WASHINGTON, March 7 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the U.S. Interior Department, Sally Jewell, on Thursday pledged to provide the oil and gas industry with “certainty” regarding development on public lands.
Jewell, testifying at the first congressional hearing on her nomination, stressed the importance of both renewable energy and traditional fossil fuel development.
“We owe it to the American people to make sure that development takes place in a safe and responsible way,” she told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
“We also need to provide industry with certainty and clarity when it comes to development, so that they can make smart investments to help power our economy,” Jewell added.
Jewell, chief executive of outdoor gear and clothing retailer REI and a former banker, also highlighted the time she spent at the start of her career as a petroleum engineer with Mobil Oil.
Her comments come as the Interior Department faces criticism for not doing enough to promote oil and gas development on public lands.
“You need to convince us that you will maintain balance in the various missions and interests of the Department of Interior,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on energy committee.
“We need you to affirm that public lands provide not just a playground for recreational enthusiasts, but also paychecks for countless energy producers, miners, loggers and ranchers,” Murkowski added.
Interior is currently in the process of re-issuing draft rules governing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on government lands. The energy industry has expressed concern that the rules overlap state regulations and would unduly burden drillers.
In addition to overseeing energy development on public lands, the department also regulates offshore drilling in the Gulf and in the Arctic, among other responsibilities. (Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; editing by Ros Krasny and John Wallace)