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Senate confirms Sally Jewell nomination for interior secretary

U.S. President Barack Obama leaves with Sally Jewell, CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc., his nominee for Interior Secretary, at the White H
U.S. President Barack Obama leaves with Sally Jewell, CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc., his nominee for Interior Secretary, at the White H

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate on Wednesday easily approved the nomination of Sally Jewell, who has been chief executive of outdoor gear and clothing retailer REI, to be interior secretary.

Jewell was tapped by the Obama administration in February to lead the department responsible for overseeing energy production on federal lands, as well offshore energy development and national parks.

Her confirmation was largely expected, and the Senate voted by 87-11 in favor. She succeeds Ken Salazar, who plans to return to his home in Colorado.

President Barack Obama praised the British-born outdoors enthusiast, who early in her career was an oil company engineer and also spent two decades as a banker.

"She brings an important mix of strong management skills, appreciation for our nation's tradition of protecting our public lands and heritage, and a keen understanding of what it means to be good stewards of our natural resources," Obama said in a statement.

Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee, said Jewell would bring the right balance to her new role.

Interior has a strong say on rules that govern hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on public lands, as well as drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic. It will also help implement Obama's push for more renewable energy development on federal land.

"She made clear in her confirmation hearing that she intends to strike a balance between the dual roles of conserving and developing resources," Wyden said of Jewell.

Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the energy committee, earlier threatened to hold up Jewell's nomination until the Interior Department agreed to build a road to connect the remote town of King Cove, Alaska, with a nearby airport.

Interior has said it will take a second look at the proposal for the road.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Ros Krasny and Peter Cooney)

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