August 24

U.S. Senate confirms Balash as Interior Department assistant secretary

first_imgFederal Government | Nation & WorldU.S. Senate confirms Balash as Interior Department assistant secretaryDecember 8, 2017 by Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media Share:Joe Balash was confirmed as assistant secretary of the Interior Department by the U.S. Department of the Interior. (Photo by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public)The U.S. Senate confirmed Alaskan Joe Balash on Thursday as assistant secretary of Interior for land and minerals management.Audio Playerhttp://media.aprn.org/2017/ann-20171207-01.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Balash was Alaska’s commissioner of Natural Resources, then became chief of staff for Sen. Dan Sullivan.Both of Alaska’s senators say he’s well qualified for the job, which puts him in charge of the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and other offices.But there was dissent.Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., pointed out that Balash pressed Alaska’s failed claim to 20,000 acres on the edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.Cantwell argued that if Balash has the Interior job, he’ll be able to act as judge on his old case.“That claim that was turned down, he could reverse that,” Cantwell said.When asked about recusals at his confirmation hearing, Balash said he would consult with the department’s ethics officer and comply with the rules.Cantwell said the rules are too lax.Balash’s experience is an asset, Sullivan said.“When you have someone who has worked on land issues in a state, the idea of making yourself be recused because you have expertise and policy from your state job when you go into a federal job, to me, seems outrageous,” Sullivan said.In the end, Balash won a bipartisan vote, 61-38.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he’s looking forward to Balash playing a critical role in coal country.Share this story:last_img

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