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Want A Government Official To Change His Mind? Hire Him!

The Keystone pipeline is awful. The Keystone pipeline is great.

As President Obama’s Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar was charged with being one of the biggest defenders of the Obama agenda on energy and environmental issues – among them, running interference on the potential construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. But now that he’s out of government, Salazar feels free to change his tune:

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in an interview Thursday that his endorsement of construction of the Keystone oil sands pipeline comes after learning new information, including that the pipeline would not greatly increase carbon emissions.

Of course, this wasn’t Salazar’s tune less than two years ago, when he was releasing statements like this:

“As Secretary of the Interior my job is to help protect America’s natural resources, our cultures and tribal communities, and supply energy for the long term. My concerns about the Keystone Pipeline are in line with the Obama Administration’s position on the issue. I feel that the President acted responsibly in rejecting the initial proposal on the grounds of environmental issues. The rushed decision to give the President a 60 day 
period to review the Keystone pipeline, which goes through six states, 
hindered any probability of it being passed. If the reformed version of the proposal poses no threats to our nation’s resources and does not endanger communities along the pipeline, then I am in support of it’s approval. Until the guidelines for this project are significantly altered, the pipeline should not be constructed because of the potential risks it poses to the well being of US citizens. Of course the main concern is the possibility that the pipeline could rupture near the Ogallala aquifer, the main
source of drinking water in the Midwest. We trust that the Administration and the EPA will exercise prudent judgement and will not approve a proposal that poses such threats. While the southernmost portion is being built, we will wait for an acceptable and detailed plan before constructing the rest of the pipeline. We strongly urge TransCanada to present a more pragmatic and nonpartisan approach that
 will serve the best interests of the American people.”

Now, it may be that Salazar has had a legitimate change of heart on this matter, or that new evidence altered his perception of the matter… or it could be that his employer just changed. About that lawyer in private practice job the Denver Post mentioned: Salazar is now a partner at WilmerHale, charged with building business for the Washington, DC-based firm’s new Denver office. And what is he working on there?

WilmerHale’s energy and environmental practice is nationally known for advising companies in the technology, life sciences, energy and manufacturing sectors, and for shaping regulatory and policy developments on both a federal and state level. The firm’s strategic response practice handles multifaceted, high-profile challenges with legal, public policy and media dimensions. Our investigations and litigation practices draw on the collective experience of our many lawyers who have served in senior government positions, handling matters across the nation and abroad. The firm’s Native American law practice has a long track record of handling high-stakes litigation and complex regulatory matters on a range of issues—including energy and natural resource development, land acquisition, water rights, and gaming matters of particular importance in the western United States.

In other words, Salazar was happy to be part of an administration that’s done everything it can to block energy development and particularly the Keystone pipeline… but now that he’s employed by those with different priorities, he is happy to flip flop.

I wonder whatever that “new information” could be that made Salazar change his mind. Was it “you’re hired”?

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