Udall Leads Short List of Candidates for Biden’s Interior Secretary

(Bloomberg) — Retiring Senator Tom Udall is leading a short list of candidates to run the Interior Department if Joe Biden wins the presidency next month — a role that would put him to work in a building named for his father.

Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, is a top contender to be Biden’s secretary of the Interior and would consider the role if asked, according to people familiar with the matter who sought anonymity to discuss the personnel search.

Tom Udall wearing a suit and tie: Senate Passes Measure To Limit Trump On Iran That Faces Veto

© Bloomberg
Senate Passes Measure To Limit Trump On Iran That Faces Veto

Senator Tom Udall

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

“It’s hard to find someone who’s been a bigger champion of public lands than Tom Udall, whether you’re talking about in his state, New Mexico, or nationwide, advocating for the Arctic refuge and fighting climate change,” said Athan Manuel, director of the Sierra Club’s land protection program. “It’s in his genes.”

Representative Deb Haaland, another Democrat from New Mexico, and Representative Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona who leads the House Natural Resources Committee, also have won praise from environmental groups and been recommended to head the Interior Department.

The agency acts as the nation’s landlord, overseeing grazing, recreation, energy development and other activities on about a fifth of the U.S. The department also is in charge of the national park system and regulates energy development in coastal waters, including offshore wind farms and drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tom Udall’s father, Stewart Udall, was Interior secretary from 1961 to 1969 and is credited with a major expansion in federal land protection, including the creation of dozens of wildlife refuges, national parks and recreation areas. He died in 2010, and the agency’s headquarters building in Washington was named for him three months later.

Under President Donald Trump, the Interior Department has encouraged mining and drilling for oil and gas on federal real estate, while creating new hunting and fishing opportunities at wildlife refuges and hatcheries. Under Biden, the department would take a sharp left turn, pivoting to focus aggressively on conservation while clamping down on drilling.

“If we’re going to save the human species and save animal species, we need to take dramatic action,” Udall said Monday, during an online event environmental groups organized to celebrate the lawmaker’s legacy.

Udall spokesman Ned Adriance declined to answer questions about the senator’s potential role as Interior secretary. “Right now, Senator Udall is focused on a strong finish to his Senate term, and he’s also working hard to help the Biden-Harris ticket win New Mexico, win the West and win the election,” Adriance said.

Udall has laid out plans to enlist federal lands in the fight against climate change — transforming the territory into uninterrupted habitat for vulnerable species and a sponge for carbon dioxide instead of a prime U.S. source of fossil fuels and the greenhouse gas emissions that come from burning them.

Read: The Crown Jewel of the Shale Patch Braces for a Biden Ban

It’s a prospect that terrifies

Read more

Udall as Biden’s Interior secretary? The ‘signals are there’ — Wednesday, September 9, 2020 — www.eenews.net

New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall is on a short list of possible Interior secretaries if Joe Biden is elected president, according to former high-level Interior Department officials working on leadership and policy priorities for the former vice president’s campaign.

And Udall would be interested if asked, sources told E&E News.

The Democrat, who announced last year he would not seek a third Senate term, has made it clear he’s not retiring from public service. “I intend to find new ways to serve New Mexico and our country after I finish this term,” he said in March 2019.

With the presidential election now about two months away, major party candidates typically have think tanks compiling lists of potential Cabinet secretaries and priority issues that need day one attention.

To be sure, no final decisions have been made, and there are other names on the list of potential Interior secretaries being explored by this shadow group of advisers. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and fellow New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich (D) are among those under consideration, sources said.

But Udall is at the top of the list, insiders say, citing his strong conservation track record during 12 years in the Senate and 10 years in the House, as well as his reputation for strong enforcement of environmental rules and regulations as New Mexico’s attorney general from 1990 to 1999.

“All the signals are there,” one official involved in the insider discussions said of Udall becoming Interior secretary.

Certainly the family lineage is there.

Udall’s father, Stewart Udall, served as Interior secretary under Presidents Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, and he’s considered one of the most successful and influential secretaries in the department’s more than 100 years.

Interior’s headquarters in Washington is named the Stewart Lee Udall Department of the Interior Building in his honor.

“Tom Udall as secretary of the Interior, that’s just a very natural speculation, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him on a short list if he’s interested in continuing his political career at this point in his life,” said Joe Monahan, a longtime New Mexico political blogger and commentator based in Albuquerque.

“If Joe Biden is looking for an easy pick,” Monahan said of Udall, “he is it.”

Biden, in accepting the Democratic nomination, has said his administration would focus on climate change and making America the world’s leader on renewable energy (Greenwire, Aug. 21). Those have been Udall’s top legislative priorities for the past several years.

Much like his father, Udall has gained a reputation nationally for a strong conservation ethic.

“Our nation’s public lands could not have better champions than Sen. Udall and his teammates in the New Mexico congressional delegation,” said Toner Mitchell, New Mexico water and habitat conservation director at Trout Unlimited. “His priorities on balancing public land use align well with these times we’re living through, with climate change and outdoor recreation figuring prominently in our communities’ abilities to sustain themselves.”

Udall has fought to protect open land near New Mexico’s

Read more