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Senate Confirms Hayes as Interior Deputy Secretary

May 25, 2009
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The Senate last Wednesday approved by voice vote the nomination of David Hayes to be deputy secretary of the Department of Interior after Republican Sens. Robert Bennett of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska released their holds on the nominee. The release of the holds signaled a cease fire between the Republican senators and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar over the administration's energy policy.

Salazar pledged to address the concerns that caused the two senators to place the holds. "I have committed to Senator 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 Senator Bennett and Senator Murkowski." Hayes was sworn into office Friday.

Bennett said Salazar has assured him that "the review will be more than a 'check-the-box' exercise."

Hayes' confirmation vote came a week after Republicans blocked an attempt by Democrats to bring his nomination to the Senate floor for a vote (see NGI, May 18). "The [Republican] victory on the Senate floor [earlier this month] elevated this to a high enough level that the secretary began a personal review of the issue and has admitted that the department relied on inaccurate information," Bennett said.

Bennett placed a hold on Hayes' nomination in March. He said he was dissatisfied with Hayes' response to his questions about the disputed Utah oil and natural gas leases (see NGI, March 23). In early February, Salazar withdrew 77 leases to develop oil and natural gas on 130,000 acres of public lands in Utah (see NGI, Feb. 9). He took this action after producers had bid about $6 million on 77 parcels that were auctioned during a Bureau of Land Management sale in December. Murkowski joined Bennett in his hold on Hayes earlier this month (see NGI, May 4).

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