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Senate panel considers Obama pick to run Interior

Senate panel considers Obama pick to run Interior

Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar faces questions from his former colleagues on how he will right an Interior Department rocked by scandals and viewed as beholden to the energy industry under the tenure of President George W. Bush.
Salazar, President-elect Barack Obama's choice to head up the agency that oversees parks, endangered species and drilling on federal lands, will be before a Senate energy panel considering his nomination Thursday. He is still a member of the committee.
While the reception is likely to be rosy, the topics are expected to be controversial.
Senators will want to know what the Obama administration will do to address ethical scandals that include rigging bids, partying with oil company employees, and weighing political influence when making decisions on endangered species.
When he announced his choice of Salazar, Obama called the agency "deeply troubled."
Salazar is also likely to be asked about uranium mining near the Grand Canyon and oil shale development in Western states. He sponsored a ban on the Interior Department issuing regulations for oil shale, which lapsed last year. The Bush administration opened the land for development.
In his four years in the Senate, Salazar, 53, has been a champion for what he calls "responsible" energy production on public lands. He opposed efforts by the Bush administration to open up Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but helped broker a deal allowing more offshore production.
Salazar has also been a vocal advocate of renewable energy. The 500 million acres of public lands he will oversee include some of the nation's largest sources of wind, solar and geothermal energy.
Prior to joining the Senate, Salazar was the Colorado attorney general and headed the state's natural resources department.
If confirmed, Salazar will lead an agency with more than 67,000 employees and a $15.8 billion federal budget.
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On the Net:
http://www.energy.senate.gov
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