- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sally Jewell is one step closer to becoming the nation’s next secretary of the interior.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday morning voted overwhelmingly to approve Ms. Jewell, a conservationist and current CEO of outdoor retail giant REI Inc. After the 19-3 committee vote, Ms. Jewell’s nomination will now head to the full Senate, where it’s expected she’ll be confirmed.

But Thursday’s vote wasn’t without drama. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska allowed the nomination to move forward only after she struck a deal with the Interior Department to revisit plans for an access road to a remote airport in King Cove, Alaska.

A previous decision by the department blocked construction of that road, and current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has agreed to review the issue.


Unlike Ms. Murkowski, a few other Republicans weren’t persuaded to back the nomination.

Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, voted “no” and said he remains troubled by her lack of government experience.

“She has been nominated to a job that is critically important our Western states. Decisions she will make as secretary of Interior will have far-reaching and lasting impacts,” he said. “She struggled [during her confirmation hearing] to answer some central questions under control of the department she’s nominated to lead.”

Along with several other Republicans, Mr. Barrasso also raised questions about Ms. Jewell’s ties to the National Parks Conservation Association, an organization that has routinely sued the federal government over land-use issues. Ms. Jewell as served as the association’s vice chair for nearly a decade.

In the end, however, the vast majority of senators on the committee were swayed by Ms. Jewell’s resume. In addition to leading a billion-dollar company, she’s also spent time as an oil and gas engineer.

“It really is encouraging to me that we have a nominee who has actually spent some time in the oil and gas arena, who has fracked a well,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat.

This article was based in part on wire service reports.