The Denver Post, 02/01/2009 12:30:00 AM MST
The new Interior secretary and former U.S. senator from Colorado sat down with The Post's editorial board last week. Here's some of what he said.
Salazar: We ought to look at oil shale as one of the items on our energy portfolio as a possibility. But we ought to move forward with it in a very thoughtful and deliberate way. We need to figure out how much water is going to be used. Is that going to be enough for oil shale?
The commercial oil shale leasing regulations were premature. Having said that, they have been issued. There are probably 10 or so decisions and actions that were taken by the Bush administration in its waning days that we'll be reviewing … . But we haven't yet gotten to the level where we have … examined all of the different options.
The Post: An inspector's general report indicated that Bush Interior officials meddled with scientists studying endangered species. How will you change that process?
Salazar: We need to make sure the decisions that are made under the — or, for that matter, any other decision being made by the government — is based on sound science. Scientists ought to be the ones telling us whether a species has been recovered or not. It's not a political decision.
The Post: Will you push for reform of the 1872 hard-rock mining law?
Salazar: Any law that has been out there for 136 years and has not been changed needs to be looked at. And in my view, the 1872 mining law is archaic in many ways and needs to be brought into modernity. There are lots of places where the environmental community and the mining community could reach consensus, including issues such as the patenting of public lands and the requirement that fair market value be paid for surface lands that are sometimes now patented as, essentially, giveaways.
The Post: What did you think of the New York Times editorial that said, in effect, you're not tough enough for this job?
Salazar: Those of you who know me better know that I can be a junkyard dog. Nobody should ever reach a conclusion that because I try to bring people together to fix problems, I'm somehow too nice to get the job done.
The Post: Which provisions in the stimulus bill will help you tackle energy issues?
Salazar: I believe the energy package will have three components to it. The first is all of the investments that will be made in the new energy economy coming out of the stimulus package. And there are huge investments in renewable energy, on efficiency, in how we use energy, advanced technologies such as batteries and a whole host of other things. So this economic stimulus bill, the economic recovery bill, in many ways will lay the foundation for what will be doing in the next chapters on energy.
The next chapter I believe will be an energy bill that we will work on that will look at things such as a renewable portfolio standard. It will look at royalty reform and a whole host of other things.
The third leg of the stool will be the legislation that will implement or we'll have to create with respect to climate change, and that's a more difficult and a more controversial subject.
But I do believe that we'll get the climate change legislation that will have the concepts of cap and trade that we had in the Lieberman-Warner legislation last year.
Last year was the beginning of the debate, and there are some very tough questions embedded in the legislation itself, but I believe we will get there.
The stimulus package is chapter one, I think the energy bill be chapter two, and I think the climate change bill will be chapter three.
The Post: When will Congress start discussing the energy bill?
Salazar: We've already had discussions about it. We are not at a point yet where we've laid out the substance or the timing yet. But we will be working on it.
The Post: Can you do all three things in four years?
Salazar: Definitely four years. I don't know the exact timing of this. There are a lot of conversations going on with the White House.
We had a Cabinet meeting yesterday. I actually raised the issue, and we talked about this kind of approach to dealing with energy issues.
I don't know ultimately how we'll go forward, but it seems to me we have to put all three together to get to the point where we can say we have a comprehensive energy program for the nation.
The Post: Tell us about your plans to replicate Great Outdoors Colorado on a national level.
Salazar: I think the magic of Great Outdoors Colorado is that it created a purse of money to avoid the problem that most governments encounter by trying to protect lands or special places along rivers like as they often do using eminent domain.
What we did with GOCO is incentivized great things to happen in Colorado. Colorado Springs will never grow together with Denver because of the Greenland Ranch. The rivers of our state, the Platte River, the Rio Grande, the Cache la Poudre, the Colorado River through Grand Junction, the Gunnison. We all have these river restoration efforts that happened because there was a pot of money there that incentivized good things to happen in rivers.
Some may say what is it that the federal government may be able to do? Well, through the land and water conservation fund, which frankly has not been funded for a very long time, we might be able to create the kinds of monetary incentives to do those things in areas where we know that most of our species frankly depend on (it) for their survival.
And you can do it in a way where I think you can address both the values of economic development as well as the values of environmental restoration.
When you look at Denver and what we've done here on the South Platte River ... now when I go down to the South Platte, I go through the Central Platte Valley, you see the economic renaissance that has happened because we as a city here decided to turn our faces to the river and restore it. We stopped looking at that river as a wasteland and a dumping place and at the same time we have developed that economic renaissance in the South Platte and for those who share the South Platte. I mean the legacy project goes all the way to Adams County now.
You have also seen huge benefits to the environment, including native vegetation, including native species that inhabit the area, the bald eagle. I mean lots of things that are going on.
So I think that concept is there, the pieces of how exactly we will do it I don't know. It may end up part of what we do with the royalty reform. When John F. Kennedy described his vision of the land and water conservation fund, he described it as a $900 million year vision and felt that revenue streams coming from the royalties and oil and gas development and the offshore would essentially fund the land and water conservation fund.
Well, it's not been funded. There's money that's allocated from the Treasury every year for funding the Land & Water Conservation fund but yet it goes to other places and so what ends up happening is by the time it gets to congressional level and appropriation there's a big fight and then you have had a fight for the last four years in restoring money into LWCF, but we end up with $50 million, $60 million a year. It may be as we go through royalty reform, we'll figure out a way of fully funding the Land and Water Conservation fund. I don't know that we'll be able to get there, but I think that as we do that, one of the things that I will ask the assistant secretary for parks and wildlife to undertake is the opportunities to do the kind of thing here in Colorado with the money that comes in.
— Compiled by Mary Idler