Next Secretary of the Interior will be a woman that sold outdoor gear – but luckily she also worked in petroleum engineering and on environmental issues. Will she be allowed to sell new energy policies?
REI stands for Recreational Equipment Inc. - The New York City Store is at 303 Lafayette Street. This is a company that sells outdoor gear – OK – You can take it outside to where the environment is.
Luckily, Ms. Jewell has also a past that got her into many of the areas the Office of the Interior will literally put on her table. Perhaps this is the right woman for a job of conciliator between interests and factions. She knows also a balance sheet having evaluated for a bank prospecting oil-production properties.
Obama taps Sally Jewell, CEO of REI, for Interior post.
Jewell, at an event in 2011.
Meet your likely new secretary of the interior, Sally Jewell. Those of you who have been reading Grist since 2007 have met her already.
Ms. Jewell, a native of the Seattle area and a graduate of the University of Washington with a degree in mechanical engineering, has been a lifelong outdoors enthusiast. As a child she sailed in Puget Sound and camped throughout the Pacific Northwest, according to a 2005 profile in the Seattle Times. …
She received the 2009 Rachel Carson Award for environmental conservation from the Audubon Society; the 2008 Nonprofit Director of the Year award from the National Association of Corporate Directors, and The Green Globe — Environmental Catalyst Award from King County, Wash., among others.
She is expected to face vigorous questioning during confirmation hearings about her approach to resource development on public lands.
Which reminds me. I should also mention what Jewell did before working at REI. She was a banker. And before that? Take it away, Politico.
The pick, first reported by The Washington Post, would be well received by environmental groups yet also offer something for the oil and gas industry: Jewell is a board member of the National Parks Conservation Association and was a young petroleum engineer at Mobil before it merged with Exxon.
This 2005 Seattle Times profile of Jewell offers a little more context:
Jewell graduated in 1973 from Renton High School. She earned a mechanical-engineering degree from the University of Washington and, one week later, married Warren Jewell, a fellow engineer.
The newlyweds joined the profession during an engineer shortage and received nine dual job offers. They accepted positions with Mobil Oil, heading straight to the oil fields of southern Oklahoma.
Jewell stayed with the company for three years, but bigger opportunities lay ahead. The 1980s marked a boom time for the oil industry, with record prices fueling new exploration.
Banks began to hire engineers to understand the value of the collateral in the ground, and Jewell signed on as petroleum engineer for Rainier Bank.
Jewell then joined the board of REI and, in 2005, took over as CEO.
In some ways, Jewell’s background makes her the perfect pick to run the Interior Department. Not only can she empathize with both sides in the struggle between developing and protecting public land, but her career has been an evolution from the former to the latter. Jewell’s career reflects the transition the country itself is making, away from raw exploration at all costs, toward sensible stewardship. The environmental accolades Jewell has acquired in her new role — and the efforts REI has made to reduce its own environmental impact — reinforce that transition.
But my first reaction to the news was still that it was jarring: the head of an outdoors company being chosen to determine the fate of the outdoors? Despite how ridiculous it is to suggest that something untoward could result (what, Jewell will force government employees to wear REI’s Patagonia Synchilla Snap-T Fleece Top, now on sale?), it feels strange. It’s as though the president is suggesting that the only person who can really understand the nation’s natural resource issues is someone who has tried to figure out how to make those resources profitable. That discomfort, I then realized, isn’t with Jewell’s transition from REI to DOI; rather, it reflects my discomfort with how narrow the path to prominence is in the United States. Want to catch the president’s eye? Run a company.
Nonetheless, this pick — the first of the three energy- and environment-related cabinet positions Obama needs to fill — will almost certainly be welcomed by those who’ve been tracking Jewell’s career for a long time. (Like Grist. Did I mention our 2007 profile?) In short order, our email inboxes will likely be flooded with press releases from various environmental groups lauding the decision. (We will not inflict these upon you.)
How the Senate will feel about Jewell is a much more important question.
THE WASHINGTON POST:
Obama nominates REI chief executive as secretary of the interior
By Juliet Eilperin,Feb 06, 2013
The Washington Post Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013, 3:40 PM
President Obama on Wednesday nominated Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) chief executive Sally Jewell to head the Interior Department, praising her as a leader who “knows the link between conservation and good jobs.”
The choice of Jewell, who began her career as an engineer for Mobil Oil and worked as a commercial banker before heading a nearly $2 billion outdoors equipment company, represents an unconventional choice for a post usually reserved for career politicians from the West.
But while she boasts less public policy experience than other candidates who had been under consideration, Jewell, who will have to be confirmed by the Senate, has earned national recognition for her management skills and support for outdoor recreation and habitat conservation.
Announcing Jewell’s nomination Wednesday in the State Dining Room of the White House, Obama highlighted her experience working in the oil fields of Colorado and Oklahoma, as well as in the executive offices of a major retailer of recreational gear.
“So even as Sally has spent the majority of her career outside of Washington, where, I might add, the majority of our interior is located,” Obama said, prompting laughter, “she is an expert on the energy and climate issues that are going to shape our future…. She knows the link between conservation and good jobs. She knows that there’s no contradiction between being good stewards of the land and our economic progress; that in fact, those two things need to go hand in hand.”
Jewell remarked that she’s “excited to take on this new challenge” and joked that replacing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar would be tough.
“I look forward to working with the dedicated employees at Interior who work so hard to care for our land and our resources every day,” she said.
“I’m going to do my best to fill those big boots of yours,” Jewell said to Salazar, prompting another round of laughter, “but I think I might get lost in your hat.”
In 2011, Jewell introduced Obama at the White House conference on “America’s Great Outdoor Initiative,” noting that the $289 billion outdoor-recreation industry supports 6.5 million jobs.
If confirmed, Jewell would take over at a time when many conservationists are pressing Obama to take bolder action on land conservation. Salazar devoted much of his tenure to both promoting renewable energy on public land and managing the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
On Tuesday, former interior secretary Bruce Babbitt gave a speech at the National Press Club calling on the president to set aside one acre permanently for conservation for every acre he leases for oil and gas development.
“It’s that simple: one to one,” Babbitt said. “So far, under President Obama, industry has been winning the race as it obtains more and more land for oil and gas. Over the past four years, the industry has leased more than 6 million acres, compared with only 2.6 million acres permanently protected. In the Obama era, land conservation is again falling behind.”
Facing congressional opposition and budget constraints during Obama’s first term, Salazar emphasized the importance of enlisting private sector, state and local support to protect major landscapes through America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. Jewell emerged as a strong advocate of the policy, and is likely to continue such efforts.
While public lands protection has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support, this issue has become increasingly polarized, and the 112th Congress was the first one since 1966 to fail to designate a single piece of wilderness. Environmentalists such as Babbitt have urged Obama to use the Antiquities Act, which gives presidents the executive authority to set aside land as national monuments, to protect ecologically valuable areas in the West. Jewell has pushed for land conservation in Washington state, where she lives, as well as nationally. She is a founding board member of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, which focuses on a stretch of land from Puget Sound across the Cascades, and helped lay out a plan for the National Park Service as a commissioner on the “National Parks Second Century Commission.”
Conservationists and energy industry officials alike welcomed Jewell’s selection, saying she could balance the competing interests of the department she would oversee if confirmed.
National Park Conservation Association President Tom Kiernan, on whose board Jewell sits, noted that she focused on how to broaden the national park system’s appeal as head of the “Connecting People and Parks Subcommittee” during its planning process. He described her overall approach as being “about connecting people and the out of doors, to the benefit of both.”
Kiernan added that having climbed Mount Rainier with her twice, he had come to appreciate her sound judgment. This past summer, the two were roped together and climbed despite the snow, wind and hail, but when lightning struck, the REI chief declared, “Nope, that was far enough.”
“She perseveres, but also knows when to turn around,” he said.
At the same time, Tim Wigley, president of the Western Energy Alliance, said he hoped Jewell would bring a different approach to decision making as interior secretary.
“Her experience as a petroleum engineer and business leader will bring a unique perspective to an office that is key to our nation’s energy portfolio,” said Wigley, whose group represents independent oil and gas producers in the West. “We hope to see a better balance of productive development on non-park, non-wilderness public lands that enhances the wealth of America and creates jobs while protecting the environment.”
By contrast, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), who will vote on Jewell’s nomination as the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, suggested that she was withholding judgment on Obama’s pick.
“The livelihoods of Americans living and working in the West rely on maintaining a real balance between conservation and economic opportunity,” Murkowski said. “I look forward to hearing about the qualifications Ms. Jewell has that make her a suitable candidate to run such an important agency, and how she plans to restore balance to the Interior Department.” Wyss Foundation president Molly McUsic, whose group focuses on land conservation, wrote in an e-mail that Jewell “understands the full economic potential of America’s resources.”
“She knows the oil and gas business from having worked at Mobil and in the banking industry, but also understands the growing economic potential of America’s $646 billion outdoor recreation industry,” McUsic added. “She knows that to grow the economy, development of energy resources must be on equal ground with the protection of places that drive tourism, travel, and recreation.”
While Jewell is more closely identified with the Democratic Party than the Republicans, she made a high-profile appearance with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 when he was running for president. McCain spoke with Jewell and others at an environmental policy roundtable outside Seattle, during which the senator argued that he had stronger environmental credentials than either Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton, who were both vying for the Democratic presidential nomination at the time.Other contenders for the Cabinet position in recent weeks included former Washington governor Christine Gregoire (D), Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.).