Deputy Interior secretary confirmed

The U.S. Senate has confirmed a top assistant to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after Republicans lifted a hold they had placed on his nomination over concerns, including Salazar’s handling of a Utah oil and gas lease sale.

Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, says the department acknowledged it relied on inaccurate information when Salazar withdrew 77 Utah parcels from the lease sale, and he and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, stopped blocking the nomination of David Hayes as deputy Interior secretary.

Last week, Senate Democrats fell short in an effort to get the 60 votes needed to end the hold.

“The Senate has sent a clear message that we will hold the administration to its commitment of pursuing a balanced energy approach, which must include developing our energy resources here at home,” Bennett said in a news release Wednesday.

Republicans have criticized other decisions by Salazar, in areas from mountaintop coal mining to offshore energy development, since Salazar joined the Obama administration.

Salazar said he withdrew the Utah leases for further review after a federal court ruled the Bureau of Land Management failed to conduct an adequate air pollution analysis and likely had violated the law because it could not determine potential impacts on Canyonlands and Arches national parks and Dinosaur National Monument.

In a letter to Bennett, Salazar said that despite earlier indications that the BLM didn’t consult with the National Park Service about nearby leases, he has since determined such consultation did occur, resulting in the BLM withdrawing some parcels from last Dec. 19’s lease sale.

Salazar said he plans to have Hayes make recommendations on the 77 parcels by June 5.


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