WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who oversaw a moratorium on offshore drilling after the BP oil spill and promoted alternative energy sources throughout the nation, will step down in March.
A former U.S. senator from Colorado, the 57-year-old Salazar ran the Interior Department throughout President Barack Obama's first term and pushed renewable energy such as solar and wind power and the settlement of a long-standing dispute with American Indians.
With Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson also leaving the administration and Energy Secretary Steven Chu expected to depart, Obama will have a clean slate of top officials overseeing energy and environmental issues.
Under Salazar's watch, the Interior Department has authorized nearly three dozen solar, wind and geothermal energy projects on public lands that provide enough electricity to power more than 3 million homes, he said.
Obama has vowed to focus on efforts to bolster renewable energy in a second term while continuing to expand production of oil and natural gas. He also has made it clear he will focus on climate change, an issue he has acknowledged was sometimes overlooked during his first term.
Former Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, a longtime Obama ally, is among those mentioned as a potential successor to Salazar, along with John Berry, director of the White House Office of Personnel Management. Gregoire, whose term expired Wednesday, also is considered a candidate to head the Energy Department or the EPA.