Salazar brushes off speculation on Obama cabinet post

While Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar’s name has generated conjecture as a possible Interior Department secretary in a new Barack Obama administration, the first-term Democrat said Wednesday, “It’s highly doubtful that I would serve in the Cabinet.” Salazar said he likes his current job in a conference call with reporters.

“Representing the state of Colorado is a blessing and a privilege is a blessing and a privilege, and I believe my work has just begun.” At the same time, Salazar said he has “already communicated” his desire to President-elect Obama that the new administration consider a Westerner to serve in the post.

Salazar also said that any new oil shale regulations issued by a lame-duck Bush administration “may be revisited,” The Pueblo Chieftain reports. It’s part of a new Obama administration’s approach to a “comprehensive energy program” that balances the “long-term sustainability” of communities where energy resources are developed, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent reports.

“I think what you are going to see is a greater sensitivity from an Obama administration with respect to the protection of land and water, and I think a deference to what it is that state governors, state officials and local elected leaders want in respect to their lands,” Salazar said. “I have often said that Bush-Cheney ethic of development of our natural resources is ‘go everywhere and anywhere’ without any significant limitations. I don’t think that will be the case with an Obama administration.”

An Obama administration’s approach to oil shale development probably won’t change much right away, Salazar said, noting that any commercial development is eight or nine years away.

The future could be decided sooner for Colorado’s Roan Plateau, which is rich in natural gas and is a flashpoint of controversy between energy developers and environmental and local community interests, Salazar said. He dismissed talk about possible federal legislation for Roan Plateau, saying it was too early to speculate the day after the election. However, he believes drilling should continue only under guidelines proposed by Gov. Bill Ritter and the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

“They set forth a plan that balanced the development of the natural gas resource under the Roan at the same time protected the values for hunters and anglers and wildlife on the Roan,” Salazar said.

Those proposals alarm the oil and gas industry, according to a spokesman for a trade group contacted by the Glenwood Springs newspaper. Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States Executive Director Marc Smith said the Democratic sweep will probably mean environmental interests will have the upper hand.

“Our concern is that could translate into less economic development for the West Slope, as a result of policies that would slow down economic growth by restricting access to natural gas development,” (Smith) said. “Independent oil and gas producers in the intermountain West share the same concern as all Westerners about getting our economy on a strong footing, and we think a part of that includes developing our domestic natural gas supplies so we have affordable energy.”