WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated a former petroleum engineer and commercial banker who is also a conservationist and a chief executive of an environmentally conscious retailer to lead the Interior Department, making an unorthodox selection for his first woman nominee to his second-term Cabinet.
Sally Jewell, president and CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc., has no government credentials and little public policy experience. But her resume could appeal to the feuding interests that consume much of the debate at the department in charge of managing federal lands: the oil and gas extraction industries seeking access to public lands and the environmentalists seeking preservation.
If confirmed by the Senate, Jewell, 56, will replace Ken Salazar, a former Colorado senator who served throughout the president's first term. Salazar has overseen a period of expanding resource extraction on federal lands, to the dismay of environmental groups who contend that the push for energy independence has too often trumped environmental concerns. However, Salazar has also drawn fire from Republicans who blame the administration for not moving fast enough to open untouched areas to industry exploration.
Without a public record, little is known about where Jewell will stand in the fight. Environmental groups praised her appointment, while industry groups and Republican lawmakers withheld judgment.