The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Thursday voted to move President Obama’s nomination of Sally Jewell for Interior secretary to the Senate floor.

The favorable vote (19-3) came after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar agreed on Wednesday to review a controversial decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service blocking construction of a single lane, gravel road (King Cove Road) through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge that would provide access to an all-weather airport in a remote section of Alaska. Republican Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Mike Lee of Utah and Tim Scott of South Carolina voted against advancing Jewell’s nomination. The full Senate is expected to take up Jewell’s nomination in early April.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the ranking member of the Senate energy panel, previously had raised the possibility of placing a procedural hold on Jewell’s nomination, but withdrew it when the administration changed its heart on the King Cove Road.

In order to be confirmed, Jewell must win the approval of 60 senators. In her new job, Jewell would oversee the department’s policies governing oil and natural gas drilling on millions of acres of public onshore and offshore lands. Jewell, the former CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc., would succeed Ken Salazar, who has been a member of the Obama administration cabinet since 2009 (see NGI, Feb. 11).

Murkowski voted out Jewell’s nomination, even though she said she has been a “little bit disappointed with some of the responses [she] received from the nominee. I am going to press further with her for additional clarification and will be having many conversations with her as we move forward,” Murkowski said.

Sen Mary Landrieu (D-LA) voted for Jewell even though “I still have not gotten a complete answer from her about her support on revenue-sharing,” she said. “I think we’re on the break of getting something very significant done, not only for the Gulf Coast and coastal states, but for all of the states.”

A revenue-sharing bill by Murkowski and Landrieu, which was officially introduced on last Wednesday, would give 27.5% of revenue from offshore energy development — including oil, natural gas, wind and others — to coastal states, plus another 10% if the state creates a clean energy or conservation fund.

“You have my commitment to work closely with you on the host of issues” related to revenue-sharing, Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) told Landrieu.

In opposing her nomination, Barrasso said he was concerned about a possible conflict of interest between Jewell and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), for which she was a board member. “During her tenure as vice chairman of that group, the NPCA has frequently sued the federal government to shut down energy production…NPCA has sought to dramatically expand the BLM’s [Bureau of Land Management] hydraulic fracturing rule and the OSM’s [Office of Surface Mining] stream regulation — two rules that could make it harder to produce American energy,” he said.

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