WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Wednesday that he will leave his post at the end of March, ending a contentious four-year tenure during which the agency drew criticism from environmentalists and industry for its middle-of-the road energy and environmental policies.
A former Colorado attorney general and senator, Salazar used the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 to undertake a comprehensive overhaul of the Minerals and Management Service, the oft-criticized agency tasked with developing offshore energy resources. He also imposed a moratorium on drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf during the cleanup.
Industry and its congressional supporters had little good to say about Salazar, whom they saw as part of an Obama administration effort to thwart oil and gas development. He angered the oil industry in early 2010 when he said in a teleconference that fossil fuel interests had treated public lands as if they were a “candy store,” where they could “walk in and take whatever they wanted.”
Jim Noe, head of the Shallow Water Energy Security Coalition, said: “While the Interior Department seemed to pursue long-shot energy alternatives, it created official and de facto moratoriums that hurt the industry, thousands of workers, and the small businesses and communities that depend upon them.”
In a statement, President Barack Obama praised Salazar for bringing “a new era of conservation for our nation’s land, water and wildlife” and said he “played an integral role in my administration’s successful efforts to expand responsible development of our nation’s domestic energy resources.”
Obama is reshaping his Cabinet for his second term. He has named nominees in recent weeks to take over the departments of State and Defense, and the CIA. On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Department of Housing and Urban Development said Secretary Shaun Donovan would stay.
Salazar, in a statement, did not reveal his plans, but said: “Colorado is and will always be my home. I look forward to returning to my family and Colorado after eight years in Washington, D.C.”