Obama could look west to fill Interior job

OPM's John Berry is a possible candidate for the Interior job. OPM's John Berry is a possible candidate for the Interior job. OPM

President Obama could look west to fill the job of Interior secretary that will become vacant by the end of March with the departure of Ken Salazar. Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, who supports the president’s progressive clean-energy and climate-change agenda, is one possible candidate. Gregoire, who has also been mentioned as a potential successor to Lisa Jackson at the Environmental Protection Agency, has pushed policies to move her state away from coal-fired electricity.

Another candidate for Interior is John Berry, director of the White House Office of Personnel Management. Berry is a previous director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Zoo. He has held posts at the Interior Department as well as the Treasury Department and the Smithsonian Institution. If selected, Berry would be the first openly gay Cabinet member.

The Interior Department oversees oil and gas drilling and also conservation on the nation’s 700 million acres of public lands. Traditionally, it has been run by governors or senators from Western states. Salazar had represented his home state of Colorado as a senator and also served as Colorado's attorney general before Obama appointed him to Interior.

Salazar oversaw the department’s first forays into developing renewable energy on public lands. While Interior has always overseen oil and gas drilling on public lands, it has made an aggressive push to begin developing large-scale solar power on federal lands in the deserts of the Southwest, and the nation’s first offshore wind farms in the federal waters off the East Coast. 

Salazar plans to return to Colorado, according to a statement from the Interior Department.

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