President Obama made a bold decision to nominate REI CEO Sally Jewell for Interior Department secretary. She still needs to go through a rigorous confirmation process, but here are some early signs why she could be good news for the ocean:
1. She has demonstrated a professional commitment to conservation in the past.
Worth a read, our own Sarah van Schagen interviewed Jewell for Grist.org in 2007 about REI’s sustainability efforts and how she incorporates outdoor recreation and conservation into her own life. She understands what it takes to make a greener company and knows what the government can do to make that easier.
2. She has demonstrated a personal commitment to conservation and the outdoors.
3. She is an engineer.
There’s already chatter about Jewell’s experience with oil and gas — but it’s important to note she wasn’t a lobbyist, executive or policy expert, she was an engineer. That means she’s likely to have an understanding of the practical challenges that make drilling in remote areas, like the Arctic, so risky and to understand the importance of relying on science to inform decision-making. This is important because right now we are urging the Interior Department to reconsider Shell’s attempts to drill in the Arctic given the cavalcade of mishaps they’ve experienced in the past year.
There is a lot that the Interior Department can get right or wrong in the coming months and years. Balancing our nation’s energy needs, including offshore oil and wind, with the challenge of climate change and the charge to protect and restore some of our country’s most special places is no easy feat. At this early stage, we are hopeful about Sally Jewell and look forward to learning more about her vision.