Jewell is president and CEO of the giant outdoor and recreational co-op retailer REI and previously worked as a banker, and for a three-year stint right out of college, as an engineer for Mobil Corporation, the oil giant that later merged with Exxon. Her brief experience there landed her a staff job providing advice on loans to oil operations at Rainier Bank in Seattle, near her hometown.
The department of interior has a long history of controversy, included crooked dealings. Its stewardship over public lands, including—through the bureau of Indian affairs—tribal trust lands, at a time when there is tremendous pressure for energy development on those lands, will presumably generate at least a few tough questions during Senate confirmation hearings. There's no reason to believe, however, that Jewell will run into any serious opposition. A unanimous vote is not out of the question.
An avid outdoorswoman, Jewell can boast some environmental credentials, including the Audubon Society's 2009 Rachel Carson Award for environmental conservation and The Green Globe—Environmental Catalyst Award from King County, Washington. Well before Jewell became CEO, REI was known for its environmental initiatives, including work to reduce its own carbon footprint.
The traditional eco-advocacy group Sierra Club issued a statement in Jewell's favor:
"There are few more outspoken or dedicated champions in the effort to connect children with nature than Sally Jewell, who has provided critical support to the Sierra Club Inner City Outings program and played an integral role in founding the Outdoors Alliance for Kids.Natural Resources Defense Council president Frances Beinecke stated:
"In Jewell, President Obama chose a leader with a demonstrated commitment to preserving the higher purposes public lands hold for all Americans – recreation, adventure, and enjoyment. We look forward to working closely with her to preserve more of those benefits and more of our natural heritage by designating new national monuments, protecting America’s Arctic from risky drilling, and keeping dirty and dangerous fracking out of our public lands.”
“Sally Jewell has the mind of an engineer, the heart of an environmentalist and the know-how of a businesswoman. It’s not surprising President Obama would turn to such a talented woman to balance the responsible use of America’s public lands, the protection of these resources and the wildlife that depend on themDefenders of Wildlife also expressed support for Jewell. Continue reading what others say about Jewell and what she says about herself below fold.
On Tuesday, Bruce Babbitt, secretary of interior when Bill Clinton was president and once head of the League of Conservation Voters, expressed views not directly linked to Jewell that nevertheless could be on the minds of some senators and more activist environmental organizations during the hearings:
“So far under President Obama, industry has been winning the race as it obtains more and more land for oil and gas,” Mr. Babbitt said. “Over the past four years, the industry has leased more than 6 million acres, compared with only 2.6 million acres permanently protected.”Oil and gas industry executives and Republican critics have charged, on the other hand, that the administration has been holding up more drilling on public land through delays in the permitting process and "burdensome" regulations.
“This lopsided public land administration in favor of the oil and gas industry cannot continue,” he said.
In an interview with Forbes in 2007, Jewell pointed out efforts by REI to be "green," commented about climate change and what she had learned as an oil engineer:
You began your career as an engineer for Mobil Oil. Now you run one of the most environmentally conscious businesses in the United States. What did you learn at Mobil that you use in your current job?The environmental website Grist also interviewed Jewell in 2007 about her personal life and REI's sustainability and other green programs.
I would say I just really have a good fundamental knowledge of what happens when you drill for oil. What happens when oil gets in a creek? How do you deal with that? What are the environmental challenges? What's the water quality in the community? These are all things that, when you see them on the ground, you recognize that there is a cost to consumption.
Ethix, a publication of the Center for Integrity in Business in the School of Business and Economics at Seattle Pacific University, interviewed Jewell about REI in 2009.