Salazar to step down as Interior secretary

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WASHINGTON -- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced yesterday that he will leave his post at the end of March, ending a contentious four-year tenure during which the agency drew criticism from environmentalists and industry for its middle-of-the road energy and environmental policies.

A former Colorado attorney general and senator, Salazar used the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 to undertake a comprehensive overhaul of the Minerals and Management Service, the oft-criticized agency tasked with developing offshore energy resources. He also imposed a moratorium on drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf during the cleanup.

Industry and its congressional supporters had little good to say about Salazar, whom they saw as part of an Obama administration effort to thwart oil and gas development. He angered the oil industry in early 2010 when he said in a teleconference that fossil fuel interests had treated public lands as if they were a "candy store," where they could "walk in and take whatever they wanted."

In a statement, President Barack Obama praised Salazar for bringing "a new era of conservation for our nation's land, water and wildlife" and said he "played an integral role in my administration's successful efforts to expand responsible development of our nation's domestic energy resources."

Yesterday, a spokesman for the Department of Housing and Urban Development said Secretary Shaun Donovan would stay on for Obama's second term.

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-- Chicago Tribune

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