President Obama picks outdoor outfitter exec to head Interior Department
An abandoned oil well at Channel Islands National Park in Santa Cruz, CA. David Wan / Flickr
Jewell’s background as a CEO should help the administration manage the corporate backlash when it implements rules to restrict fracking and make energy companies pay a fair price to mine resources on public lands.
President Barack Obama will nominate Sally Jewell, president and chief executive officer of Recreational Equipment Inc., to become secretary of the U.S. Interior Department, an administration official said on condition of anonymity in advance of a formal announcement expected later today.
Jewell heads a company based in Kent, Washington, that is focused on the outdoors, with sales of clothing, camping and recreational gear reaching almost $2 billion a year. She is an engineer by training and has private-sector experience in the finance and energy industries.
The nomination would add a woman to Obama’s cabinet. The president drew criticism from some womens’ groups following his selection of men to lead the State, Treasury and Defense departments in his initial round of second-term nominations. Obama’s selection of Jewell for Interior was reported earlier today by the Washington Post.
Obama is scheduled to make a personnel announcement at 2 p.m. Washington time today, according to the White House schedule.
If confirmed by the Senate, Jewell would succeed Ken Salazar, a former Democratic senator from Colorado who sought to strengthen oil and gas regulations following BP Plc’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill and to expand solar and wind energy projects on public lands.
She would oversee development of the first-ever federal rules for hydraulic fracturing on public lands. The drilling process has unlocked stores of oil and gas trapped in shale rock formations, and industry representatives have resisted Interior’s push for greater control.
Environmental groups say the process, known as fracking, poses water and air pollution risks and want the practice more tightly regulated.
Fortune Magazine has placed REI on its list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” for the last 16 years, ranking it at number 17 in 2013, and Jewell is a member of the Retail Industry Leaders Association.
Outside work, Jewell is vice chairman of the National Parks Conservation Association, a board member of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and chairwoman of the Initiative for Global Development.
She was a key contributor to the establishment and implementation of Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors program. In 2011, she introduced the president at the White House conference on “America’s Great Outdoor Initiative.”
At the time, the $289 billion outdoor-recreation industry was the source of 6.5 million jobs.
Awards she has received for community service include the 2009 Rachel Carson Award for Environmental Conservation from the Audubon Society and the 2008 Nonprofit Director of the Year award from the National Association of Corporate Directors.
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