Senate Committee Holds Confirmation Hearing on Interior Secretary Nominee

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee met for almost four hours on May 4 to receive statements and testimony and to question Governor Dirk Kempthorne, the president's nominee for Secretary of the Department of the Interior. A letter of support signed by 40 governors was received by the committee. In opening statements, many committee members mentioned Gov. Kempthorne’s skill as a consensus builder, problem solver, leader and steward of public land. He was noted to be “a respected national authority on resource issues.” The committee will vote on the nomination on Wednesday, May 10th. It is apparent that the confirmation of Governor Kempthorne’s nomination is likely.

In his statement, Governor Kempthorne pledged to:

  • reach out to constituent groups and stakeholders to find common ground and consensus;
  • work with a bipartisan effort in the Senate to revise the Endangered Species Act;
  • work to resolve long-standing water issues in a holistic way; (br>
  • collaborate with stakeholders to restore fisheries;
  • address and resolve long-standing tribal relations issues;
  • give great weight to environmental issues and species restoration;
  • work with stakeholders on responsible energy and alternative energy development;
  • preserve and protect the nation’s natural and cultural icons and public access to them in the context of homeland security concerns; help families to enjoy the great outdoors of the USA; and keep congress informed.

While many of the senators’ questions emphasized the energy side of Interior’s responsibilities, a number of issues of interest to the recreation community were raised:

  • Stateside Land and Water Conservation Fund: Gov. Kempthorne has supported it as a governor, and continues to be very supportive. He will work with congress to address the administration’s concerns.
  • Secure Rural Schools Act: Gov. Kempthorne does not support the sale of federal land for the purpose of deficit reduction; he does believe land sales may be justified for other purposes and should be available to the agencies.
  • Energy exploration in ANWR: Governor Kempthorne continues to support developing energy resources in ANWR with the highest environmental standards, but believes increased effort to develop alternative and renewable energy sources is a parallel need.
  • Filling many vacant senior policy positions at DoI: Gov. Kempthorne sees this as important and the president will seek his active participation.
  • National Parks: He recognized the administration’s efforts to reduce the maintenance backlog and enthusiastically supports enjoyment and access to national parks for all Americans.
  • NPS Management Policy: Agreed to review the proposed changes to the Management Policy; he will consider, but not commit to, another round of public comment. On the need for a revision, he remarked that 1) the previous policy preceded 9/11; 2) information technology needed to be addressed and 3) he doesn’t believe that the proposed revision “walks away from” the mandate to do no harm.
  • Ethics violations at DoI: He has met with the Office of Ethics. The DoI Inspector General will be a key member of his management team and he will meet with the office of ethics and employees to lay out expectations. He may recuse himself for up to a year on issues he dealt with directly as governor. Environmental enforcement: be objective and focus on outcomes; favor fair-minded and creative solutions over litigation.
  • Energy production: the nation needs to increase domestic energy production. But he believes technology can make it possible to accommodate energy production and other uses often seen as incompatible.
  • 2025 Water Initiative: will pursue implementation and expansion of the effort.

To read the text of Governor Kempthorne's statement, click here.