Add Interior Secretary to the list of empty cabinet seats which President Obama will have to fill as his second term begins. Ken Salazar, head of the Interior Department throughout the president’s first four years in office, plans to retire from the post by March.
Prior to serving in the cabinet, Salazar was the junior Senator from Colorado. Though environmental groups were frustrated when Obama’s decision to make him Interior Secretary, he became one of the very few high-ranking members of the administration to work directly on sustainability issues. In 2010, for example, he signed off on the country’s first offshore wind farm. Politico reports that he also “set up a solar energy zone program meant to help developers of utility-scale projects identify locations in Western states ripe for collecting the sun’s energy.”
However, some of Salazar’s policies still invoked environmentalist ire. Green groups denounced his decision to remove Wyoming gray wolves from the endangered species list as a “death sentence,” and threatened legal action when the Interior Secretary announced that he would not use the Endangered Species Act to crack down on carbon emissions—a ruling identical to that made by the Bush administration’s Interior Department.
This is not the first time Salazar almost departed the cabinet. In early 2010, he was a rumored candidate for governor of Colorado. The White House reportedly preferred that he remain at the Interior Department, though the Denver Post reported that “administration officials said they would support him if he felt it was in the best interests of the party and the state to return to Colorado.”