The name game


Enviros are dreaming – not of a white Christmas (which seems unlikely around most of the West, given ongoing drought) but of a greener White House. A president's re-election often creates an exodus of Cabinet secretaries, as some decide to leave for other opportunities and others are asked to step down.

Hencewith, some outright speculation about who might leave, and who might replace them.

The first possibility for an enviro dream team would be the lefty, conservation-leaning Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) as secretary of interior to replace centrist Ken Salazar, who's anticipated to step down from his post as one of the top public-lands officials.

Currently Grijalva is ranking member of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, and a leading Dem on the House Natural Resources Committee. He introduced the bill that created the National Landscape Conservation System, led efforts to improve oversight of offshore drilling, and has pushed for mining law reform. The League of Conservation Voters, Americans for Democratic Action, and other progressive groups give him perfect scores.

A coalition of about 240 conservation, Hispanic, recreation, labor, business and women’s groups just sent Obama a letter urging Grijalva's nomination. Selection of the next interior secretary, according to the letter, is

… an important moment to place a renewed emphasis and urgency on some of the most critical issues of our age, including climate change, the protection of endangered species and preservation of water and wild lands. We strongly believe Congressman Grijalva exemplifies the modern and forward-thinking vision of the Department of the Interior.

Kierán Suckling, the outspoken director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release: “Congressman Grijalva’s a visionary leader with the courage and practical skills to solve the long list of pressing environmental issues we face. There’s no better person for interior secretary than Mr. Grijalva.”

But what are the odds of him actually being picked? Ray Ring, HCN senior editor and a astute observer of Western politics for many decades, says "I still think Raul Grijalva probably won't be named interior secretary, just like I thought four years ago when his name was on the short list … he's not in the radical center on any issues I'm aware of, so if he were named, it would set off a new rebellion against the feds."

The obvious successor might appear to be Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes. But since the interior secretary mostly oversees Western lands, the job often goes to a former elected official who's a Westerner – and that probably means that former Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire and former Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal are all more likely than Hayes. Freudenthal is on the Board of Directors of Arch Coal, notes HCN senior editor Jonathan Thompson, "so that would pretty effectively end Obama's so-called War on Coal." Gregoire's environmental record is mixed; she's worried about the rapidly-acidifying ocean, but greens aren't happy with her approach to wolves and grazing. Dorgan also has an uneven environmental record. He's now an energy policy analyst with the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Another cabinet-level opening may be Secretary of Agriculture. If Tom Vilsack leaves, he might be replaced by former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), or even Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who just beat Denny Rehberg.

And EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Energy Secretary Steven Chu may be on their way out as well. InsideClimate News has a good analysis of possible successors:

For the EPA, most expect an internal hire like deputy administrator Bob Perciasepe or Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. The Department of Energy seems more likely to recruit an outsider, with former Sen. Byron Dorgan, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm or Duke Energy CEO and President Jim Rogers, who will retire at the end of next year, among the groups' top choices.

Some lower-level but vitally important positions will need filling as well -- the BLM has been without a permanent director since Bob Abbey retired in May (Mike Pool has been acting director). And two Interior assistant secretary spots will be vacant, one overseeing land and minerals management  offshore and inland (the acting assistant secretary, Marcilynn Burke, didn't make it through the confirmation process), and one overseeing the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service (last January, Obama gave up on his nominee for that post, Rebecca Wodder, after stiff resistance in the Senate).

Stay tuned to HCN over the next few months – as the Obama administration starts its second term, we'll be reporting on possible picks and what they might mean for the West.

Jodi Peterson is HCN's Managing Editor.

Photo of Raul Grijalva by Ruben Reyes.

Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 11, 2012 10:29 AM
No way Grijalva gets Interior. Dorgan could go to Energy, I could see that. And, unless Tester really wants to leave the Senate, is Obama going to name him? It's true that Montana has a Dem governor, so there's no seat loss, but still ...
Jodi Peterson
Jodi Peterson Subscriber
Dec 12, 2012 10:38 AM
and this just in: the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jane Lubchenco, is also resigning. Under her direction NOAA has made major strides in fisheries restoration and climate change research. No word yet on who might replace her.[…]/noaa_chief_jane_lubchenco_to_r.html
-- Jodi Peterson, HCN Managing Editor
Jodi Peterson
Jodi Peterson Subscriber
Dec 12, 2012 11:13 AM
Greenwire just posted some info on three possible replacements for Lubchenco: Terry Garcia, lawyer, former NOAA official, vice president at the National Geographic Society. He and Frances Ullmer, former lieutenant governor of Alaska, both were part of the commission investigating the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Chief scientist at Conservation International, Andrew Rosenberg led the National Marine Fisheries Service under Clinton, served on U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and National Academy of Sciences Ocean Studies Board. (subscription required)
Jodi Peterson
Jodi Peterson Subscriber
Dec 13, 2012 11:42 AM
Word has it that Mike Pool, BLM's acting head, plans to leave within a couple of months. Capitol Hill insiders say that Neil Kornze might be tapped to replace him, according to Greenwire. Kornze was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's policy adviser for public lands, and is now BLM's acting deputy director for programs and policy. (subscription required)
Matthew Koehler
Matthew Koehler
Dec 13, 2012 02:07 PM
Ray Ring of HCN said this about Grijalva: "he's not in the radical center on any issues I'm aware of."

That begs the question: Can Mr. Ring share with us some examples of where Rep Grijalva's votes or stances on particular public lands or environmental issues supposedly falls so far outside what the vast majority of Americans want from their pubic lands?
Matthew Koehler
Matthew Koehler
Dec 13, 2012 04:28 PM
From today's AP....a good example of Congressman Raul Grijalva being a leader for sensible public lands and environmental reforms that most people, when presented with all of the facts, would support.

GAO report shows royalties from hard-rock mining could generate billions for U.S., if collected[…]11e2-963a-001a4bcf887a.html

 While the U.S. government reaps billions of dollars in royalties each year from fossil fuels extracted from federal lands and waters, it does not collect any such royalties from gold, copper, uranium or other metals mined from the same places, congressional auditors reported Wednesday.

The federal government doesn’t even know how much these so-called “hard rock” mines produce from federal public lands in the 12 western states where most of the mining occurs, the Government Accountability Office report found.

And there is no federal law requiring the disclosure of production figures from individual mines.

Two Democratic lawmakers are hoping public concerns over the economy and the looming “fiscal cliff” will reinvigorate a movement on Capitol Hill to reform the General Mining Act of 1872, which exempted mining companies from paying royalties for profiting from U.S. public lands.

They want miners to pay the same 12.5 percent in royalties as oil companies, a move that could bring hundreds of millions of dollars in new annual revenue.

The 1872 law “was designed to perpetuate the ‘go west, young man’ idea to bring people, commerce and industry to the West. But that’s done, it’s the new West now,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., who along with Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, requested the GAO study.