Salazar: Interior secretary is ‘best job’ in Cabinet

During nearly four years as Interior secretary, Ken Salazar has drawn occasional fire from both the right and the left for his handling of offshore drilling, domestic energy production and other issues — at times prompting questions about how long the Coloradan might remain in the Cabinet post.

But don’t look for Salazar to leave the job anytime soon. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Salazar stressed how much he loves his role heading the Interior Department, apparently signaling his interest in sticking around should President Barack Obama win re-election in November.

“Of all the privileges I have had in life — serving as attorney general for my state, serving as United States senator for my state — serving as secretary of the Interior is the highest privilege,” Salazar said. “It is the most fun of jobs.”

Salazar’s role puts him at the intersection of energy policy and federal lands, as the Interior Department oversees U.S. land and waters — including tribal territory, forests and national parks. He has traveled to every state but Hawaii and met with energy industry leaders in Spain.

Salazar said the gig gives him a chance to “work on issues I’m passionate about,” including energy and conservation.

“I have a fascinating job, and I love what I do,” Salazar said. “It is the best job in the Cabinet of the United States of America.”

Still, Salazar wouldn’t say definitively if he would stay in the seat if asked — only that he believes Obama will be reelected, and then it would be time for a conversation about his future.

“My job right now is to make sure I’m doing a good job as secretary of the Interior,” Salazar said. “I think at that time it would be appropriate for me to have a conversation with him about what he would like me to do.”

“We’ll get to November, the president gets re-elected, and we’ll have a conversation about the future,” Salazar added. “There’s not easy answers. On the one hand, for me, I’m a long ways from home — my family in Colorado. On the other hand, the work that we are doing is very fulfilling to me personally. I’m proud of the work we’re doing.”

Salazar’s resume includes five years as Colorado’s attorney general and four years representing the state in the U.S. Senate. He is one of two Hispanics in Obama’s cabinet.

Environmentalists have at times been disappointed with Salazar for his handling of endangered species issues — including the Interior Department’s 2009 decision to uphold a Bush administration policy that the Endangered Species Act and the potential peril to polar bears should not be used as a vehicle for regulating greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change.

Salazar also drew fire after the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Conservationists lobbied the Obama administration to cut Salazar loose and blamed the Interior Department for approving oil and gas exploration offshore without subjecting those plans to robust environmental assessments normally required by federal law.

At the same time, oil and gas industry leaders have been critical of Salazar’s Interior Department, accusing the agency of slow-walking permits to drill and blocking exploration along the Atlantic coast.