President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Interior Department owns stock in some of the nation’s biggest oil and gas companies, according to financial disclosure forms filed with the federal government ahead of a Senate confirmation hearing this week.
If confirmed as Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell would be in charge of overseeing oil and gas drilling on federal lands and waters.
Her financial portfolio includes holdings in oil and gas companies drilling on federal tracts, such as Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Apache Corp., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp.
She also owns stock in some refiners (including Marathon, Valero and Phillips 66) as well as oil field service companies (Schlumberger and Halliburton), equipment suppliers (National Oilwell Varco) and drilling contractors (Baker Hughes and Noble Corp).
In a letter to the ethics director at the Interior Department, Jewell, now the CEO of REI, pledged to divest herself of those holdings within 90 days of her confirmation. And she vowed not to be “substantially” involved in any matter that has a direct and predictable effect on any of the companies until those stocks are sold.
Under Interior ethics rules, if confirmed as secretary, Jewell would be barred from holding a financial interest in any surface or underground coal mining operation or in any federal lands administered by the department.
The precise amount of Jewell’s investments is not clear, because the financial disclosure form only requires executive nominees to classify holdings in broad categories that can span $25 million. But Jewell said she had $50,001 to $100,000 invested in Exxon Mobil, and $15,001 to $50,000 in both Chevron and ConocoPhillips stock.
All told, her individual investments in oil and gas stocks total no less than $81,316 and could be as high as $395,000.
It is not known whether Jewell has sold any or all of the holdings since she filed the disclosure form last month. That document was made available by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.
Oil and gas companies have been pushing aggressively for the U.S. to speed permitting of drilling projects on federal lands and expand the offshore acreage open for exploration. That call was echoed on Tuesday by ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance in an address to delegates at IHS CERAWeek in Houston.
Jewell is expected to win Senate confirmation easily, but first, she will be vetted by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at a hearing on Thursday.
Oil and gas leaders have been cautiously optimistic that Jewell’s private sector experience — including a three-year stint working as an engineer for Mobil Oil Corp. — will give her a perspective of their financial concerns. But they are wary of her deep conservation credentials, cultivated during her tenure heading the Recreational Equipment, an outdoor equipment supplier, and as a member of the board of the National Parks Conservation Association.