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Environmental Groups Call for Salazar's Resignation

By May 25, 2010

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The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that is threatening fragile ecosystems and local economies all along the Gulf Coast could also end up leaving a permanent stain on the career of U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Dozens of conservation and environmental groups are urging President Barack Obama to "give Ken Salazar his walking papers" for his failure to restore scientific integrity to the Minerals Management Service (MMS) as well as the U.S. Department of the Interior overall--something Salazar promised to do when Obama appointed him to the Cabinet post.

"Today we know that real reform at MMS never happened," the environmentalists write in a joint letter to Obama that WildEarth Guardians is circulating for signatures, according to a breaking news report from The Washington Post. "MMS continued its reckless lack of oversight of the oil and gas industry, this time in the form of rubberstamping off-shore oil and gas development."

Thirty-six of the groups that have signed the letter calling for Salazar's resignation also signed a January 2009 letter that urged Obama not to appoint Salazar in the first place.

"The intervening 16 months, unfortunately, have confirmed that Mr. Salazar will not fulfill your administration's promises to safeguard the environment in this country or globally," the environmentalists write in urging Obama to replace Salazar as Interior Secretary. "Rather, Mr. Salazar has either embraced or failed to reform many of the destructive policies of the previous administration."

When The Washington Post asked Salazar spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff about the letter, she wrote in an e-mail: "The Secretary is devoting 100% of his time to the fight to protect the Gulf Coast from BP's oil spill and will not rest until the leak is stopped, the affected communities are made whole, and the Gulf Coast is restored."

That kind of pie-in-the-sky public relations rhetoric doesn't do much to reassure the public or to strengthen Salazar's position--and it does nothing at all to solve the problem. With the BP oil spill becoming a bigger environmental and economic disaster every day, if Salazar "will not rest" until all of the conditions his spokeswoman outlined are met, he's likely to be exhausted for years to come.

On the other hand, there is more going on here than a bunch of environmental groups trying to make Salazar a scapegoat for the disastrous oil spill spreading throughout the Gulf region or even for the lax government oversight and regulation that contributed to it.

Some of these groups have a different agenda. They want Salazar gone, oil spill or no oil spill, because they disagree with him on other issues such as his decision to lift Endangered Species Act protection for gray wolves in the northern Rockies, his approval of coal mining leases in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana, and his initiation of a program to sterilize thousands of wild horse and move thousands more from open range in the West to protected preserves in the East.

The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico offers Salazar's critics the chance to make a compelling case for his removal. Dr. Nicole Rosmarino, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians, says she is confident Obama will ask Salazar to resign.

"Between the oil-slicked waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the blood-stained Northern Rockies, more of us are demanding 'a new sheriff in town.' It is vital for Ken Salazar to turn over his badge to someone willing to face reckless industries with courage and strength," she wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Post. "We will continue to remind Obama of this at every turn: It's time to give Ken Salazar his walking papers."

Ironically, the oil and gas industry is probably just as eager to see Salazar go. During his tenure as Interior Secretary, Salazar's relationship with oil companies has been openly hostile at times. Near the end of Salazar's first year at Interior, an editorial in the Oil and Gas Journal charged him with "duplicity" and accused him of undermining a vital U.S. industry. Salazar's industry and conservative critics often accuse him of cozying up to environmentalists at the expense of American jobs and businesses.

In January 2010, Salazar blasted oil and gas industry critics for attacking his policies, saying that during the Bush administration that had operated as though they were "the kings of the world."

"In the past our public lands were the essential candy store of the oil and gas industry, walk in and take whatever they wanted, and that's not the way it ought to be done," Salazar said.

Reflecting on his first year as Interior Secretary, just three months before the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill would turn his world upside down, Salazar seemed pleased with the progress he had made.

"I have no apologies to anybody. The fact of the matter is, we've moved forward with a balanced approach," Salazar said. "That principle has made some in the oil and gas industry mad.

"I'm more at peace relative to my job than I have ever been," he said. "I don't mind the fights, and I don't mind the controversies.

"I am most proud of the fact that we've taken real problems and come up with real solutions to those problems," Salazar continued. "I've got the best job in the Cabinet."

The question now may be, how long can he keep it?

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

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May 25, 2010 at 11:29 pm
(1) Doris says:

I’m wondering – who is responsible for the approvals of new offshore oil drilling since the BP oil spill? Everyone is blaming Obama, but is Salazar really the one repsonsible?

Not that it really matters – I’m one of the people who never liked Salazar and wanted him gone even before the oil spill.

May 25, 2010 at 11:37 pm
(2) Jonathan Foxrun says:

The Gulf Oil Tragedy and Cape Wind are both ways to destroy the Earth’s waters. Kenneth Salazar also put his stamp of approval on both. While that criminal and his goon squad MMS pose for the press, Cape Wind pretends to be the savior of shorlines, stopper of hurricanes, and CO2 damage control. Yet Cape Wind will house tons of deisel and motor oils + industrial fluids throughout its own industrial power plant in Nantucket Sound and generate electricity with fossil fuels. What liars and hypocrites have invaded the “green” community. ALL OF MMS AND DOI APPROVALS MUST BE HALTED NOW SO THAT ADEQUATE INVESTIGATION CAN TAKE PLACE WITHOUT SALAZAR OBSTRUCTING. HE WANTED TO HAVE THE FINAL SAY ON CAPE WIND FOR A REASON, AND NOW THAT IS VERY SUSPECT.

May 26, 2010 at 3:15 am
(3) Vicky Viens says:

I sent the following to Obama and my three legislatures. Maybe others can get the message out further. Playing the blame game now is useless and takes energy away from where it should be. We have a major invasion of 10 % of our shoreline (at high tide) going on and we are not mobilizing in nearly the extent we need. This is already a major environmental and economic disaster, and our leaders are pointing fingers with one hand and sitting on the other. I realize that most Americans still don’t realize or like nuclear war don’t want much awareness that we depend on a stable and clean environment for our survival.
Open letter to President Obama:

Why was Mrs. Obama on regular commercials to text donations for Haiti, when nothing similar has been done for the Gulf Coast?

I was down in Mississippi 3 months after Katrini. To this day we, as a nation, have never made up for the poor lack of response. Now that region is being devastated by another blow. Frankly, the response has been ridiculous. We are talking about a major environmental disaster, unprecedented in our history. 1220 boats for 1630 miles of coast line at high tide, ten times that at low. That’s outrageous. Why hasn’t whatever is left in this country of the national guard been called out? I ‘d rather see our Vermont men fighting this battle, than Irag or Afganistan.

Volunteers and hired hands are doing clean-up without proper equipment?

What does it take for this government to do something right?

Pay for every hazmat spill response team in every state to come out and do trainings.

Our hazmat teams respond to an oil spill of two gallons – TWO GALLONS.

We need continued economic recovery, instead, as the effect of this disaster, and yes, it should be declared a national disaster before it’s too late, as the effect of this disaster multiplies, it’s bust time again. And it’s not just plant and animal. The whole Caygun culture will be wiped out. Better get some historians down there quick to record their last days.

Put Al Gore in charge of the coordination of the clean-up, or Ralph Nader, or somebody who is more than a figure head, doing spin by answering bloggers (though it is nice to see a female admiral, I’m not impressed). Have you stopped to ask EPA who is the best person for this job. Who is the modern day Rachel Carson?

I’ve got 22 years experience working for VT DEC in waste management. I would hardly say I am qualified, but compared to what is going on right now, I think I have more common sense than most of the executives, politicians, and bureaucrats that just wail and whine and don’t do anything. A major coastline is being invaded. Damn it all. Act like it.

MOBILIZE anyone, everyone. Get Kevin Costner’s 6 oil separators going. This is the United States of America. Are we going to sit on our hands again?

BP says they are going to pay the full cost of cleanp-up. Well let’s get going and make them the next part of our economic recovery.

Every think tank in America, inside and outside government should be working on this. NASA should be working on this. This nation will fall if it cannot learn to stand together when faced with major disasters. Humans seem to be creating some big ones, even before global climate change socks us where it hurts.

Why haven’t you hired the best oceanographers, underwater treasure hunters, oil rig disaster specialist, wetlands specialists, hazmat cleanup specialist, chemists, management specialists, … Every conference center on the Gulf Coast should be filled with the best minds in our country, hired help, volunteers, whatever is needed. Then send BP the bill. It’s not their shores that are being invaded, so why are we relying on them to protect us.

It’s past the time of ‘Yes, we can’. Most Americans will suspend that question until all hope dies.

It’s time to MOVE!!!!

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