Senate confirms Hayes's nomination as deputy Interior secretary

The US Senate confirmed David J. Hayes's nomination as deputy US Interior secretary on May 20 after two Republican members lifted holds they had placed on his selection.

Sen. Robert B. Bennett (R-Utah) removed his block after receiving assurances from US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that Hayes would review 77 oil and gas leases from a US Bureau of Land Management sale in December that Salazar canceled.

A failure on May 13 by Senate Democrats' efforts to invoke cloture and remove threats of filibusters by Bennett and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.), who also placed a hold on Hayes's nomination, elevated the matter to a point where Salazar took another look and agreed that he had relied on inaccurate information, according to Bennett. When he canceled the leases, Salazar said that individual tracts might be reviewed and possibly offered later.

"The Senate has sent a clear message that we will hold the administration to its commitment of pursing a balanced energy approach, which must include developing our energy resources here at home. I have spoken with the secretary, and he has assured me that the review will be more than a 'check the box' exercise," the Utahn said.

In a May 20 letter to Bennett, Salazar agreed to direct members of a review team led by Hayes to visit the Utah tract sites within 10 days; to meet with the BLM, National Park Service, and other government entities in the state concerning the withdrawn lease parcels; and to meet with all interested stakeholders in a community forum in Utah.

The secretary also said that he would direct Hayes and the review team to review the administrative record concerning the 77 leases and provide a report with recommendations by June 5. He said that he would supply Bennett with a copy of the report and that he and Hayes would meet personally with the senator to review it in detail.

Murkowski said she also was pleased with the commitment by Salazar and would lift her hold. "While it's unfortunate that it required a showdown on the Senate floor, it's important that the administration respond in full and in a timely matter to senators' questions on the direction of its energy policy," she maintained.

"The Obama administration has spoken frequently about taking a balanced approach to energy policy and now it knows that we are serious about holding it to that commitment," Murkowski said.

Salazar said following the confirmation vote that he appreciated Bennett and Murkowski's decisions to lift their holds and let Hayes be confirmed as deputy Interior secretary.

"I have committed to Sen. Bennett that David Hayes, once confirmed, will promptly review the 77 disputed Utah oil and gas parcels, one by one, as I have promised, and we will determine which, if any, are appropriate for development. I have also pledged that though we will agree on some issues and disagree on others, my door will always be open to Sen. Bennett and Sen. Murkowski," he said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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