Colorado’s Ken Salazar has resigned after four years at Interior Secretary, and the sad part is, nobody is particularly sorry to see him go.
Salazar isn’t leaving under the same kind of ethical cloud as is another Obama administration figure, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. But Salazar returns to Colorado greatly diminished in stature since his nomination four years ago.
Back then, Salazar may have been the most popular politician in Colorado, that rare elected official respected for his sense of fair play, his moderate temperament and his centrist views. He won his Senate seat four years earlier in part because he was the kind of guy who was almost impossible to dislike.
He’s still likeable, but after four years of carrying water for President Obama, much of the respect is gone. His legacy is that of the helpful stooge who went along a little too willingly with the Obama administration’s anti-growth agenda.
Back in the day, Salazar was known as a pragmatist with a special affinity for rural Coloradans. Having grown up in a ranching family, he clearly had a deep concern for the economic vitality of Western farming and ranching communities.
That’s why it came as such a betrayal when he began parroting the Obama administration’s party line. As secretary, Salazar repeatedly insisted that onshore oil and gas production on public lands had increased, a statement that only the most fanatical Obama supporter would swallow. Lease approvals decreased under the Obama administration’s war on fossil fuels, but production remained high in some areas as a result of leases approved under President George W. Bush.
In one of his first moves, Salazar set the tone by suspending 77 oil and gas leases. During Salazar’s tenure, the federal government waged a war on coal that threatens thousands of jobs as well as access to inexpensive and dependable electricity.
Instead, Salazar was the face of renewable energy, approving dozens of subsidy-reliant solar, wind and geothermal projects as the EPA moved to regulate fossil fuels out of existence.
“Today, the largest solar energy projects in the world are under construction on America’s public lands in the West,” said Salazar in his farewell statement Wednesday. “I am proud of the renewable energy revolution that we have launched.”
Rep. Rob Bishop, the Republican chairman of the House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, had nothing positive to say about Salazar’s legacy.
“Secretary Salazar was not a friend to my home state of Utah or other public lands states for that matter,” said Bishop in a statement. “Under his watch, the Department of Interior sought to impose historic new limits on access and multiple use of our nation’s resources and worked aggressively to hinder certain types of domestic energy production.”
Lawmakers in the Gulf states were also critical of Salazar for imposing what they saw as an unreasonable offshore drilling moratorium following the 2010 BP oil spill.
“I wish Ken Salazar, a Senate classmate, all the best. But I honestly won’t miss him as Interior Secretary,” said Sen. Ken Vitter, Louisiana Republican, in the Times-Picayune. “He supported the drilling moratorium overreaction to the BP disaster that cost us so many jobs. And he consistently made energy production on federal land and water far more difficult and costly, pushing federal lease revenue from $10 billion to $0 from 2008 to 2011.”
Ironically, those with the kindest words for Salazar were environmentalists–even though they initially opposed his nomination over concerns about his ranching roots and lack of green credentials.
“Thanks to Secretary Salazar, more national parks and wildlife refuges are open, more of America’s pristine Arctic is off limits to dangerous drilling, and more public lands are in public hands,” said the Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune in a statement.
Those are significant accomplishments, but they don’t sound like they would have been Salazar’s top priorities if he’d had any say in the matter, and maybe he didn’t. The White House was clearly bent on enacting a left-wing environmental agenda. Whatever his thoughts on the matter, Salazar didn’t stand in the way.
That makes Salazar a good soldier, but not a particularly consequential Interior Secretary. Once a public official known for his independence, he returns to Colorado unmasked as a political lackey.
Cheap Seats hopes the prestige of being a cabinet secretary was worth it.