Interior chief seeks balance in use of public lands

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Thursday handed down a new order to guide energy development projects on public lands.

The order "is about good government" and encourages businesses to work with Interior on caring for public lands, Jewell said at a National Press Club luncheon.

"Businesses will be able to invest with certainty and clarity in their projects and support the region’s environmental needs, rather than ad-hoc, project-by-project mitigation efforts," Jewell said.

Jewell said it does not have to be an "either-or" approach when it comes to protecting lands while promoting energy development.

"So part of this is encouraging development in the right ways in the right places," Jewell said. "Part of that is recognizing that there are some places that are too special to develop, and I've been to one of them, I've been to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."

Jewell said she understands the frustrations that many companies feel when seeking approval of permits for development.

"I know businesses want to be good stewards," Jewell said. "They don't want to be part of the problem, they want to be part of the solution."

Jewell said the order is in response to a growing "government-wide focus on infrastructure permitting and development" in the U.S.

"To fulfill the President's vision for a clean energy economy, the Department of the Interior manages Federal lands not just for balanced oil, natural gas, and coal development, but also to promote environmentally responsible renewable energy development," the order says.

In light of the "dramatic effects of climate change" on the country's "water, land, plant, animal and cultural resources," the order calls for an overhaul of the way Interior manages public lands and approves permits.