public land were offered up for effective privatization for renewable energy development. Salazar muzzled agencies within his Department, forbidding staff to criticize or oppose even the most egregiously destructive projects, and so industrial projects went in on the margins of National Parks with NPS staff unable to object. Fish and Wildlife staff wrote biological opinions saying no, the fact that you found a hundred times as many tortoises on the construction site as we expected doesn’t make this project a threat to the species.
And that’s not meant to imply that Interior was biased in favor of renewables on public lands. Salazar’s been a good friend to the oil and gas industries as well.
Salazar is likely to step down for Obama’s second term, and the list of possible successors — David Hayes, architect of the desert solar policy; Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal is a Big Wind cheerleader; former Washington governor Chris Gregoire is a fan of welfare ranching on sensitive wildlife habitat — is bleak.
Raul Grijalva is one of the best friends public lands have ever had in Washington. In any sane society he’d be the front-runner for Interior.
A number of grassroots public lands and anti-fracking advocates agree, and have put together a petition urging the White House to appoint Grijalva Interior Secretary. As the petition says;
The selection of the next Interior Secretary is an important moment to place renewed emphasis on some of the most critical issues of our age – climate change, the protection of endangered species and preservation of water and wild lands. As ranking member and former chair of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, Rep. Grijalva has been an effective leader on conservation and land management issues. His expertise with Native Americans issues, his strong understanding of border issues, his pragmatic conservation ethic, and his wealth of experience in addressing funding challenges make him an exceptional choice. We urge you to select him as our next Interior Secretary because he embraces the urgency of this mission and practical paths toward real-world solutions.
Sign the petition and spread it around.