January 16, 2013 - 21:06 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who oversaw a moratorium on offshore drilling after the BP oil spill and promoted alternative energy sources throughout the nation, will step down in March, according to The Associated Press.
Salazar, a former Colorado senator, has run the Interior Department throughout President Barack Obama's first term and pushed renewable power such as solar and wind and the settlement of a longstanding dispute with American Indians.
In a statement, Obama said Salazar had helped "usher in a new era of conservation for our nation's land, water and wildlife" and had played a major role in efforts to "expand responsible development of our nation's domestic energy resources."
Salazar said in a statement that the Interior Department was helping secure "a new energy frontier" and cited an aggressive agenda to reform oil and gas leases, which he said had increased offshore drilling safety.
Under his watch, the Interior Department has authorized nearly three dozen solar, wind and geothermal energy projects on public lands that provide enough electricity to power more than 3 million homes, Salazar said.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, a longtime Obama ally, is among those mentioned as a potential successor to Salazar, along with John Berry, director of the White House Office of Personnel Management. Berry is a former assistant Interior secretary and director of the National Zoo. Gregoire also is considered a candidate to replace Lisa Jackson at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Salazar is the latest Cabinet secretary to leave the administration and the second Hispanic Cabinet member to depart as Obama begins a second term. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said announced her departure last week.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and EPA's Jackson also have announced plans to leave. Energy Secretary Steven Chu is widely expected to leave, though his departure has not been announced.