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Greens mixed on Obama's Interior, Agriculture picks

Barack Obama announced two more cabinet picks Wednesday – former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack for Agriculture secretary and Colorado Senator Ken Salazar for Interior secretary – drawing both praise and criticism from environmental groups.

By Blogger for The Christian Science Monitor / December 17, 2008

Barack Obama introduces his pick for Agriculture Secretary, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, left, and for Interior Secretary, Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., Wednesday in Chicago.

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Barack Obama announced two more cabinet picks Wednesday – former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack for Agriculture secretary and Colorado Senator Ken Salazar for Interior secretary – drawing both praise and criticism from environmental groups.

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“It’s time for a new kind of leadership in Washington that’s committed to using our lands in a responsible way to benefit all our families,” said the president-elect. “That is the kind of leadership embodied by Ken Salazar and Tom Vilsack.”

Both departments play a central role in setting the Obama administration's environmental policies. The Department of Agriculture regulates a host of issues, from organic labeling to pesticides to biofuels, that are dear to greens.

The Department of the Interior, which leases drilling on federal lands and enforces the Endangered Species Act, among many other things, has been rocked by scandal in recent months. In September, a report by the agency's Inspector General uncovered "a culture of ethical failure" in the Minerals Management Service, which included graft, drug use, and sexual misconduct with "[energy] industry contacts." And another report released this week found pervasive political interference in endangered species decisions.

Tom Vilsack

Mr. Vilsack has been praised by environmentalists for his ambitious call for increased domestic production of renewable energy. Here's what the Sierra Club had to say about his nomination:

"Governor Vilsack can play an important role in helping to bring about the clean energy economy in a way that benefits both farmers and rural communities and our environment. The USDA can take the lead in moving us past the corn-based ethanol of today toward the next-generation biofuels of tomorrow. These next-generation biofuels will not just provide farmers with new sources of income and help us break our dangerous dependence on oil, but they will also help President-Elect Obama achieve his ambitious plans to tackle global warming."

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