Official says Ken Salazar to be named as Secretary of Interior |

Official says Ken Salazar to be named as Secretary of Interior

WASHINGTON (AP) ” A transition official for President-elect Barack Obama says Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar will be named Interior Secretary later this week.

The appointment will round out Obama’s environment and energy team. He unveiled most of the team on Monday. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting Obama’s upcoming announcement.

Matt Lee-Ashley, a spokesman for Salazar, said the senator’s office would not have any comment on the reports Salazar was named Interior Secretary.

Salazar is a first-term Colorado Senator who has established a name for himself on public lands and energy resources issues. He headed the Colorado Department of Natural Resources from 1990 through 1994.

The Interior Department has broad oversight over the nation’s energy resources and environment. It oversees oil and gas drilling on public lands and manages the nation’s parks and wildlife refuges.

“Sen. Ken Salazar is uniquely qualified for this critical assignment,” said Harris Sherman, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “There is no better person in the nation to step into the position of Interior Secretary. He will bring the needed balance, experience and judgement to our nation’s natural resource programs during these pivotal times. This is great for the West and the entire country.”

Salazar has been highly critical of the Bush administration and the Bureau of Land Management, which he will oversee if appointed as Interior Secretary, on two key federal land issues affecting the Western Slope. He, along with Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, and U.S. Sen.-elect Mark Udall, D-Colo., introduced legislation earlier this year to call for phased leasing of the Roan Plateau. The Salazars and Udall said that approach would bring in more money to Colorado.

That legislation did not go anywhere, and the Bureau of Land Management later auctioned off 31 parcels encompassing about 54,600 acres of the Roan Plateau Planning Area in August.

In late September, the BLM issued all leases it sold during the auction, a move that is now the center of a legal fight pitting 10 environmental groups against the BLM and several companies who purchased leases in the Roan Plateau Planning Area.

Salazar has also been critical of the Bush administration for the recent release of commercial oil shale regulations, which will become effective on Jan. 17. Those regulations were released the same day an Interior Department official signed off a record of decision that opened up 2 million acres in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah to potential oil shale development.

A year ago, Salazar successfully slipped language into a $555-billion spending bill that effectively blocked the BLM from issuing those oil shale regulations. That ban, which Salazar sought to keep in place, expired at the end of September.

Several environmental and conservation groups recently asked the Obama transition team to withdraw those oil shale regulations.

Glenwood Springs Post Independent reporter Phillip Yates contributed to this report.

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