Senate should view Jewell's blended background with caution

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As CEO of Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), Jewell apparently underwent a long evolution of her stances, however. She’s since received a multitude of accolades and credentials as a conservationist and environmental advocate. 



Two organizations Jewell has been intimately involved with during her time at REI--the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the Conservation Alliance -- have been less than accommodating to the interests of small businesses and job creators in the energy field.



Jewell sits on the board of the NPCA, which has filed numerous lawsuits against power plants and the National Park Service for allowing off-road vehicle and snowmobile use on park lands. The organization also trumpeted its involvement in shuttering an 80 year old oyster farm in California.



As for the Conservation Alliance -- a recipient of over $100,000 a year from REI--the group has claimed considerable “success” in financially supporting efforts led by the environmental legal group Earthjustice to keep oil and gas drilling off limits in Utah and Colorado. The Conservation Alliance is particularly proud of its lobbying efforts to lock up half of Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve—set aside 90 years ago specifically for oil and gas. The effort killed the lone economic opportunity for the local residents.



In 2007 she told an audience at the University of Montana that she supported potential environmental regulations that would “help companies make the right decisions.” As Interior Secretary, Jewell will play a key role in these types of decisions, requiring further inquiry into her positions as they relate to a balanced approach between conservation and the country’s energy economy. 



Although Jewell’s views on oil drilling have been murky at best, she describes cap and trade as a ‘success story.’  "I know tax is a dirty word, but if we were paying a carbon tax that accounted for our impact on greenhouse gases, that would in fact change our consumption," she explained in 2009.



With a confirmation hearing scheduled for March 7, members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources should prompt Jewell to clarify her position on these important issues. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the ranking Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources committee, has said she will “have a chance to drill down further” at the hearing. But the tough questions shouldn’t stop with Murkowski.



Sally Jewell’s past statements and associations raise questions on how she will approach an “all of the above” energy policy. As our national energy policy continues to play a key role in job creation, Jewell will hold many of the keys that could determine the success or failure of our economy. Jewell might turn out to be the perfect candidate for sensible energy solutions, but until she clarifies her positions, she shouldn’t get a free pass.

Stverak is the president of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity.